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With Due Respect

Credible, orderly and speedy

THE QUEUES were kilometric, the heat was searing, and, at times, the voters’ receipts were coming out blank and the vote-counting machines (VCMs) were faltering. But the voters came in droves, patiently fell in line, and waited for their turn at the voting centers. Yes! We had credible, orderly and speedy elections, worthy of public appreciation.

Thank you, Comelec. Despite the complaints of some electoral watchdogs (which should be investigated at the proper time and forum), the hash code bugaboo, and the failure of elections in 52 clustered precincts (plus several others which were added lately and which should all be cured via special elections), the Commission on Elections, from the commissioners to the career officials and the rank and file employees, deserves the gratitude of our people.

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The national government, from President Aquino to the last soldier, policeman and barangay tanod, acted with aplomb and integrity to make the Philippines an international showcase of democratic transition. The public school teachers, as the electoral front-liners, discharged their duties tirelessly and trustworthily.

The voter turnout was record-breaking. According to the Comelec, 81.62 percent, or about 40 million of the 54.4 million registered voters, cast their ballots. These figures are better than the turnout of 77 percent in 2013 and 74.8 percent in 2010.

Noteworthy, too, is the fact that, per Comelec records, 95 percent of the results were transmitted electronically within 17 hours after the polling centers closed on Election Day. The early unofficial results contributed to the easing of electoral tensions and the quick proclamations of the winners at the local level.

At the national level, the speedy posting of the results from the Comelec transparency server by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) was picked up by the media and reported promptly to the nation. The credibility of these automated reports was validated by the early concession of defeat by the presidential candidates in favor of the presumptive winner, Rodrigo Duterte.

Amazing, indeed, how the computerization of our electoral system, notwithstanding occasional glitches and warts (nothing is 100-percent perfect!), has advanced it to the Information Age.

This is especially marvelous to us seniors who are used to the old manual system which took months to validate, with so many preproclamation controversies hounding the winners. Now, the notorious preprocs are virtually as extinct as dinosaurs.

Thank you, PPCRV. The PPCRV has once again proven its mettle as an indispensable electoral watchdog. The hour-by-hour updates it captured from the Comelec transparency server and released via its LED screens at its Pope Pius XII command center heightened public confidence in the viability and credibility of the automated polls.

More crucial than its public face as the source of early election data is the PPCRV’s role as the Comelec’s citizen arm in ensuring free and honest elections. Believe it or not, it has assembled an army of almost 700,000 volunteers from the different Catholic parishes nationwide, from the urban enclaves in Metro Manila to the distant barangays in Visayas and Mindanao that are reachable only by rugged treks and hourlong banca rides.

These volunteers were trained months ago on how the VCMs operate, how to help in repairing or replacing them, how to detect flying voters, how to protect legitimate voters from harassment, how to conduct parallel manual counts, and how to transport the hard copies of the election returns from out-of-the-way precincts to the town centers.

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As volunteers, it is hard enough to work without pay, yet they are prepared to resist being bribed by unscrupulous politicians for just looking the other way when rampant election cheating via guns, goons and gold occur.

PPCRV heroes. Unlike the public school teachers who are amply compensated for their election duties (as members of the Board of Election Inspectors, teachers receive P4,500 as honorarium and allowance plus a five-day leave or service credits), the PPCRV volunteers are neither paid nor insured. They depend on their own resources or on the charity of others for their meals, medical needs and transportation expenses.

Yet, they risk their lives and wellbeing to safeguard our democracy. One volunteer, Adela Elmida, was ambushed and killed on her way to deliver the hard copies of the election returns to a freight company in Pagadian. Her 12-year-old daughter who accompanied her survived the ambush but was injured.

Another volunteer was struck by a sharp object while monitoring the elections in General Santos City. Many others suffered injury, hunger and verbal abuse, but they trudged on, defending freedom and democracy.

Founded in 1991 and ably headed since then by former ambassador to the Vatican Henrietta “Tita” De Villa, the PPCRV has served the country ceaselessly. Though visible mostly during the election season, it has really worked all year round during the last 25 years, training its corps of volunteers and educating the public on how to vote wisely and fearlessly.

Using pastoral letters and pulpits nationwide, the Church hierarchy pleaded for prayers for peaceful and orderly elections. Yes, prayer is the life of the hierarchy, but the lay faithful added action to prayer via the PPCRV. Happily, the hierarchy and the faithful combined prayers and action to help bring about credible elections, the crucible of our vibrant democracy.

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See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here https://inq.ph/Election2019

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TAGS: Comelec, count, Elections, opinion, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, PPCRV, tally, VCM, vote, voter
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