POSTSCRIPT / November 8, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Comelec control over voters’ registry diluted

UNRELIABLE LIST: The biggest challenge to holding honest national elections in 2010 is not in the counting and transmission of the results, as critics of these automated stages warn, but the use of the still corrupted registry of some 46 million voters.

The discovery of scores of voters coming from the same house address in Taguig City exposes a typical registration fraud. That is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg that could sink next year’s Titanic elections in many localities.

Full automation at a cost of P7.2 billion is not enough to prevent poll fraud, because registration — a basic responsibility of the Commission on Elections — is not covered by the fat computerization contract.

As they say in computer work, “garbage in, garbage out.” Since the list of voters is still padded with spurious names by the thousands, how can the results of the voting be honest even if automated?

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SURRENDER: It seems Comelec commissioners have been so engrossed with the more exciting automated stages that they failed to pay as much attention to the prior purging of the registry and the listup of new voters.

Insiders tell us that thoroughly cleaning the list at this late date looks impossible — a fact that will cast a shadow on the integrity of the 2010 polls in many places.

How can the Comelec, which shows signs of system paralysis, remove spurious voters and prevent the shuffling out of legitimate ones when — sources say — the listup is practically in the hands of local politicians?

Comelec insiders tell us that many of the poll personnel working on the municipal and city lists are actually recommendees or runners of mayors and other local officials.

The massive manipulation of the local lists has been going on through the years with the Comelec’s virtual surrender to politicians of the sensitive process of registration.

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POOR SYSTEM: If there is padding of the voters’ list, there is also the failure to accommodate new voters for lack of time and other excuses.

While it is true that some voters procrastinated, it is also true that many of them had to line up for hours (some went home exasperated) because Comelec personnel who were shorthanded lacked equipment – and system – to cope with the heavy turnout.

Some teeners anxious to vote failed to register early because the listup schedule conflicted with school hours. Then there were those who turned 18 only days before the Oct. 31 deadline and got entangled in the last-minute rush.

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SELF-BASHING: Among the reactions to our last Postscript (“Chosen 14th happiest, Pinoys don’t think so”) was an email from the academe.

Dr. Benjamin G. Tayabas, former president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and now chancellor of Central Luzon College of Science and Technology in Olongapo City, wrote:

“Once again, the ghosts of our ‘damaged culture’ are haunting us, this time even more painfully, as we face an election year amidst the calamity-caused sufferings of our people, where our nation is divided into political parties and politicians whose agenda paint no good picture of our country and who recklessly destroy one another.

“One wonders, is there nothing good and beautiful any more about us?

“The education of a people is only as good as it changes their culture and character. All Filipinos may be educated, but what good will this be if our culture and character will not change, because of lack of national and personal discipline, crab mentality, self-bashing, national pessimism, crisis of leadership and citizenship, colonial mentality, and national paralysis due to extreme negativism?

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DIFFICULTIES: “The roundtable discussions years ago of managers of multinational corporations employing Filipino managers and workers provided a cultural description of the Filipino character. Three areas of difficulty of the Filipino were identified:

* The Filipino finds it difficult to obey rules and regulations.

* The Filipino finds it difficult to rejoice in the success of others and to support the efforts of others to succeed.

* The Filipino finds it difficult to show excellent performance despite his skills and competencies.

“The education of the Filipino must be responsive to fundamental changes in culture and character. A greater sense of enlightened nationalism and love of country must pervade the psyche of the Filipino.

“We are the only country in Asia that continues to see the bad side of everything and anything. As a people we are quick to criticize but slow to do the good things that will take us out of this confused and divided society into a more dynamic, positive-looking, and proud people that we once were.

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OPTIMISM: “Let us begin to organize Optimist Clubs around the country, because, as a great world leader once said, ‘in a period of darkness, a little optimism can send forth light.’

“This is the role of education: to send forth the light that we as a people need! Let us prevent a suicidal ‘sliding backward’ movement in our midst. Let us stop being a country of contentious people. There is much talk, much argument, much obstructionism, and very little in the way of unified, cooperative action.

“Problems don’t get settled because they are argued to death. The people of any generation are a product of education. If they think and act and behave as they do, they reflect the kind of education they have received.

“Therefore, the education agenda of our country must build the character and mind of our people, as much as it must imbue the people with a national soul.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 8, 2009)

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