By FEDERICO A. ESPIRITU
I am a natural born Filipino citizen and this birth fact, as well as the Philippine Constitution vested in me the right of suffrage. As soon as I qualified as voter, I dutifully excercised that sublime privilege to cast my sanctified ballot, no matter how right, wrong and poor the choices had been among presented candidates whom I thought should govern my own life and that of the society in general. Most of the time, I regretted many of my final votes after my choices failed and frustrated me when they assumed the fulcrum of power not for long after the ballot boxes had been quarantined. Most of the time, I lost in my choices rather than felt victorious because my enthroned winners went either the way of dismal governance performance or got suck up by ailing societal maladies. That is indeed deplorable weak link in what is known as contemporary democracy. In most instances, my own electoral choices were the best officials we never had because in the empowerment arena where they contended, neither did they employ guns, gold and goons nor even accepted filthy campaign money. Popularity and erroneous values triumph. Nonetheless, I persisted in voting, from the jurassic manner to automated mode because it is paramount citizen duty.
Out of that desire to remain Filipino at heart, from the Bay Area, I rode the BART train and trekked to the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco to register as overseas absentee voter. Lace it with nostalgia of our homeland if you will. I heaped praises on the consular services in my Dual Voice column thereafter for having processed my application in as short as 20 minutes. It was ecstatic feeling being complete Filipino again. I was advised I will receive my voter’s packet through the mail by October of 2015. This immigrant went back to the consulate middle of last year when I renewed my passport and expend the responsibility to advise of my change of residence. I was gleeful address correction took only 10 minutes, again lauding my consulate’s citizen service. By end of 2016, I checked the Registry of Overseas Absentee Voter Registry. Lo and behold, my name blissfully appeared. As of this writing, I ask what went wrong? By first week of this April, no voter’s packet came from the Phillippine Consulate, wrost even when actual computerized voting already commenced. My faith went on a free-fall and wanted to retract my accolades on the San Francisco consulate. Today, I even harbor the cynical questions: is somebody playing rigmarole on my right of suffrage? Or was it plain bureaucratic inefficacy? What more if I will be recorded as having cast my vote and be counted in what has been perpetually low turn out in overseas absentee voting? That will certainly raise my eyebrows to the roof! Answers are in order. And I will interestingly await who overseas Filipino voters in the San Francisco-Bay Area and the whole of America elected to further quench my curiosity and unearthing.
My kind of 1.3 million absentee voters are faced with individual predilection in a prevalently limited roster of presidentiables, as well as candidates for vice presidents. In what could be tighly contested election emerging from preference surveys, overseas absentee voting can dent on, if not swing the results. That is why many candidates took time off from intensive domestic campaigning to fly off to key foreign cities swarming with overseas voters while enjoying bonus vacation respite courtesy of favorite patrons and donors expecting return on investments from their key aspirants. The political advertisements are meant to sell the dreaming candidates and in many aspects, hardselling becomes deceiptful. The series of debates come in handy for the learned voters but not perhaps for families wallowing in poverty where the priority is scouring for the next meal rather than watch candidates outwit each other in barage of demagoguery and litany of promises. I also wonder how much public and private funds are being unleashed to court voters’ nod and perpetuate typical cheating. Come judgment day on May 9, we eagerly await the results of electoral process’ correctness, fallibility and mistakes. But in the next years until the next suffrage exercise, voters, caught in contemplative moments, will either rejoice or agonize on how the electorate’s choices succeed or fail. Our homeland is continually ailing because of bad choices and errors of majority, if not majority of errors. Quo vadis, Philippines!
Potpourri: A close friend, Noel Fudalan of Concord, Contra Costa County, had my similar experience. Having seen my Facebook post that I confirmed from the electoral website that I am included in the roster of overseas absentee voters, he excitedly navigated the site and ascertained his registration. After encountering my disgusting frustration from the Philippine consulate, I deliberately verified with Noel. Twice, my amigo reported to this writer that he has not hitherto received his overseas absentee voting documents and seems like he can not vote using the mail. But the predicament is not stopping Noel. Decisively, he is spending some greenbuck for a trip to the consulate for on-site personal voting. What a dutiful and patriotic Filipino worthy of praise and emulation!…For a while, people and media were abuzz about a different ‘Noel’ or the possibility of no election simply because the Philippine Supreme Court was steadfast in its decision to implement the voters’ receipt in the coming computerized election. After much ruckus and hullabaloo, the Commission on Election had no recourse but comply. This entailed buying of thousands of scissors and receipt boxes. In a society where a culture of election cheating prevails, extra precautions become necessity thus entailing tons of public funds. Witty businessmen and smart operatives wear smiles as their cash registers ring because of Philippine election’s vulnerabilities….As homeland electioneering heats up, Americans as well go to the polls in November in their own systemic manner. With two elections near their hearts shaping up, Kababayans can not help but vocally compare both suffrage exercise and experiences from their adopted nation versus our nativeland. They find disconcerting variance between experential First World and Third World democracies’ election of leaders. In the end, the quality of future life depends on free and learned democratic choosing. (You may correspond with Dual Voice thru email@example.com)