PHILIPPINES STILL FACED WITH FLUCTUATING VOTE TURNOUT
 

MANILA, MAY 10, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Bjorn Beltran and Catalina Madarang - Carmen Salceda or Manay as she wanted to be called had a thriving business in Camarines Sur when she left for Manila to vote.

Then in her sixties, Manay left her comfort zone in Bicol to support her idol, a movie star turned politician who is now an influential figure in the country.

When the politician ran for a national post in 1998, Manay was more than happy to leave the idyllic province for the noisy city where she was registered.

So when she found out that her name had disappeared from the voters’ list, she was devastated.

“I looked for my name over and over, it just wasn’t there. I didn’t do anything else after that because I was getting old,” Manay, now 74, said.

“Reactivating my registration would take a long time. I couldn’t register again. I just lost hope after that,” she added.

Manay is one of the millions of voters who will not cast their votes in the upcoming May 13 election.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) predicts that more than 12 million Filipinos will not exercise their right to suffrage this year, almost the same as in 2010.

However, the voter turnout in the country is hard to predict as it has been fluctuating since 1978. Save for some years when it dropped consecutively, the voter turnout has been in an up-down trend

If there’s any consolation, the 75 percent voter turnout for 2010 was higher than in 2007.

Due to a growing population, about 38 million out of 50.7 million registered voters cast their votes in 2010, the highest number of actual voters since 1978.

The regions with highest voter turnout in 2010 were Ilocos, Bicol and Eastern Visayas.

Those with lowest voter turnout were SOCCSKSARGEN, Metro Manila and Davao.

Maturing?

Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, believes Filipinos are attaining political maturity.

“Filipinos are growing more interested with the elections,” he said in a phone interview

Casiple noted that voter turnout is always closely related to how interested the voters are in the current political environment.

He said a growing number of voters indicates that the masses are more concerned politically and are more willing to participate in democratic processes.

Why vote?

Like Manay, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez will not be able to vote this year since his registration has been deactivated.

Jimenez, who ironically heads Comelec’s information unit, failed to vote in the two immediately preceding polls, earning him the deactivation.

He, nevertheless, stressed that the voters would play a very vital role during the election.

“This participation is our way of ensuring that we get good officials into office. Admittedly, it doesn’t work all the time, but the alternative – dictatorship or despotism – is guaranteed to not work 100% of the time,” Jimenez said.

But construction worker Rodolfo dela Cruz thinks otherwise.

“It’s all the same anyway,” he said.

“Nothing ever really changes whether I vote or not.”

Like Manay, Dela Cruz rooted for a candidate who eventually got elected to an important national post. He said he just grew tired of voting.

Such disenchantment is not limited to adults who have seen how politicians made true the saying that promises are meant to be broken.

Some young ones – those who are supposed to be fueled by idealism – have also decided to waive their right to choose their leaders.

Take the case of Nicole Dominique Dalida, 18, a graduating student from the University of Santo Tomas.

Dalida believes the candidates are not qualified to be in public service and therefore do not deserve her vote.

“I find the candidates lacking for the positions that they are running for and are therefore unfit to be in office,” she said.

Dalida said she has seen good candidates who seem ready to serve the public. She, however, thinks they are not likely to win against more popular and moneyed rivals.

Why they’re not voting

Jimenez said typical Filipino voters fall into two classifications: those who vote regularly but for some reasons failed to do so during a particular election and those who refuse to vote.

“Some are disgruntled with government and their non-participation is a form of protest. Some simply lack interest; while others, some would say, the majority, are plain lazy, lacking a sound appreciation of the value of their vote,” he said.

Sometimes, though, the voters are making things difficult for themselves.

“They waited until the deadline and so are met with many many others trying to beat the deadline. Under those circumstances, even the simplest procedure would be made more difficult,” Jimenez said.

Casiple said one of the reasons why people lose interest in voting is people do not know many of the political candidates.

A sure way to encourage people to vote, Casiple said, is to provide them with information that would enable them to make enlightened choices.

‘I envy those who can vote’

Jimenez admitted that a low voter turnout would not have a serious impact on an election. He said the candidate with highest number of votes wins and there is no minimum number of votes required for the victory to be declared valid.

Jimenez, however, believes the citizens who failed or refused to vote would feel the consequences of their decision.

“The non-voter, for instance, will be forced to live out the next three years under the authority of a person he never chose, obliged to conform even if he does not entirely accept policies he might disagree with,” he said.

Perhaps Manay knows what Jimenez meant. She slowly wiped her eyes with a handkerchief as she recalls the trip she took with her sister to the Comelec office to look for her name in the records.

Manay said if she were younger, she would be willing to go through the registration process again.

“My siblings, my nieces, my nephews, I envy them,” she said.

“I tell them at least you can still vote for who you want to vote for.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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