Is Automated Election Smart?


Since the ancient discovery that man learned how to count through the use of objects, the significance of knowing how many and how much to human survival and development can never be underscored. In democracies such as ours, the leaders are placed in positions by counting how many of the qualified population voted for each candidate. However, the magnitude of the task becomes more complex as this population grows.

The past national election results created a degree of discontent; thus, the losing candidates went all out to demerit those who won. For the national elections come May 2010, an automated election is being pursued in order to make counting and delivering results fast and, hopefully, precise. Just how fast, at the same time precise, the performance of the machines would be during the canvassing remains to be seen. The growing concerns over teachers not having been trained to use the machines and over the number of machines not being enough for all election polls all point to fears of another problem-laden election turnout. Time would have been a great partner of government in making the automation known to most people, establishing the credibility of those who will provide the machines, making the machines available in all precints so voters will be able to witness the demonstration of its advantages, and allowing people to appreciate the innovation well before election day.

As our government is a tapestry with layers of initiations, endorsements, decisions and approvals before any action could be taken, the meaning of time for the people is belittled by the executors or by the process, or both. The tendency to rush, run after deadlines, declare emergencies, and do troubleshooting are indicators of a system long dated and due for repair itself. Time recognizes nothing and no one. We tend to forget that TIME goes on, with our successes or with our failures as a people.

Cerge Remonde: Humble Beginning, Noble End

Special is the man whose presence touches his crowd with honesty, no matter how painful or joyful his message might be.

The genuine probinsiyano from Cebu, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde earned his way as a media practitioner who was well respected by his audience and his colleagues. His contributions were recognized and will continue to be remembered, along with the way he spoke English with a strong Cebuano accent fluently.

It is rare to be touched by a man just by observing how he handled his jobs and how other people are affected by him through the television, radio and the newspapers. Yet I have been fortunate to witness this first hand during Sir Remonde’s term as Director General of the Presidential Management Staff.  The Information desk people were pleasant and attentive and efficiently referred us to the corresponding unit to handle our concern. Once there, the officer-in-charge discussed with us and gave a focal person and a number for following-up. They even went to the extent of calling up the regional office which was delaying to release the payment for the land that the government was buying from us for the Agno River flood control project without legal and due reasons. Though I never met Sir Cerge face to face, his office was a reflection of his own persona. It was one of the counted moments when I felt secure with and protected by my government.

Speaking for a President whose term was begun by the people’s faith and is ending with an increasing image black smearing campaign definitely required someone with the caliber of a Cerge Remonde. However, the physical demand inevitably took its toll with the temporary stress-relieving but permanently destructive habits of smoking, not having sufficient sleep, and eating accessible but health-unfriendly food. In spite all of these, Sir Cerge was much more than this temporary life we all share, as his last words were those of a prayer. Surely, what he stood and still stands for will stay.

What Does National Election Mean to Us?


The Philippines of the 21st century continues to develop along with the rest of the world, in directions that are characteristic of an equally growing complexity for human survival. The global economic downturn has hurt families in more ways than we expected and we now turn to government as our great hope in making things better.

As we countdown to May election day, information and education campaigns about the Presidentiables and their party entourage of other “-ables” start in television programs, radio broadcasts, in newspaper publications and the internet world. Discussions and debates are heard in conferences and téte-á-téte over coffee, as much as in men’s drinking sprees in front of the barangay sari-sari stores and in the river banks or around the communal deep well where women do their laundry. Amidst all of the intelligent fact-digging and personal campaigning for our bets, we still face the uncertainty of what our votes will turn out to.

Electing the national leadership is still a modern day government practice and the representation of the masses by the elected leaders is crucial for any nation to survive. Since representation means looking after the people’s welfare over and above all other interests, the success and failure of governance lies in the freedoms and controls that we provide to those who represent us. When the leaders fail, we all fail because we failed to make them succeed. Yet we throw all the blame on them and they usually react by looking at self-interest where they can be more secure. Let us remember that institutional systems are meant to deliver what we need as a democracy  and not to satisfy the whims of a few. When the system is no longer working for the purpose it was made, then it’s high time to make essential changes.

Every national election should be an opportunity to make those changes. Do we favor candidates who promise dreams over those who can realize possibilities? Those who have acted in good faith, delivered results and plan to continue to do so over those who just personally believe that what we need is a moral and religious overhaul?

THINK, VOTE, AND PRAY!







(Image by: www.philippinesdirectory.org)

Baguio City as Korean Enclave?

The influx of Koreans in the summer capital is literally creating much disturbing noise, adding to the already head-breaking air pollution from thousands of vehicles plying the strip of the city’s central business district. City residents and local visitors wonder at just how much the Filipino’s tolerance can handle this situation. In the first place, why permit this seeming social deluge? The city government paints a rather ambiguous picture to offer the citizenry.

In the midst of an angry protest against the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement that will, in effect, turn over the management of the Baguio City Athletic Bowl to a group of Korean investors, the city mayor said it is all chismis (gossip), and that he still has to approve the proposal for it to become official. Nonetheless, a citywide information and education campaign on the proposal would have effected participatory consultation among the city folks and produced recommendations from those who have long been for the best interest of the city’s development. The city government’s role to lead the people by making their (people’s) voices heard in order to form a consensus over a critical matter such as the issue at hand has not been satisfactorily accomplished. After all, it is not just the Athletic Bowl in itself but what it represents. It is a part of the culture of Baguio City, and leasing it out to a foreign group is like cutting a foot from a human athlete; thus, emotions still run high!

If development per se is the benchmark (bleacher mark?), then we could easily abuse the implementation of such and miss out on the essentials of human development. If development for the people is the principle of governance, then we will give due importance and significance on what people think and how they want their present and future to be. Need we divide and allow others to conquer?  But where has government gone?

Price Increases, Election Gun Ban, and Ampatuan


If 2010 as the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar were to be true to its form, the fangs are out for the first bite. Increase in prices of rice and sugar, oil, bus and jeepney fare have started to loom.

The average Filipino household needs to cut on expenses by setting its priorities: maybe home food for children first, walk the distance rather than ride, minimize cell phone load expenses. Come to think of it, the children are better off without the processed sugar we usually buy, and the adults cannot afford to have more sugar to add to their decades-long intake anyway. The commercial white rice, research findings say, is one major cause of the high incidence of diabetes among Filipinos due to its sugar and carbohydrate contents. Red rice is a lot more nutritious and health-friendly. Perhaps we can have red rice once with a meat dish, and vegetable soup, camote , and bananas the rest of the day. Why not? Time we also think of REMAKING our own needs and put a brake to commercialism. But we love advertisements!

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The election gun ban starts with a bang! Local news still feed on violence-related events that has robbers shooting it out with the police, or a gun-shot victim who died with relatives crying out loud about his not having enemies and his being a good person.

However, a number of persons have been reported to have been found carrying guns without permits and their weapons confiscated, including a number of law enforcers.

***


The Ampatuan trial still serves to top all ironies. While the main suspect shows no remorse, people who see him face-to-face are starting to laugh it out with him! Perhaps not allowing media during the hearing might prove an experiment on trial and error, or comedy of errors, or erratic dramatization. Whatever!

***

Meanwhile, development advocacy proves to be an effective front liner for efforts at making government function according to what the people need over and above any other concern. Because beyond this is obviously self interest and corruption.

The Separation of Church and State: An Illusion of Dichotomy? (Part 2)

The end of the Marcos regime and the Presidency of Cory Aquino in 1986 were made possible by a call from the Catholic church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin, for Filipinos to unite and support the initiative of military leader General Fidel V. Ramos and National Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. President-elect Aquino, known for her religious dedication, invited church leaders in her state consultations. Notably, her term is recognized as having integrity and credibility.

Present trends show religious leaders becoming political activists in churches or marching in the streets, and even running as political candidates, with their supporters growing in number through the years. The few who were elected still have to make their mark. One still has to make it to the Presidency.

Perhaps the more pressing issues are those that come closest to the Filipino’s orientation as believers, those that have something to do with preserving human life. When the government allows artificial means of birth control to manage population increase, the citizens who are also church faithful are put in a “split living” situation which affects their psychological health. Also, they worry over the youth who could have access “over the counter” for these products which could push them to “unguided sexual experimentation”.

The church has shown instances of being relevant from time to time, though, like allowing the practice of cremation even when traditional church thought requires the body to be untouched after death in preparation for the resurrection.

However difficult living with this dichotomy has become for Filipinos, other times have proven that the pendulum could swing long enough towards the good and the positive. Compromises could be reached and controls installed. The challenge remains in finding the formula.

Read Part 1 here.

The Separation of Church and State: An Illusion of Dichotomy? (Part 1)

Can one separate his body from his spirit without dying?


Our country is a country of believers, and that is true philosophically, religiously, and practically. Also, a country is required to have some semblance of order or governance that guides the masses to act according to agreed-upon rules of living and maintain peaceful and harmonious co-existence. However, in the dynamics of governance, power is a consequential acquisition for those who lead since their decisions and actions mold the national character. Whether or not these are concurred by what the masses desire depends on the social orientation of the leaders which includes religious beliefs or the absence of the same. In turn, the masses choose their leaders according to what they believe in, whether  for the welfare of the community or for political favours and self benefit.

While our 1987 Constitution holds that the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable (Article II, Section 6), historical and current events point to the significance of religion as a major factor in government law-making, in the execution of  these laws, and the implementation of the justice system in cases of violation. Our Spanish colonizers, as mentioned by Teodoro Agoncillo, a Filipino historian from the University of the Philippines, used the combination of secular and religious might to readily subjugate the Indios (“native Filipinos”). The theoretical wall of separation  reintroduced by the American jurisprudence remains abstracted, as cases upon cases are filed to show how this wall or line has not been respected.

Read Part 2 here.

Mass Media for National Development

How much can mass media do to influence the Filipino to make decisions and make him contribute to national development?

This year marks another milestone for the Filipino to elect the national leadership. Where he gets the inputs in order for him to make an informed decision will depend on what information is made available to him and how he personally processes this information.

First, let’s tackle the sources of information. The National Statistics Office’s Index of Education and Mass media Statistics reveals that in 1994, out of 50.4 million Filipinos aged 10-64, 40.7 million or 80.8% listen to the radio. Farmers and other rural folks could have radios that are affordable and battery-operated in their homes and because they are massively produced as portables, folks could easily bring them along in the farms. Fifty-six percent (56%) are television viewers and the rate is fast becoming as high as that of the radio listeners. It is observable that even in urban poor areas, television is a regular acquisition. But who and what do they listen to? Soap opera is obviously popular. When national issues are aired, how many really hear and try to understand all sides of the argument? Usually, politicians are interested to see how they can polish their side of the coin.

Information processing requires some stock knowledge which Filipinos most probably possess from their mass media exposure. Also, we want to believe that most have skills to discern and analyze the information that they have. Presence or absence of statistics could serve as good news or warnings, though. In the same year of 1994, 40.2 million Filipinos aged 10-64 were found to be functionally literate, out of 48 million or a staggering 83.8 percent. However, what statistics have not shown is how people decide and what they do about their decisions. The attitude factor is as significant.

Probably we could advocate more for mass media that provide education more than entertainment; value reinforcement more than deviance; and justice more than violence.

We could still set our priorities right.

Critical Questions to Ask a Presidential Candidate

January-the first month of our 2010 election year. As the May Day (?) draws closer, we become more anxious over who to vote particularly for the highest position of the nation. Will we make the right choice this time? There is no hard and fast rule for minimal error, but some guide posts could be had. For instance, we could ask some questions hardest in our minds to be answered by a Presidential candidate and see if they will lessen our fears for another six years. Do you agree that the questions should include the following?

How will you address the issues confronting Mindanao?
  • their need for autonomy
  • Mindanao as alleged haven for local and international terrorists
What do you think of Manila as the national capital?
  • “What happens in Manila is what happens in the Philippines”
How will you improve the national economic situation?
  • how do we truly fight poverty?
What do you think about the way we have legislated:
  • capital punishment and ‘comfort imprisonment’ for special criminals?
  • human trafficking including prostitution?
  • the juvenile justice system?

2010: Bangon, Pinoy!


The year 2009 was literally a disaster more than anything else. The nation was all about proving the national leadership corrupt, while actual corruption is implemented and silently accepted, using either borrowed funds from global financiers or grants from donors who generously and surprisingly continue to give even when they see funds go to waste. Still, a great number persevered to go on with the work at hand with excellence and honesty. Otherwise, anarchy was a very easy culprit to have taken over.

To top it all, natural disasters joined the avalanche. The nation’s natural resources, misused and abused through time, gave way to man’s greed and selfishness. So we had  super typhoons Pepeng and Ondoy, dumping unprecedented rainfall which flooded Metro Manila and Northern Luzon. With these, we lost more or less 400 lives and made thousands of families homeless. Again, more people than expected went to contribute in the rescue and relief efforts. Now, the rehabilitation will need a million fold .

Lessons from these experiences are clear:
  • Leadership should have integrity in all levels of governance since trust and confidence in the national leadership is essential to nation-building. 
  • Filipinos are great professionals, efficient laborers, industrious workers, and caring home makers. We just need to have the country’s best interest at heart if we want the nation to move ahead.
  • Support of any kind, given within a framework of crisis management go a longer way than one which is reactionary. The former is long-term; the latter temporary.
  • We have all the reasons to be grateful for another year, another chance. 
  • God is still on our side. 
Bangon, Pinoy!