The body count stands at 116 and climbing as E-Day finally arrives. Theoretically, he whole bloody exercise comes to climax today although the canvassing of votes, done manually in this electronic age, is when Philippine elections are really won. The level of political violence appears to have escalated even as concerns over possible widespread cheating, as orchestrated by the administration, have been aired. On the precinct level though, at least in my small area of Pasig, Metro Manila, there is a fiesta atmosphere at the polling place just across our house. An air of expectation prevails, despite the slight tension brought about by the presence of policemen and adversarial poll watchers keeping a watchful eye on each other.
I voted for the first time since 1998, more by happenstance than design. We moved back to Pasig after eight years in Makati and found ourselves a few steps away from the barangay multi-purpose hall. On a hunch, my wife went to check on the names of registered voters and, wonder of wonders, my name was there although hers was not. Thus, was I able to cast my vote and, hopefully, make it count in this trying times.
Like many of us, I voted for my friends first. Three of the senatorial candidates, in opposing camps, I know well enough to want to win. I’m doing this for my own ends, of course. One never knows when a senatorial “connect” will come in handy. There are other candidates who I have known casually over the years, but who I thought didn’t deserve my vote. Only then did I cast conscience votes, for the Kapatiran candidates primarily and one dude whose name I can’t even remember but who was representing a “green” party. And so it goes.
Knowing what we know about the Philippine electoral process, why do we even bother to vote ? The Inquirer editorial says it is because if we don’t, we lose the battle for good governance by default. True, although another reason, I surmise, is that we, as a people are driven by hope. Hope that this time our votes would really mean something. Hope that our voice will finally be heard. Hope that we will finally elect leaders who will deliver on their campaign promises. That most of these hopes will be dashed soon enough is not important. For the moment, we have the illusion that our fate as a nation is in our hands.
A note on the much-talked about electoral surveys. They can be widely off the mark and are far from predictive of the final outcome. In the 2004 senate race, Pia Cayetano did not fare well in the pre-election surveys. But she eventually landed near the top.