Sunday, May 13, 2007

VforCE prays for honest and clean elections

Namfrel QC gathers for final preparations

by Ayee D. Macaraig

WITH TWO days left to prepare for the polls, hundreds of election volunteers gathered on Saturday not to train as usual, but to pray for honest and peaceful elections.

“We are here because we are committed [as volunteers] in doing what we can to make sure that these elections are honest, responsible, and peaceful,” said Jesuit Provincial Fr. Daniel Patrick Huang, SJ, during the mass organized by the Volunteers for Clean Elections (VforCE).

The mass, which invitations said was for “peace, vigilance, and commitment,” was held at the Ateneo High School (AHS) Covered Courts.

Volunteers from various VforCE groups such as the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) attended the mass.

Also present were volunteers from the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA), Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE).

The mass was intended to collectively “send forth” the VforCE volunteers in their mission of civic engagement for Philippine democracy.

VforCE is a nationwide movement that aims to gather one million volunteers to protect the integrity of the elections, to fight fraud and violence, and to work for long-term change.

“Inspirited volunteers”

Huang said that although there are forces ready to cheat, deceive, and exploit Filipinos in the elections, there is also a spirit that moves against darkness. This, he said, is the Holy Spirit.

“Our volunteers are inspiring, or perhaps better, ‘inspirited’ volunteers, men and women filled with God’s spirit to commit, love, and serve our country,” he said.

Kailangan tayo ng bayan. Kailangan ng mga taong haharap sa puwersa ng kabuktutan. Kailangan ng mga Pilipinong handang magbantay at maglingkod upang ang demokrasya ay maitaguyod (The nation needs us. The nation needs people to face the force of evil. Filipinos who are ready to guard and serve to pursue democracy are needed),” Huang added.

Huang also said that the candles lit at the end of the mass symbolize light in the darkness, and the flame of love for nation.

“[The peace that Jesus gives] does not mean that things will be well without much effort, dedication, [and] sacrifice from us. Much will be demanded of us in the coming days, indeed, in the coming years as we prepare for 2010,” Huang said.

“Better to light a candle”

Namfrel Quezon City (QC) Chairman Don Rapadas also explained the meaning of the candle-lighting during the Namfrel QC final general assembly (GA), which was held before the VforCE mass.

Rapadas said that people see the May 14 elections as bitter and heavily contested, and is predicted to be marred by massive cheating. “[Yet], instead of complaining, we choose to see what is positive.”

The motto of Namfrel since its creation in 1984 is, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

In the GA, volunteers for both poll-watching and the quick count were reminded of their tasks and the protocols to be followed.

Namfrel QC district chairpersons Angela Ferreria (AB Eu ’05), Leah Andal, Japs Simpas, and Joseph Quesada (AB MEco ’02) gave final reminders. Quesada is the executive director of the Ateneo Alumni Association (AAA).

The chairpersons said that they are still in need of volunteers for poll-watching and the quick count. They will accept volunteers until May 13.

Vice Chair for Tabulation Boyet Dy (AB DS ’06), meanwhile, explained the transmission of election returns from the precincts to the Ateneo, and the tabulation of votes.

Ateneo is the venue for Namfrel QC’s operation quick count.

Love for country

Sr. Annabelle Diaz, OP, mother superior of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna, attended the GA. Every elections, she volunteers for poll-watching in QC District 1.

“We have to safeguard our votes because [they are] the will of the people. If we don’t protect [them], that is against our conscience. And as [Filipinos], we are responsible for our votes,” she said.

Sr. Fe Suberon, OP, who is also a poll-watching volunteer, said that she volunteered because she loves her country and has to protect it.

“We are the [largest] Catholic country in Asia [but we still have a very] negative image. [Even if I have lots of work to do], I will forego it because of my country,” she said.

Zenaida Toicino from the Gawad Kalinga (GK)-Licad community in QC said that she also volunteered for poll-watching in District 2 to help avoid cheating in the elections, and to ensure that the elections will be peaceful.

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