Election mania (I believe mania is a fully justifiable word in our context) is just about starting to reach its peak all over the country, as the months tick down to May, when the country decides its collective destiny. Or downfall, depending on how one views it.
To be honest, I have personally remained detached amidst all the brouhaha. I find it helps to sit back and weigh one’s electoral options, and hold back one’s opinions (even the soundest and least-fevered ones) until just about the time is right. This time, I’ll dip my toe in for this post, though my detachment might still poke through the words.
May 10, 2010. I was there.
I was asked to serve as a poll watcher for the presidential elections, and was among the group of watchers for my village. We were all prepared for the day’s festivities; some watchers represented the opposing parties, some from the transparency groups. All were briefed respectively: steps, protocol, paralegal, the works, as I remember it. For newbies, it was like the Finals Match. Or the charge up over the trenches.
Though to be honest, our small village was a relative eddy in the chaos of the elections. Proceedings went well, there were only three small polling precincts, and people generally shied away from any drama. Our town wasn’t an election hotspot, and the candidates weren’t known for violent tendencies. Nevertheless, I brought a camera. Partly to intimidate any troublemaking, partly because it was my first elections, the country’s first automated elections at that, and I was among the few who were authorized to bring one inside a precinct.
This photo was among the dozens I took that day; every step was documented: the unwrapping of the ballots, the setting up of the PCOS machine, the opening of the polls. This photo was among the last, long after the polls closed. We were going through the motions of transmitting to the servers (as evidenced by the machine screen) when I snapped this one. If I remember correctly the transmission went well. That was that. The process went relatively smoothly, everyone was able to vote, and we sat back and waited for results.
At this point, I will be brief. I won’t elaborate on the arguments for or against the automated system; there is a virtual diarrhea of material online awaiting our perusal. But I will say that the system, despite being touted as the solution to widespread electoral fraud, has its loopholes.
Nor will I campaign here for any of this year’s candidates, nor dwell on the drama that has unfolded so far, and is yet to unfold. Yet again there is no dearth of people doing that.
What I can say, though, hence the title, is that we, and Mindanao in particular, are on several cusps, at the prelude of big changes about to happen. Many local candidates are about to use up their term limits, and with that comes policy changes, reshuffles, etc. ASEAN Integration is on the near-horizon, and its effects are starting to be felt. For the first time in history, a viable candidate from Mindanao is on the running for the presidency, which may or may not translate to real benefits that the capital has long delivered to the south in relatively excruciating trickles. Federalism has once again been brought up as a talking point, touted as a solution to the aforementioned indifference and neglect foisted by a Manila-centric policy.
Mindanao, being of major economic importance to the rest of the country, is certainly in for a big set of changes, changes which will largely be decided by the results this coming May.