The mood was kinda weird tonight at the house. We have a friend from Kapisanan in Toronto who has been here almost a week, and today his cultural adjustment just hit a major bit of Philippine political reality. We were up talking til three… and then I decided to write this.
You see there is a very real possibility of a failure of elections (or a postponement or straight out cancelation). And if that happens things will get real interesting, real crazy, and real soon.
It’s kinda freaking near everyone (in the country) out.
It’s just a few days til the election (10 May), and this week’s test run revealed major problems with the machine.
What do I mean problems? Well in the test, every vote for president cast, no matter who it was cast for, was tallied up for the Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration candidate Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro.
On Monday night the PCOS machines failed their first major test in several areas, unable to read or accurately record data in the ballots. The malfunctions prompted a massive recall of flash cards — those tiny devices where data processed from filled out ballots will be stored in the PCOS machines. [Philstar.com]
And in the overseas elections in Hong Kong last month the first day was a failure because the ballots didn’t fit into the machine that read them. They blamed it on the paper expanding due to different temperatures from the room where the ballots were kept to the room where the machines were kept.
Clearly there are problems.
Some are calling for a postponement, but that would mean that Gloria stays in as president. Not that many people really want that. [*There are some theories that this whole wonky electronic election was designed to fail just so she could remain in power.]
But if the election fails, or if widespread cheating becomes evident there’s a good chance of Manila being a very interesting place to be… and I don’t mean happy-good-time interesting.
On one side the military (about 7300 of them) are being called in to ‘protect’ Manila. And on the other, activists, along with opposition politicians and their followers, are thinking over what mass actions to take on. Suffice to say there will be a lot of angry people sharing the streets with the military and police.
It’s might just be a very historic time to be a balikbayan in the Philippines.
… but then again it might turn out just fine. Elections will happen on Monday and they’ll be smooth and clean [despite the current software and hardware glitches, the energy crisis that threatens very possible power outages, the lack of electricity in many far out places in the country, etc, etc.]
Yup it might just turn out fine… unless it doesn’t.
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To me it’s a super interesting time to be here. I’m glad to also see how it a first and second time balikbayans are reacting to it.
I remember my first time to a developing country, the shock of it all and the paranoia that bad things lurked everywhere. I remember my first time in the Philippines and how everyone would tell me that pretty much everything was dangerous and to basically to never go out (I did anyway of course). And I wonder how much more of a fear overload it would have been.
I’m glad to report everyone is taking it in stride.
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As a balikbayan I think it’s important to care about this sort of stuff. A badly functioning Philippines is a blight on us all. No matter how much you deny who you are you will always have a Filipino face stare back at you in the mirror. And if the motherland of that face is an embarrassment, well, that mirrors back too.
That’s why a good part of this project is about making people care about the state of the Philippines as a nation. It’s not just enough to have some kind of abstract “pride of where you’re from.” It’s not just enough to do art to celebrate some faraway culture. It’s not enough to just wear a shirt with a flag (or Pacquiao) design.
We have a role to play to make sure that that country is the place we want it to be. And obviously right now, it is not.
So I ask you, what are you doing about it?
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