Precinct 0128E, Cluster 69, Don Jose Elementary School, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

10 May 2010

I woke up feeling uncomfortable mainly because of the heat. Despite the hot summer days we have been experiencing, mornings would always be cool until around 9am. Today however, I woke up at 5am only slightly sweating but immensely uncomfortable. It was not a good sign.

We left at around 740 and got to Don Jose Elementary School 15 minutes later. Because our church had given us our precinct info already, all we needed to do was locate the room for our cluster which we easily did. We go to the 2nd floor of the Don Jose building where we found order within chaos. Instead of a line, two teachers outside the SINGLE waiting room were giving the voters their numbers, which were divided into batches of ten since only ten people at a time were allowed inside the polling station. We were in the 25th batch of ten.

My initial problem with this was that they called people in by batches even though there were some vacancies in the seats inside the polling station already. On top of this, the lines progressed very slowly because they allowed the senior citizens to cut in line. People were complaining understandably, but nobody was pissed off enough to voice a complaint.

Between 915 and 940 am, an old lady with graying chin length hair in a green tshirt and jeans came up to the small crowd of people waiting, stood up on a stool and began shouting angrily about the “batches” system. She got a complaint, I suppose, from a lawyer saying that there should not be any “batches” because the people should be lined up. The people didn’t want to remove the batches because they didn’t want to lose their place in “line.” She was defeated and just said, “Basta pag may nagtanong walang batches batches ha.” She left in a huff.

3 hours later at around 12pm, my family and I were already right outside the door of the polling station. I hung back by the window nearest the door. Unfortunately, the teachers decided to take a reprieve from their taxing work to eat their meager lunch. No problem there, we all understood that they needed to.

Suddenly, the old lady in green (apparently from BEI in charge of our cluster) again comes to the crowd and complains angrily, “O AYAN, NA-COMELEC NA TAYO DAHIL SA BATCHES NA YAN.” At this point I decide to record what she was saying and bring out my camphone to take a video. She says that “…sinabi ko na kanina na tanggalin yang batch-batch na yan e” and proceeds to suggest that the batches be completely done away with which completely infuriates the people lined up. A man with glasses seated to the side near to the old lady speaks for the people and says that the people do not want to do away with the batches because despite the slow start, the pace had begun to pick up and, again, people didn’t want to lose their place in “line.”

The old lady was obviously angry, distraught, frustrated and helplessly alone against the throng of people. I hated her for not THINKING and merely reacting, but I also felt sorry for her because she was up against a crowd that had suddenly grown in a matter of seconds. A shouting match ensued between the old lady and the man who remained seated. The old lady, without saying it explicitly, was worried what the COMELEC/BEI would do to her because of this batch system that our cluster had started. The man told her, “Edi papuntahin mo yung COMELEC dito! Kami mismo ang magsasabi na kami ang may gusto nito” (not verbatim). The people shouted their assent.

My dad at one point asks her in a demanding voice, “Nasaan ho ba kayo kanina nung nagbigay ng number? Edi dapat kanina pa lang wala na yan. Nung simula pa lang wala na yang batch number.” The old lady retorts something back, my dad retorts also, the seated guy and other people back my dad up and the old lady is once more defeated.

The old lady (I think at this point) sees me taking the video but I just ignore her and then steps down and enters the polling station room. I saw her wiping her eyes inside. I felt sorry for her, so I stopped the recording.

A man, dressed in a white shirt and regular blue jeans and who looked like he was nearing his senior years because of his white hair and beard, took over and rallied the crowd. With his resonating and extremely loud voice, he asked, “O. SINO ANG MAY GUSTO NG MAY BATCHES PA RIN? ITAAS ANG KAMAY.” EVERYBODY raises their hand. Somebody in the crowd suggests that since nobody present wanted to do away with the batches but the COMELEC/BEI was apparently ordering its removal, the existing batches be retained and anybody who comes after the last existing batch (at that time, it was batch 61) will just have to FALL and STAY in line. Again, people shouted their assent. The guy then proceeded to make the people fall in line by batches despite the cramped and limited space (I’m lucky I wasn’t claustrophobic).

While all this was going on, the old lady who was by this time inside the room complains that I was taking a video and the people inside says that it was BAWAL. I was shocked. How was it BAWAL to take note of what was going on so that I can share it with the rest of the country? I was doing it as a concerned citizen who wanted TRANSPARENCY. The old lady seemed paranoid that I would post it and she would be infamous and people would hate her (it was painfully written all over her face). EVERYBODY inside that room told me it was BAWAL. Nobody said it explicitly, but the look in their eyes told me to erase it. I did it. I shouldn’t have, but I did.

Why?

I didn’t want to cause any more trouble.

I was afraid they would deny me of my right to vote. It was a long shot, but it was still a possibility. One of the senior teachers inside took my precinct info sheet which contained my complete name, address, and precinct/cluster info. That got me scared because she put it inside a drawer. I asked the younger girl inside (tall and slim with long straight hair wearing a green polo shirt and jeans) if I would still be allowed to vote. She said yes, but the look on her face didn’t convince me.

I was afraid that these teachers/officials had people outside. The school was right smack in the middle of the slums and some of the people who loitered outside looked scary. I was afraid they’d just text one of the people outside and ambush me and my family. I didn’t realize this fully until after I had gotten home, but I think it was at the back of my mind at that time.

After I had deleted the pics and video, they started letting people in again. The old lady in green was positioned there making people sign on the list. She still looked mad, but she looked defeated. I apologized to her and told her I had erased it. I told her that I didn’t want to cause trouble and that we understood that she and the others were under stress. I told her a bunch of other “comforting” things which made me feel plastic because I was still annoyed with her but which I honestly meant.

When I moved on to receive my ballot, the other old lady who took my precinct info sheet asked to see my phone to check if I really had erased it. I showed her my phone. She got out my precinct info sheet, copied my name, told me it had to go in their minutes, then handed me back my info sheet. I told her, “Dapat ilagay nyo rin sa minutes na binura ko yung video.” My cousin, who was ahead of me in line, told me to get her name also. I tried, but the old lady refused. My cousin told her, “Aba, hindi naman fair yun.” The lady just said to get the precinct number and that would suffice. My cousin retorted, “Sya lang ang nahuli ninyo, pero meron pang ibang nagvideo.” The lady looked up in surprise and looked uneasy. My cousin looked smug. She later told me she didn’t think the lady knew we were related because we didn’t share the same last name or even middle name, which made her seem credible because it made it look like a total stranger was defending me.

While voting, my hands shook because of anger, hunger and fear that my shading would go outside the lines. I then went up to the PCOS machine, put my ballot in, waited for the Congratulations sign (my ballot was the 260th in my cluster) and lined up for my thumbprint and ink. My family and I immediately left.

On the way home, my family and I talked about it and agreed that it was not BAWAL to take pictures or videos outside the polling place especially since the media was rallying people to be vigilant about patrolling their votes and all the events related to the elections. As far as I knew, that’s what I was doing.

When we got home, we saw civilian pictures and videos online. I was pissed off at the old lady in green and with myself for caving in. I should have stood my ground and kept that video despite the fact that my name was noted in the minutes. *sigh* Hindi ko talaga kaya sumagot sa mga matatanda.

Oh you know what? My cousin also said that she heard one of the girls who gave out the batch numbers say that it was the old lady in green who had given the orders to give numbers. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Bwisit sya. BU-WI-SIT. =)))))))

I know I sound contradictory the way that I say I felt bad for that old lady in green but I was also annoyed and mad at her, but it was true. I could imagine myself in her shoes and I could imagine how helpless and scared she must have felt, but I also was angry at how she didn’t even stop to think about how this batch system, to some degree, was providing order to the chaotic system. She didn’t stop to think of a possible solution that would ease the crowd’s growing discomfort and impatience. She merely reacted to her fear of being reprimanded.

It was sad, really, the way things there turned out. We could have withstood the discomfort and the long lines, but because people reacted without stopping to THINK rationally, things went from bad to worse. I’m just thankful that the voters there were united and determined to get their votes in. I’m thankful that there were people like my dad and those two guys–the seated one and the bearded one–who spoke up for the people and helped organize the voters. I’m thankful that there were other people who recorded the whole hullabaloo outside our polling station (I hope they post it online). Lastly, I’m thankful that my family and I got home safe and sound and everybody else who voted in that school were safe.

This automated system made counting faster, but slowed down the voting process. I hope that we ALL learn from this tremendously historical experience so that we continue to move forward. I hope that that old lady does not blame anybody for the issue that arose and just take lessons from it as we all have. I hope YOU are safe and that our country become a safe place for people to exercise their democratic right to vote. I hope our beautiful country learns from all this and rallies together under the new president (whoever s/he may be) because s/he will need OUR help to raise our country from the dregs we’re currently in.

//edit

I am told that it is NOT against the law/rules to take pics or videos OUTSIDE the polling station.

The batch system is apparently against the automated elections act. Although honestly I don’t understand why. The people were still lined up, by batch lang tatawagin from the holding room.

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