INSTEAD OF eating out with friends or partying, Justin Victor de la Cruz (BS Mgt ’07) will be tabulating votes on his birthday, May 14, which is also national elections day.
De la Cruz is one of over 1,000 volunteers for Bantay Bilang, an election quick count that the Loyola Schools (LS) has volunteered to head.
Bantay Bilang is the Operation Quick Count of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) for the Quezon City (QC) chapter.
Accredited by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Namfrel will conduct the quick count for the May 14 elections.
To check against cheating
The quick count aims to be an alternative to the official Comelec vote count and is therefore a check against the manipulation of results.
The tabulation of votes will be conducted non-stop from May 14 to 20 at the
Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral (Sanggu) President Karl Satinitigan (IV BS LM) said that the Ateneo has been volunteering to help in the QC quick count since 1987.
The chairpersons of this year’s quick count are outgoing Office of Student Activities (OSA) Director Miriam Delos Santos, former Sanggu President Boyet Dy (AB DS ’06), and Office for Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI) Director Mary Ann Manapat.
As of press time, the chairpersons could not be reached for comment.
Restoring belief in elections
Satinitigan and former Sanggu Vice President Pao Abarcar (AB Eco-H ’07) are also leaders of the quick count.
“[The quick count] aims to restore belief and hope in the [electoral] system. It combats that powerlessness we often feel and shows us that we can help make [the electoral system] better,” said Abarcar.
Satinitigan said that the Ateneo volunteered for the quick count to serve the QC community and to help ensure that the country’s democracy-in-progress works.
Despite the enormity of the task, volunteer de la Cruz is looking forward to helping out in the quick count. “I think May 14, [my birthday], will be a lot more special and meaningful by giving my efforts and my time to our country. It’s worth it.”
“[These] elections [are] our elections. No matter how we hate [the candidates] or this government or the politics in this country, it is our government and our politics and our country,” Satinitigan added.
Namfrel QC Chairman Don Rapadas said that since the Ateneo is an institution that is very much aware of social issues and realities, “it’s very easy for [it] to take up a good cause. It’s not something that you need to hard sell.”
“One person, one vote”
Benjamin Tolosa Jr., Ph.D., associate professor of the Department of Political Science, emphasized the importance of the quick count.
“One person, one vote. That’s something that’s sacred that you have to protect and therefore you have to make sure that it’s counted and counted right,” said Tolosa.
The actual counting of individual ballots is not part of the quick count, as this is done in the precinct level by Comelec-mandated teachers. Rather, the quick count involves checking if the votes are correctly tallied and if the number of votes equals the number of actual voters.
To do this, volunteers will use the sixth copy of the election return (ER), a document containing the number of registered and actual voters in a precinct and the number of votes cast in that precinct.
Rapadas said that even if the Namfrel quick count is unofficial, it is still credible because the ER is an official document.
Going beyond elections
Tolosa said that the quick count must be seen as part of a larger effort that the Ateneo is involved in—the nationwide movement called 1 Million Volunteers for Clean Elections (VforCE).
He added that about 85% of Filipinos vote but their participation must go beyond the elections to attain long-term political and social change.
Such change is one of the goals of VforCE together with protecting the integrity of the elections, and fighting fraud and violence.
The VforCE projects tackle voters’ education (Pinoy Voters’ Academy), campaign finance checking (Bantay Kampanya), poll watching (Bantay Presinto), canvass monitoring (Bantay Canvass), and an accountability mechanism (Bantay Pangako).
The Ateneo is involved in VforCE through the Sanggu and LS orgs, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS), and the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC).
with reports from Stephanie O. Chan and Karl Louie B. Fajardo