HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated May 16, 2010 12:00 AM
Illustration by REY RIVERA
I think we can all agree that what just transpired in our country is something many of us will remember for a long time. What a campaign it was! And what an election!
It’s a few days after May 10 and I am still reeling from the unfolding of events. Who would have thought that two days after elections, we would already know who the majority of the winners are. The surprise (and delight) that Comelec’s first attempt at automation pulled on us was quite spectacular. As cynics like to say, “Onli in Da Pilipins.” Indeed, except this time, the phrase took on a whole new meaning.
After all, it was just days ago when, as things were getting closer to D-Day, it seemed that everything that could possibly go wrong was going wrong. The PCOS machines were misreading ballots during testing, the CF cards had to be reprogrammed en masse, and there was hardly no time left to rectify the many problems that were cropping up. People were asking for a delay in the elections because they feared cheating, or a failure of elections caused by massive ineptitude of Comelec. No one trusted the machines and the people running them.
And because of what seemed like impending anarchy, people felt a gut-wrenching sensation in the pit of their stomachs. We were anxious. Paranoia, caused by years of trying to second-guess GMA, had long set in and was beginning to play out, and you could see this as various doomsday scenarios were bandied about. It seemed like we were once again being challenged to step up to a bad situation. We were being asked to fight for our votes once again which meant going the extra 10 miles of guarding our ballots from voting to proclamation. It was a call to arms all over again, not unlike EDSA I. We had not learned a thing.
The long lines on election day due to the clustering of precincts seemed like a recipe for disaster and disenfranchisement. To be sure, there were some who abandoned the long lines after a long wait. Yet, by and large, throngs of people stayed in line for hours and did their civic duty and voted.
But the discomfort of having to line up under the sun, along with some of the anxiety, were eased somewhat once voters had their taste of electoral automation. I heard a lot of people express joy and satisfaction at reading the “Congratulations. Your ballot has been accepted” message on the PCOS machine. It felt like an award after all that queuing, and the months of soul-searching and campaigning before we even trooped to the polls. It was also an exhilarating feeling, being part of a historic new way by which we choose our leaders.
There was likewise a spiritual aspect to this year’s electoral exercise as far as many people were concerned, and it went beyond the usual admonition we got from the church to choose wisely. It had to do with the fact that people went out of their way to vote, feeling that their singular action was part of something huge that would shape the direction of the country in the coming years. It was like each one of us, even if we were not united behind one candidate, was invested emotionally and spiritually with everyone else. We were one people doing something that could be tangibly counted and measured.
Certainly, we all played a part in history unfolding. Even after I learned when I got to my precinct that I had been de-listed as a voter (although just a few months before, I was informed online that I was registered), I insisted on lining up and being one with everyone else in suffering the heat and discomfort. I wanted to feel the spirit of the nation animated by its people queuing up, candidates’ list in hand, to get a shot at changing our country.
It was not your regular run-of-the-mill election. Voters, at least as far as choosing their president, seemed more serious than usual. To be sure, the presidential candidates went through a vetting process that was more stringent than usual before voters made their final choices.
The campaign was long and contentious and it seemed like the closer we got to May 11, the more we got emotionally involved with our choices. Everyone had a strong opinion that they expressed at a drop of a hat. Some friends who used to be apolitical and actually detested politics were all of a sudden fired up and ready to proselytize and convert people whom they thought were still unenlightened about their candidate’s good leadership qualities. Everyone and his mother became political pundits and analysts and were up to speed on the latest surveys, the endorsements received by their candidates, and could readily defend them against the latest scandals.
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook teemed with political content. A lot of exchanges which started off friendly enough got progressively testy to downright hostile. I caught myself in a few Twitter “skirmishes” a few times. No doubt, many people staked a lot personally on their candidates.
Not a few saw this election as a battle between good and evil. I saw it as the historical continuation of 1986 playing out with a lot of the same EDSA themes of deliverance from bad leadership, corruption, potential dictatorship and bad governance.
And there was also the unmistakable presence of Tita Cory from the start of the campaign and all through it. It began with her death which plunged the nation into mourning and in the process propelled her son into the national spotlight. Noy’s opponent, Erap Estrada, used footage of Tita Cory in his TV ads. So did Jejomar Binay who ran with Estrada but projected himself as a loyal yellow warrior who had been with Cory from the start. And remarkably, almost everyone who invoked Cory’s name did rather well.
Last Monday’s exercise was a rematch between the perennial forces of greed, duplicity and evil that continue to haunt our public life, and those who continue to believe in the ideals of justice, fairness, decency and change that people power espoused when we drove Marcos away 24 years ago. Both sides won some and lost some.
Noy’s landslide win was, to me, an affirmation of people power. Noy declared that his entire electoral effort was a people’s campaign. This is so true. Ordinary people spent their own money on tarps, stickers, baller IDs and other campaign paraphernalia, and volunteered time and resources to convince their neighbors to vote for Noy.
Actually, regardless of whom you voted for, in many ways, the election was people power playing out. Because people showed up, and as long as their votes came from a yearning for a higher experience of what we can be as Filipinos and as a nation, it was an expression of people power. And no doubt, many did just that, coming from a common place of good intentions hoping for our nation’s true deliverance.
The call now is for people power to go beyond the electoral process and into the bigger arena of institutionalizing decency, efficiency and dedication to public service. This is the harder part. But if we could be as spirited about supporting our candidates as they embark on the difficult task of governance, as we were in supporting their campaigns, it should not be difficult to get them to walk their talk and deliver on the lofty promises they made to get us to elect them.
We now know that people power lives. This time, let us use it to express our desire for change and sustain our democratic gains.
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