Now it can be said, that on the 10th day of May 2010, the Philippines has attempted its first nationwide conduct of automated elections…er, automated counting of ballots.
For it was really the counting of votes that was computerized. The rest was laboriously and painfully manual. Like most people, it took me 5 hours to line up under the scorching midday summer heat before I got hold of the ballot and the magic smartmatic pen. The queue was a long S-curve going on all directions and intersecting at various points, with people lining up for Clustered Precincts 312, 301 and 314. Finally when PCOS sent me his Congratulations! and the election inspector marked me with the indelible ink, I didnt notice how I got my neck and arms burnt by the unforgiving sun.
As to the lessons, here are they:
Plan. Do. Evaluate. The plan includes management of queues, placing directional signs in strategic locations, making voter- citizens comfortable while waiting- better if waiting is reduced to a minimum, train volunteers to be effective, courteous and knowledgeable service representatives. This is not asking too much from the Comelec. This is raising the bar of government service. Citizens, on a special day such as the elections, must be treated well by the state, like what many local government units now do in their Tax Divisions. Nobody deserves the shabby treatment millions of us, including President- elect Aquino experienced last Monday. Automation should introduce a new culture of government service: fast, reliable, convenient. We should not allow that to be negated by the traditionally inefficient lines. On that note, we should move out from decrepit classrooms to a more people-friendly venues like the mall theatres or the now popular event clamshells or tents- airconditioned, secured, comfortable! (Read Reinventing Government by Osborne and Gaebler, 1993).
Rule of the morons. Much of the discomforts during the election were caused by ill-prepared bureaucrats who may not be competent at all to oversee such a big event. Who knows how many voters got disenfranchised by the mere sight of disorganized queues in and outside of the polling precints. I don’t want to discriminate but this is what we get for tolerating gardeners and manicurists to run our government. Ayn Rand has a word for this: the secondhanders.
The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison . . . . They’re second-handers . . . .
We see these secondhanders everywhere in the bureaucracy, stepping over our respected and experienced (not to mention competent) career officials, occupying juicy positions, and dispensing authority like kings and queens. In the end, they achieve nothing but dismal failure. They are not just qualified. They know nothing, they can do nothing; thus the imminent failure.
Measuring Success. Our government has declared the May 10 elections as a successful event. Both the police and the military concurred, with a lot more people, despite all the troubles that the voters underwent that day, echoing the same sentiment. It is frustrating that for most of us, our idea of success has become so bastardized that as long as one survives an ordeal, however atrocious it was, it can be called successful. Thankfully, foreign observers corrected this misperception by stating firmly that no, your election was neither fair nor honest.
Vigilance is king.
And lastly, I’d say we owe it to the doomsayers for pressing the alarm whenever the Comelec overlooks (wittingly or unwittingly) some significant preparations for the automation. The doomsayers are our heroes, for staying cynical throughout the whole process, never buying in to Comelec’s often moronic excuses. Without our own collective vigilance, the May 10 elections would never have happened.