Exercising Power: Philippine Elections 2007

On May 14, 2007, I, along with a group of valiant persons who believe in the intrinsic dignity and inviolable right to life of the human person, ventured into the depths of the Trinity College Grade School Gym to watch over the polls. Our objective was to collect the 6th copy of the electoral returns and deliver it safe and sound to Ateneo De Manila University. The mission was a dangerous one. A small effort to help democracy reign was in session. We became carriers of the voice of the people (who voted in Trinity College :D).

Did you vote? I am not a registered voter. That is the question thrown to people who have something to say about the government and if their answer is like mine, it ends up shutting them up. Unlike the people who are shut up, I am 17 years old and that means I cannot register to vote. Oh well. Anyway, I’m not going to talk about our government here. I’m going to talk about the power of the individuals who were in Trinity College that day along with every Filipino, the power of the powerless Filipino.

In the school there were about 32 precincts. Every two precincts is headed by a chairperson, normally a public school teacher, who was in charge of a ballot box. It was the chairperson who had the power to read out the votes and give out the electoral returns. With the chairperson is 2 or 3 sidekicks that help him or her in the grueling task to count over 100 ballots (not to mention dealing with 7 other annoying poll watchers in the building making so much noise).

The objectives were simple:
1. Make friends with the chairpersons of each precinct.
2. Make sure no one puts an extra point on his or her favorite candidate.
3. Collect the 6th copy of electoral returns and deliver it into the citizen’s arm.

Thanks to Global Warming and the regular summer heat the WYA members who had volunteered with NAMFREL had some trouble watching the polls but it didn’t stop them from staying until the wee hours of the morning… such brave, nationalistic individuals. We even had a member fall because of a migraine :c.

Everyday we make choices – The choice the members of WYA made to watch the polls, the choice of the teachers to take the responsibility to take charge of the ballot boxes, the choice of the voters to choose representatives, and the choice every person makes in his or her daily life. In the choice is an idea. The choice made is effort made to make that idea real. When so many choices are made and exerted with true conscience and respect to the dignity of others, democracy works. But before it works, so many other choices have to be made. To think about the choices that have to be made by every individual to make democracy, makes you think about the power each one has, the power to make something work or not. The power of freedom that in turn becomes the power of solidarity which can only be achieved by respecting each others dignity is what May 14 was all about. Well… at least that’s what it would be about if the “powerful” stopped being such boogers.

Lee Tan is an incoming freshman at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He volunteered as a NAMFREL deputy last Monday – working from 1pm to 4am the next day. His crazy antics and corny jokes kept the volunteers at the Voting Center alive and enthusiastic.

NAMFREL is the National Movement for Free Elections. It is the citizens’ arm that is given legal authority to supervise local and national elections in the Philippines.