Resurreccion Z. Borra
Commissioner

When one registers as a voter, it is taken for granted that one will vote in the elections ensuing. After all, one buys a car o ride in, not to keep it locked up in the garage until it is reduced into a heap of rusting metal.

The analogy presumes that there is no other reason for such registration than to enable one to vote. That is far from being the case. The possibility is by no means remote that the registrant’s intention maybe different from, if at all it has anything to do with voting.

At the Comelec building housing the National Central File Division, you have to jostle your way through a crowd that everyday during office hours, fills the lobby and jams the stairs leading to said office. No, these are not applicants for jobs at the Comelec. They are there only to secure certifications that they are registered voters, having earlier registered as such in their respective localities precisely, for that purpose.

In most cases, the certifications are requested in connection with the registrant’s applications for passports or visas as required by the Department of Foreign Affairs or foreign embassies.

The rest need such documents for various other purposes, thus:

1. As requirement for school entrance examination or board examinations;;
2. For verification of addresses of individuals by different TV programs (Wish Ko Lang. etc.)
3. For verification of dates of birth by the SSS or insurance companies in connection with pension, or other monetary claims;
4. For use as reference in an election or plebiscite by individuals and/or political parties; and
5. For authentication purposes by various interest groups (research/marketing organizations, banks, postal agencies, consular attaches, etc.)

As you can see, a voter’s registration has a versatility that rivals that of a Swiss knife.
According to Ms. Consuelo R. Bernabe, head of said division, her office issues on average of 250 certifications a day for each of which a fee of P75.00 is charged.

The sad thing about the above cited cases is that the registrants concerned may not even bother voting.

And there, as the Bard would say, is the rub.

The law provides that when a registered voter fails to vote in two (2) successive regular elections, his registration records are transferred from the active to the inactive file. This is not likely to have the effect of a sword of Damocles as far as prodding a voter to exercise his right of suffrage is concerned. Actually, the deactivation is less a penalty for non-voting than it is a preventive measure considering that the continued inclusion of such registrant in the voters list may fit well into someone’s plan to commit fraud in the election.

The fact, that the registration drive mounted by the Comelec before a scheduled election brings in a rich harvest of new registrants is no reason for this body to sit back and relax.

Beyond the time it takes for the Comelec to shift gears in its information campaign- from “Register Now” to “Get Out and Vote”, it cannot afford the luxury of a pause in its effort to bring about maximum voters participation in the election, “maximum” in this context translating into a close approximation of voting population estimates.

It is a cause for elation that voters turnout in Philippine elections has been consistently high, surpassing even that of more mature democracies such as the United States.

Consider, for instance the following data on the turnout in the last three national and local elections, as shown in the records of the Records & Statistics Division.:

Election Year – May 11, 1998
Total No. of Registered Voters – 34,117,056
Total No. of Voters Who Actually Votes – 29,474,309
Percentage of Voting – 86.39%

Election Year – May 14, 2001
Total No. of Registered Voters – 36,449,911
Total No. of Voters Who Actually Votes – 27,814,672
Percentage of Voting – 76.31%

Election Year – May 10, 2004
Total No. of Registered Voters – 43,522,634
Total No. of Voters Who Actually Votes – 33,570,092
Percentage of Voting – 76.90%

The above data reflect a deep sense of involvement in the conduct of the electoral process affirming an enduring fidelity to democratic values and precepts. It is however, pointed out that while the people troop to the polls with undiminished interest, the decision they render thereat is not always well-considered as indeed, it is as often wrong as it is right, resulting in the election to public office personages who are later shown to be unworthy of the people’s trust. This assertion can hardly be disputed, given the numerous instances of abuse and misuse of official authority and power for personal gain.

The point to be stressed here is that if the people make a mistake in their choice of leaders, they can always undo or correct such mistake with their vote the next time around. But this blithe remark is bound to invite the acid comment: “That is easier said than done”.

Indeed, one who has been elevated to high public office by the people’s vote and has thus enjoyed the power, influence, perquisites and prerogatives attached thereto, will not be so easily ousted there from, no matter that he has lost the people’s esteem as he is certain to use all the vast resources made available to him by virtue of his office in ways fair or foul, legal or otherwise, to prevent such an eventuality.

Only a united and determined stand by the electorate in his constituency expressed in a resounding vote of rejection, will effect his removal from the seat of political power.

Nature, it is said, abhors a vacuum. To those scheming to subvert the electoral process, nothing is more welcomed than the vacuum resulting from the absence at the polls of an apathetic citizenry. “Vote or someone else will vote in your place” is a warning that is often sounded and with good reason, specially with reference to those who register but do not vote.

The adage “the voice of the people is the voice of God” is not an attribution of infallibility but an acknowledgement of the people’s verdict at the polls as a mandate that brooks no defiance and exacts absolutely fealty. But if the voice of the people is the voice of God in that sense, it must be heard with unmistakable clarity, a condition that is possible only if all those qualified and registered as voters, or at least a great majority thereof, participates in the election.

For if the people so participate in such massive numbers, they make their presence felt in a manner so pervasive and overwhelming that no attempt to frustrate the expression of their will and override their decision, will succeed.

(Originally posted at www.bagongbotante.com)

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