“Thank you for offering your service to our country.” - Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ
Last election day, I took part in my university’s efforts to ensure a clean, honest, and orderly election in Davao City. I was super hassled at first because I wasn’t supposed to be there since I never signed up to be a Blue Vote volunteer, but Blue Vote contacted COMMS saying that they needed manpower and Sir Bernie approached me. I can never say no to Sir Bernie. No one can say no to Sir Bernie. Plus, there was the ungodly 4am call time.
I was originally approached to be an on-site photographer, but my DSLR lens broke down and I was reassigned to social media. Basically, what we did was monitor the social media accounts and official hashtag and respond to questions, help people find their precincts, and relay legal complaints to the lawyers in HQ, so they could file cases whenever there were fishy ongoings. It was easy enough at first, but things started to get hectic around 9am because multiple complaints started to come in every minute. Faulty machines, stolen identities, and names not on the list despite having biometrics are just a gist of what we had to deal with.
The whole experience made me realize how flawed out voting system is, and how cooperative COMELEC can be. Our job was to simply relay complaints and answer the easy questions, but sometimes we had to take matters into our own hands because the person at the end of the line sounded clueless or uncaring. A lot of the complaints I had to deal with broke my heart, like when senior citizens aren’t on voting lists despite completing the necessary requirements or when people from faraway places travel for hours just to vote only to find out that they can no longer do it because someone stole their identity.
While sitting in the HQ, I heard stories of what went on in precincts outside Davao. Stories of blatant vote buying that went on in front of police officers, stories of people getting murdered because they refused to sell out, and stories of the IP who were forced to vote for people they didn’t even know. It made me angry. I can only hope that six years from now, things will change.
And I am confident that things will change. Yes, I saw a lot of injustice in this year’s election, but I also met a lot of people who were fighting for justice. To all of the volunteers who worked for twelve hours straight, to all of the civilians who dared to defend their fellowmen, to all of the people who used their voices, sa lahat ng mga nakialam, sa lahat ng lumaban- salamat.