File photo of the vote-counting machine
issuing a receipt. Photo: InterAksyon.com
reason the Philippines is such a laggard compared to other nations is
because Filipinos simply don't trust one another. And in a way, you
really can't blame them because the country has more than its fair share
of scams, swindles, rackets, and all manner of nefarious deeds
perpetrated by Pinoys on fellow Pinoys.
In the Philippines,
you start off as untrustworthy until you can prove yourself otherwise.
For instance, if you're applying for a job, be sure to bring your NBI
(National Bureau of Investigation) Clearance with you on your initial
interview because you're a thief, swindler, rapist, terrorist, murderer,
you-name-it—until your NBI Clearance certificate says otherwise.
Enter any building
(public or private) and there's a security guard at the door ready to
frisk you and look inside your bags just in case you're carrying stuff
like C4 explosives, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), or worse. If
you happen to be wearing a baseball cap, you need to doff it to prove
that that there is no 9mm Glock hidden in it. Some Philippine banks ask
you to keep your hat off while inside their bank so that their
ceiling-mounted CCTV cameras get a clear view of your face should you
decide to rob it.
Even homes are
normally surrounded by high concrete walls topped with shards of broken
glass. Windows have steel bars to keep the home's inhabitants "safe" and
keep the riffraff, along with everyone else, out.
Mistrust is everywhere
in the Philippines and convoluted, sometimes redundant systems have been
put in place because of that mistrust: systems that slowdown commerce,
by delaying individual transactions; and redundant procedures that
increase paperwork, creating added work for everyone concerned. Those
unnecessary steps easily cost the country billions of pesos in wasted
time, lost revenue, and increased workload.
A prime example of
this is former senator, and current senatorial candidate Richard "Dick"
Gordon's demand that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) provide each
and every Filipino voter a receipt after they place their vote. This
receipt will contain unique information that will indicate not just the
time and place where the person voted but also who that person voted
for. According to Gordon, this will allow the voter to verify if his or
her vote was correctly counted or not. Gordon insists that it is also
part of the country's automated election system law that he sponsored
when he was in the Senate.
To most foreigners,
such a receipt for voting is a preposterous idea. All across the globe,
voters walk into polling places with the presumption that the vote they
will cast will be tallied correctly. There is never any need to go back
to double check and see if your vote was counted correctly. Poll
watchers and canvassers take care of that for you. As a voting citizen,
your job is done after you turn in your ballot.
But not in the
Philippines. Again, because Filipinos don't trust one another, a receipt
must be given to each voter so they can make sure their vote was
recorded correctly ('shouldn't trust those teachers and poll canvassers;
they're likely all dishonest anyway).
Richard Gordon. Photo: pinoydailyjournals.com
So Gordon filed a
petition with the Philippine Supreme Court to order the COMELEC to issue
those receipts for the scheduled May 9 elections. The high court came
out with a unanimous ruling on March 8, two months before election day,
ordering the COMELEC to reconfigure all their voting machines to issue
"voter verified paper audit trail" or VVPAT receipts.
Never mind that 60
days is an extremely short time to reconfigure thousands of voting
machines scattered all across the country; never mind that the tens of
thousands of rolls of thermal paper needed to print those receipts will
have to be purchased through the slow and meticulous government
procurement process; never mind that hundreds upon hundreds of man-hours
will be needed to implement this change; none of that is Gordon's or the
high court's concern. The fact that the COMELEC must now scramble to
comply with this new requirement is COMELEC's problem—and COMELEC's
The May 9 elections
might end up being postponed, and corners might have to be cut in
procuring additional paper supplies. Furthermore, reconfiguring
thousands of voting machines may cause some or many of them to fail.
Thus, the integrity of the upcoming election can no longer be
guaranteed at the level it could have been prior to the March 8 ruling.
Such is life in this "Bizzaro"
land we call the Philippines. Where the autocratic ruling class, e.g.,
Gordon and the SC justices, fail to see the big picture. For those
folks, it's always "their way or the highway." And because no one trusts
anyone, a preposterous voting receipt will have to be issued. The
overall cost of the upcoming election will skyrocket, voting systems
might be compromised, and in the end, the hapless Filipino people will
pay many times over for an election that will either be delayed or
compromised. Situations like these happen all the time in the Philippines,
thanks to our lack of trust for one another. It's no wonder the
country is currently where it's at—towards the bottom of the heap.