When you only get one shot, make it count! | Inquirer Opinion
Just Thinking

When you only get one shot, make it count!

NEW YORK, USA — Suffrage is a right. Its exercise, our duty.

Article V of the 1987 Constitution mandates the Congress to provide for a system for absentee voting for qualified Filipinos based abroad. In 2003, Republic Act No. 9189, the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, was finally signed into law.


It took 16 long years to get it done. It’s taking another 19 years (and counting) to get it right.


Before leaving for Harvard in Cambridge, MA, my fiancée (an LL.M. candidate) and I (a visiting scholar) made sure to register our names on the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Certified List of Overseas Voters (CLOV). There was no way that we were flying out without first getting our names on the CLOV.

To the Comelec’s credit, and to our pleasant surprise, the registration process was quite straightforward. It took only an afternoon visit to the Comelec office in Intramuros, and we were out of there with time to spare for a quick visit to the neighboring Manila Cathedral and a merienda cena at the one of a kind La Cathedral Cafe.

That was in July 2021. And unfortunately for the Comelec, the praise ends there.

Fast forward 10 months later, we find ourselves just a few days shy of disenfranchisement. Despite constant policing and follow-ups, our ballots remain lost somewhere in the snail mail nowhere to be found.

After six years of Dutertian hostility to all things human rights, the postal service isn’t quite the final foe you would expect to meet standing between you and the exercise of a fundamental right. It really goes to show how lofty human rights can be stifled by the brazen (i.e., the president) and the banal (i.e., the postman) alike.

Thus, with less than a week from D-day, the Comelec has finally proposed a solution. Last May 2, it was announced that “overseas voters registered with the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York who have been sent postal voting packets but have not received their ballots may personally visit the Consulate on Saturday, 07 May 2022, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.”


Great, right? Wrong.

Talk about a case of posterior protection — or “CYA,” as my fellow millennials would say. The Comelec is setting the stage for its own alibi. If voters are unable to travel to New York — which would be unsurprising for many considering the few days’ notice — all of a sudden the Comelec has “done its part,” and it is the voter that is the “no-show.” The burden is shifted to the Filipino people for the mistakes that the Comelec made.

But what is worse is the form this burden takes. In addition to OVF-1 and affidavit red tape, by limiting the consulate visitation hours to Saturday, the 30-day overseas voting period provided by law is effectively narrowed down to a nine-hour window.

So, here we find ourselves rescheduling our week, packing our bags, and finding our way to NYC, as there is no mountain high or valley low that will keep us from casting our votes this presidential election. Too much is on the line.

It is no secret that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the front-runner in this presidential race, and there is only one candidate that stands in his way: Vice President Leni Robredo. As we decide on whom to lend the force of our ballot, we should keep in mind not only the things that we want but the terrors we want to avoid.

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There is no denying that electing Leni — the one candidate who, in every day of her campaign, has only shown how powerful, how prolific, and how presidentiable she can already be — is equally about preventing the return of the Marcoses to power. If we truly condemn the Marcosian past, then let us not now elect a man who seeks to erase it from our history. If we are true to our cry “Never Again!” we will need to cast our vote where it will matter most.

Electoral processes are usually about tomorrow’s leadership, and this is the one chance every six years that “We the People” have a direct say in what direction our national government will go. Moving forward, the normal course of governance will be made on our behalf. Not at our behest. But what makes this election particularly unique is that it is not only our future at stake, but our past. When we cast our vote this election, we are given the chance to not only make history but to preserve it. A vote for Leni is a vote for truth, for reason, for justice. We only get one shot at this. Let’s make it count.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 elections, Just Thinking, Leni Robredo, Raphael A. Pangalangan

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