Sunday, May 6, 2007

Why we should still care

by Leloy Claudio
Ateneo Debate Society (ADS)
Batch 2007 Valedictorian

I dislike a lot of things in Ang Kapatiran’s platform and a lot of what they stand for. For one, I think their conservative insistence on imposing Natural Family Planning on everyone is abhorrent – a blanket imposition of questionable religious beliefs (many Christian theologians approve of artificial family planning) to a secular public. I’m also not very impressed with the way they talk about issues. They moralize instead of analyze and abstract instead of engage. To be fair, there are issues they talk about with precision and clarity (i.e. when Dr. Martin Bautista talks about our debt problem), but, by and large, they have the tendency to sound like the trapos they love to criticize. In a debate which my organization, the Ateneo Debate Society, hosted, I saw the Kapatiran members get outshined by the intelligence and precision of Rep. Alan Cayetano (someone people should definitely vote for).

Despite all my misgivings, however, I don’t think it would be wrong to vote for Kapatiran. In fact, they might actually be good for the Senate. They seem honest, well-intentioned, and selfless. They’ve achieved a bare minimum that people like Mike Defensor, Butch Pichay, Richard Gomez, Tito Sotto, or Chavit Singson haven’t.

Voting for people based on a bare minimum standard is something we do in a country like the Philippines. This is simply because, as everybody knows, most politicians suck. One of the reasons why it’s so hard to focus on platforms is because, half the time, we’re trying to make sure the candidate we’re considering is not a jueteng lord.

Certainly, there’s something wrong. And we get a greater sense of how wrong things are when we compare ourselves to other countries. Many times, I entertain a sense of colonial mentality and compare the Philippine political system to the one in the U.S. In America, there are two parties, and it is easy to differentiate them based on issues. The Democrats are more socially liberal and more predisposed to a welfare/nanny economics, while the Republicans are more socially conservative and tend to love the free market more. If one were to place Kapatiran in the American political spectrum, they’d probably be Republican. And if I were an American, I’d be a card-carrying Democrat and would never dream of voting in Republicans. But, since I’m in the Philippines, I’m willing to vote for people on the other side of the political spectrum simply because they’re honest.

No wonder many of us become jaded and decide to withdraw. We don’t pick up the papers, we don’t lobby, we don’t vote, etc. We just stop caring. Or, we care, but we care in other ways. At the end of the day, however, I think our frustration with the way things are should not get in the way of the bigger picture. National politics is important, and we cannot give up on it no matter how bad it gets.

We have the power to change things, so it is incumbent upon us to respond. The system is not bad because there are stupid poor voters who don’t know what’s best for the country. This bigotry must be ended in favor a view that recognizes our (the middle and upper classes) complicity in the creation and maintenance of this system. Upon recognizing this complicity, we should also recognize that it is within our capacity to reverse what we have done. Trapos are trapos because our own families, schools, fraternities, etc. have bred them. If we seek culture changes in these institutions and if we ourselves imbibe these changes, the system will give. Trapos are also trapos because we have let them get away with pillaging the country, and, at times, even benefited from their pilferage. If we are vigilant against them and if we communicate this vigilance, they will eventually give. Trapos are trapos because some of us opt to join their ranks. If we are vigilant about ourselves, we will also give.

Change can happen, and change is already happening. People like our own Danton Remoto, parties like Kapatiran, and civil society networks like Volunteers for Clean Elections (VforCE) are evidence of this. They are part of a broader process of reworking the system.

The change in this system is happening through a large-scale culture change. Culture changes, however, accrue gradually and one can neither directly see nor measure these changes. This is very different from the wonderful community work which a lot of us have been used to. Building houses for poor people, for instance, is immediate gratification because you get to see how communities get uplifted rather quickly. Changing the political system, however, is a different ball game.

But this doesn’t mean it won’t have effects. A more transparent national government, for example, would be one which people could more easily hold accountable for acts of corruption (this is why the ADS, for example, will lobby for a freedom of information act). And, as many of you know, the Philippines would be a lot richer if our money didn’t go to our “public servants.” To rephrase this in the form of a challenge: people are stealing your money, are we just going to sit there and let them?

Hopefully we don’t. So what can you do? Allow me to close with a couple of concrete suggestions:
1) Vote.
2) Inform yourselves about candidates and tell people about those who you think should make it and should not make it to office. As I mentioned, I’m a Cayetano fan (please write his complete name, Alan Cayetano, on the ballot).
3) Find ways to guard yours and other people’s votes. Join VforCE (
4) Know about political issues even when it’s not election time. Just because it’s not voting time, doesn’t mean you can’t lobby.
5) Demand that television networks educate people about political issues through writing them. Watch and support the smart ones; boycott and complain about the dumb ones.
6) Love your country. Okay, that’s not concrete, but it’s what’s most important.

Ateneo heads Namfrel QC quick count

by Ayee D. Macaraig 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 Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership (MVP-CSL) and at Faura Hall.

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

Attendance in quick count GA higher than expected

by Ojie L. Ocampo

“OVERWHELMING” WAS how Don Rapadas, Quezon City (QC) chairman of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), described the volunteer turnout for the first quick count general assembly (GA).

The 680 volunteers who attended the GA on April 16 filled all of the seats in Escaler Hall, with some people having to sit on the floor and outside the hall.

The GA briefed volunteers on the quick count of the QC votes, a project that the Loyola Schools (LS) heads in cooperation with Namfrel to check the accuracy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) vote count.

The quick count, also known as Bantay Bilang, will be held from May 14 to 20 at the Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership (MVP-CSL) and at Faura Hall.

Joanna Beatrice Gomez (III BS Psy), volunteer support head for the quick count, said that the GA attendance was double the expected 250 to 300 people.

“Stepping up”

Gomez said that she is grateful to the volunteers for stepping up. She added that it is enlightening to know that the youth, the future of the country, still have a drive for volunteering.

Rapadas also said, “I think [that the turnout] is a manifestation that [the volunteers] still have hope and that they still believe that they can still make a difference, and make their vote make a difference in the coming elections.”

Having the chance to make a difference is the main reason Gomez cited to explain the GA attendance. “I think the thought that nandiyan iyong opportunity na makakatulong ka (there is an opportunity to help) to the bigger nation is very enticing.”

Alexandra Filipina Orosa (IV AB IS) said that even if she is not a registered voter, she volunteered for the quick count to help in some way.

Eryn Gayle De Leon (II BS ES), another volunteer, said that the quick count is a step to ending the corruption and dishonesty in the country’s electoral system. “It especially empowers the youth with the ability to change the society which they constantly lambast.”

De Leon also said that the efforts of the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral (Sanggu) to organize the quick count have been successful. “It’s great to see a socially active student council.”

The Sanggu started organizing election-related projects last school year with its “Reg2Vote” campaign, which encouraged students to register to vote in the elections. Reg2Vote won the Most Outstanding Project Award in the 2007 LS Awards for Leadership and Service (LSALS).

“Still not enough”

Gomez said that as of press time, there are over 1,000 volunteers listed in the quick count’s database, 661 of which already have shifts. She also said that the volunteers are mostly Ateneans.

Rapadas and Gomez added that despite the good attendance in the GA, the volunteer turnout is still not enough to reach the target 2,736 tabulation volunteers. This number is needed if each volunteer is to have only one shift.

“[But] I know that Ateneans are very eager [and] zealous about these things so I’m sure they will commit to more than one shift [to] make up for the lack in number,” said Rapadas.

When asked regarding probable reasons for just an average response, Gomez said that vacation and summer classes hinder people from volunteering.

Rapadas, meanwhile, said that practicality is a factor affecting volunteerism for the entire QC chapter. “Some people have become more practical as to choose kung ano iyong may bayad (whatever it is that has pay).”

Both Gomez and Rapadas agreed that the existence of other organizations divides the volunteer base and therefore lessens the potential quick count volunteers.

Rallying for more

“[Volunteers must] see the work that they are doing as something that will contribute to the history of Ateneo—that once in 2007, we have made sure that we value so much our right to suffrage, and truth and honesty,” said Rapadas.

People can still volunteer for the quick count by sending their contact information and desired shifts to or by joining Gomez said that walk-in volunteers are also welcome.

with a report from Yeni C. Raboca

Bantay Bilang volunteers train for tasks

by Stephanie O. ChanTO ORIENT volunteers and to remind them about the significance of their tasks, training sessions for Bantay Bilang, an election quick count headed by the Loyola Schools (LS), were held on April 21 and 22 at Escaler Hall.

Quick count Volunteer Training Head Aaron Palabyab (AB Comm ’07) conducted the training sessions with quick count Chairperson Boyet Dy (AB DS ’06).

Palabyab is a former 4th year Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral (Sanggu) executive officer for the School of Social Sciences (SOSS) Board, while Dy is a former Sanggu president.

Bantay Bilang is the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Operation Quick Count for the Quezon City (QC) chapter. Now with over 1,000 volunteers, this project aims to conduct a quick count of QC votes to validate the Commission on Elections (Comelec) vote count.

Over 2,000 volunteers needed

Namfrel QC Chairman Don Rapadas said that QC volunteers have an enormous task.

As of January 2007, QC has one of the country’s largest voting populations, which is 1,043,229.

For the quick count, 2,736 volunteers are needed to man the non-stop operations from May 14 to 20 at the Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership (MVP-CSL) and at Faura Hall.

Each day will have six shifts, with each shift consisting of four hours. There should be 76 people per shift to maintain operations.

How the quick count works

In the training sessions, Palabyab explained the tasks that volunteers may sign up for: checkers, runners, readers, encoders, and filers.

The process begins when the administration staff receives the sixth copy of the election return (ER), the official document containing the number of registered and actual voters in a precinct, and the number of votes cast in that precinct.

At the Colayco Pavilion, the admin staff will sort and process the ERs. These will then be given to runners, who will hand the ERs to the storage area at the second floor of MVP-CSL.

Palabyab said that checkers will then make sure that the information in the ERs is complete, especially the number of registered and actual voters. The tallies of votes at the end of the ERs also have to match the stick figures.

ERs with incomplete or incorrect information will be set aside and the admin staff will contact the precinct in question to clarify the matter. Otherwise, checkers will give them to runners, who will bring them to the tabulating center in Faura Hall.

At Faura, readers will dictate the contents of the ERs to the encoder, who will input the data into a program designed to tabulate and automatically consolidate the votes.

The runners will then bring the ERs to the post-storage area at the second floor of MVP-CSL. Filers will do final checks and then file the ERs according to district.

Meanwhile, the system administrator will send the updated results to the secure site of Namfrel National every half-hour or every hour by uploading a special file with all the consolidated results.

Namfrel National will then do the final consolidation and prepare the reports for the media, political parties and candidates.

“Helpful training”

For volunteer Ma. Larissa Rachelle Espiritu (II BS Mgt), the training was helpful. “I was able to understand the different aspects of the system that I am sure will help me execute the [task] I signed up [for] properly.”

Palabyab said that only 325 volunteers attended the training sessions. The rest of the volunteers would have to go through walk-in training.

Palabyab added that volunteers must be alert, responsible, and focused. “While [the work] will be fun because [volunteers] get to work with their friends while doing something for the country, they shouldn’t forget that what they’re doing is actually serious business.”

with a report from Nikko Carlo A. Tolentino

GLIMPSES SPECIAL EDITION: Ateneo's Involvement in VforCE Projects

by Jan Lane G. Canseko

SLB and Sanggu contribute to voters’ education

FROM MAY 1 to 14, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan’s (SLB) Bantay Call Center project will be open to answer election-related inquiries. Callers anywhere from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao can dial 10-149 from a PLDT landline to talk to a tele-educator for free.

Geared towards people who cannot read or who have limited access to the Internet, the two-week activity aims to help people make educated votes. It will also be made available to OFWs.

For those who have easy access to the Internet, various institutions like the De La Salle University (DLSU) and the Makati Business Club (MBC) have provided Web sites that present information on candidates’ profiles.

With the importance of political education among voters, especially the youth, candidates’ forums were also held. The Union of Catholic Student Councils (UCSC) and the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral (Sanggu), under the leadership of former President Luis Abad (AB Eco-H ’07), sponsored a senatorial candidates’ forum at St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) last March 9.

Ateneo orgs handle VforCE communications

WITH THE elections fast approaching, several organizations have pushed for political consciousness and volunteerism through communications and resource-generation.

For the Ateneo effort, the Ateneo Debate Society (ADS), the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR), and the Association of Communication Majors (AComm) are leading the communications work. Batch 2007 valedictorian Leloy Claudio (AB Comm ’07) and former HPAIR President Sharmila Parmanand (AB PoS ’07) are heading this initiative.

Parmanand said that they are working for the visibility of VForCE in mainstream media to reach a bigger audience. In partnership with advertising company Campaigns and Grey, they conceptualized a media campaign which is set to be broadcasted soon.

The Makati Business Club (MBC), meanwhile, is handling logistical support for the Democracy Fund. Key leaders of One Voice, a non-partisan movement calling for social and electoral reforms, are also undertaking the overall effort in coordination.

AHRC and Law School Student Council to help monitor canvassing

TO ENSURE the effectiveness of election monitoring, the group 1 Million Volunteers for Clean Elections (VforCE) has launched three projects: Poll Watch 2007 or Bantay Presinto, Operation Quick Count or Bantay Bilang, and canvass monitoring or Bantay Canvass.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) will lead the poll watch, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) will conduct the quick count, and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) is in charge of canvass monitoring.

LENTE is a nationwide network of lawyers, law students, and paralegals. The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) and the Ateneo Law School (ALS) Student Council are part of LENTE. Atty. Carlos Medina Jr., executive director of the AHRC, is also a LENTE co-convenor.

Bantay Presinto, meanwhile, aims to ensure clean and fair elections by designating trained poll-watchers to monitor counting activities, while Bantay Canvass will watch over the aggregation of votes at the municipal, city and provincial levels and respond to calls for legal assistance.

Ateneo groups help communities develop agenda

TO HEIGHTEN political awareness and responsibility among Filipinos, the group 1 Million Volunteers for Clean Elections (VforCE) developed Pinoy Voters’ Academy. VforCE also came up with Bantay Pangako, a project that allows communities to set their agenda, choose their candidates, and hold these candidates accountable. It also involves monitoring the fulfillment of campaign promises after the elections.

Bantay Pangako is concerned with direct community development work, which involves various social involvement offices such as former members of the now-defunct Socially-oriented Organizations of the Ateneo (SOA), Gawad Kalinga (GK), and the Office for Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI).

Department of Economics Lecturer Philip Tuano and Benjamin Barretto, special project assistant for development of the Ateneo School of Government (ASG), are coordinating Bantay Pangako.

with a report from Xianne S. Arcangel

What do you look for in a candidate?

Interviews by Martin Dante L. del Rosario, Katrina B. Paredes, and Margaret Michelle C. Tan

“Platform, credibility, experience. Kasama na rin diyan ang history, past projects, past bills passed, at iba pa.” – Miguel Lope Inumerable (III BS CS)

“Wit and intelligence. Gusto ko rin alam niya kung ano yung gusto niyang mangyari.– Anne Precious Kristine Rellin (III BS MCT)

Sana at least graduate ng college, tapos siyempre responsible tsaka committed. Basta yung may pinag-aralan, hindi ako go ‘dun sa mga nagsasabing kahit walang pinag-aralan may abilidad, iba pa rin yung may pinag-aralan.”Julie Rose Bagasbas, Staff, Office of Student Activities (OSA)

“Integrity. I think that if a candidate has credibility, then everything else will follow.” – Maria Michelle Michiko Soriano (II BS Mgt)

Pare-parehas naman eh, kahit sino naman maupo ganun pa rin eh, walang pagbabago. Wala na, bahala na lang kung sinong manalo, ganun rin eh.”Adrian Asuncion, Staff, Ateneo Multi-Purpose Cooperative (AMPC)

“The candidate must have integrity, must be a hard worker, has concern for the people, and is also honest and just.” – Erwin John Aquino (III BS Bio)

“If I think they’re smart, then I’m gonna [sic] vote for them.” – Jose David Jorge Yulo (II BS Mgt)

’Yung hindi plastic. Pinapanood ko ‘yung mga forums on TV. ‘Yung marunong sumagot. ‘Yung hindi [marunong sumagot], definitely ‘di na ‘yun. I’m not very particular with parties, more on individual candidates talaga. I also visit their websites to check them out.” – Earl Keh, Faculty Member, Department of Quantitative Methods and Information Technology, John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM)

“I look for a good platform and credibility. [Dapat] okay ‘yung background—he didn’t do anything wrong or [he must have] no record of doing something scandalous.” – Jessica Jean Kristine Cocabo (II BS MAC)

“His credibility. I check out their podcasts, interviews, past projects, etcetera. Through [these], I will know in a way if he’s willing and capable of fulfilling his platform.” – Ruby Criselda Domingo (IV BS Mgt)

Ayaw ko sa kandidato na hindi marunong sumagot ng simpleng tanong ukol sa kanilang pagkakandidato, at sa pagsagot nila ay hindi nila naiisip na walang katuturan o may kabuluhan sa pagiging sensitive sa mga nakikinig. Ayaw ko din ang kandidato na hindi tugma ang mga goals sa pagiging senador. Sa ibang salita ay dapat sa ibang posisyon sila tumakbo.– Nina Isabella Niguidula (III BS MCT)

’Yung maka-tao, maka-Diyos, at matulungin.” – Loreto Quinit, Security Guard, Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership (MVP-CSL)

“That’s not a simple question. The candidate must have devotion, truth, honesty, and selflessness.” – Simone Josefina Banawa (III AB MEco)

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A CANDIDATE? Comment and share your views with the rest of the Ateneo community!

Guidelines on Voting Wisely: PART I

by Department of Political Science Chair Alma Maria O. Salvador (as told to Hannah S. Varilla)

The following guidelines are divided into two, normative and operational. Normative guidelines are those that have to do with one’s understanding of governance in the nation. Operational guidelines deal with the actual procedure of voting.

Normative guidelines
(1-2 pertains to senatorial and congress votes, 3 to party list votes)
1. The voter must be informed of the importance of why they need to vote. This can be done through their personal undertaking of educating themselves about the why’s and how’s of voting, and why they SHOULD vote. It is their responsibility to gain knowledge of the importance of suffrage and at the most, have a “sense of their right to vote.” This makes for a better voter.

2. It isn’t enough to know who you are voting, what their platforms are, and getting acquainted with them merely through news or election specials in websites and internet forums. It is better to gauge their capabilities through seeing them in action. This can be done through watching the ANC debate as it gives an idea of how the candidates carry themselves and defend their supposed platforms as they are interrogated by the community.

There are three levels of exposure to the candidates. One would be the news. Another would be the interactive debates or interviews, through channel specials or talk shows. Last would be through joining a campaign in particular, or giving the time to be exposed to their campaign activities. An example would be the barangay assemblies headed by party lists and weekly reports on the elections in Marikina.

3. The best way to go about picking the right party lists is to be observant. Once again, it isn’t enough to form conclusive opinions through data merely from their platforms and motherhood statements. It is presumed that one should gauge with a good sense of political character or on how similar the party list’s actuations are to what they say. It is good to pick up clues from their interviews with the media and assess their platform for oneself. Whether they are disenfranchised or interests groups, we have to distinguish for ourselves their real interests.

Operative guidelines
4. For senatorial elections, one has to come [to the precinct] with at least 12 names. One cannot leave blanks because others might place their own votes on the blanks. The vote is subject to tampering – those who are influential in the precincts are usually the ones whose bias and rules are followed.

As for party lists:

5. For choosing party lists, one needs to ask oneself, “how long have they been there?” Have they been able to make drastic changes for the interests they advocated properly? A little handy research and background information will do.

Party lists comprise of at least 6% or around 300 votes. It would be better to maximize the seats provided for party list representatives if we allowed for the usage of these allotted 50 seats for all the party lists. Instead of giving a mere 6% total support for only dominant party lists, it would be good to make use of the other 2% vote for those with strong advocacies. A variety of votes wouldn’t hurt the effective utilization of party list initiatives.

My POV: A catalyst in history

by Serena M. Vaswani (IV BSM AMF)
Bantay Bilang

In Noli Me Tangere, Rizal spoke of a social cancer so malignant and deeply ingrained in society that the issues and events occurring could scarcely be approached, let alone be touched. They were present like a stain that endured in our actions, with a gravity that inspired nothing but helplessness.

Today, I still feel the same helplessness gnawing at me. I feel like our country is wasting away under the acidic encroachment of dishonesty. I am losing faith and am about to give up. As these sentiments echo in my head, I abruptly stop and think of how easy it is for me to criticize with a defeatist attitude. Thus, inspired by Paolo Coelho’s The Valkyries—an invitation to understanding that everything that surrounds us changes us just as we change them—I venture to cross that infamous bridge between thought and action.

Thoreau said it best when he declared that “what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Though it may be hard to fathom, each of us are integral to the movement of our country as a nation. It is the plurality of our actions that identifies us as a nation. Such innate and infinite responsibility places us on a precipice, asking us how we are going to respond. How am I going to truly be a Filipino?

The Namfrel initiative

This summer, I have been given a chance to actualize my responsibility to my country. Bantay Bilang, a project of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), is mandated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to “organize, manage, operate, and be accountable for the Operation Quick Count, including the results obtained from the sixth copy of the manually prepared election returns for each precinct,” according to a Comelec Resolution en banc promulgated on April 4.

For Namfrel Quezon City, this is a huge task to undertake. As of January, Quezon City had a total voting population of 1,043,229 distributed among four congressional districts. Each district has a number of voting centers and precincts, at which precinct volunteers will be working to collect the 6th copy of the election return.

The Loyola Schools has volunteered to head the Bantay Bilang parallel vote count for Quezon City for the May elections, thus serving as the tabulation center for Namfrel Quezon City. In order to finish the count in six days, 456 volunteers are needed per day beginning May 14. In the process, volunteers are given a chance to verify and validate the Comelec results in a collective effort. This proves that, as citizens of this country, we are far from helpless.

Volunteering for a cause

When I volunteered to be an encoder for the election returns, I decided that it was the perfect opportunity for me to take that leap from thought to action. There were other volunteer tasks, such as being a checker, a runner, a reader, or a filer. The tapestry that we call history is woven with all the intricacies of human action, be it simple or grand, and it is a product of the collective man. The procedure of the quick count integrates all volunteer tasks in an intricate web that culminates in the release of results. Each task is vital to the end result, making each volunteer crucial to the success of the whole endeavor.

This was something I did not fully grasp until I attended the first general assembly on April 16. The number of people in attendance exceeded the capacity of Escaler Hall that chairs and speakers had to be set up outside to accommodate everyone. As I sat on those plastic monobloc chairs with my friends and looked at the sea of chattering faces surrounding me, I felt proud and inspired to be a part such a shared noble endeavor.

What is the significance of volunteering for Bantay Bilang? What impact will such an act create in the scene of our nation? Not only does the procedure for the quick count highlight the importance of each volunteer’s actions, it also serves as a venue for intersections. Bantay Bilang stands as a witness to the gathering of Filipinos from diverse walks of life, whose intersections will bring life and dynamism to this endeavor. The quick count is about validation, not just of the election returns and the election system, but of national unity. With each additional volunteer, we are resonating that we care—that we are responsible for the Filipino.

In J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Mr. Antolini tells Holden that “the mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” It is so easy to criticize the socio-political situation of our country. In the countless times I have complained about the Philippines, I am merely ignoring the problems, thus living a vapid existence. Volunteering for Bantay Bilang proves that I refuse to simply be a bystander in history. By taking the leap and living humbly for the country’s cause, I am acting as a catalyst in my nation’s unraveling history.

I think therefore iVote

by Charmie D. Lising

“Most of the time, we rely on general impressions of our candidate, formed from sound bytes, catchy slogans and jingles in deciding [whom] to vote for,” says Gabriel Nacianceno, director of, in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Some voters resort to improper decision-making because they lack knowledge regarding candidates’ credentials and platforms.

In response to this problem, a group of concerned youths created, a non-profit Web site that serves as an online guide for voters.

Voting wisely

Nacianceno thought of coming up with while surfing the Internet. There, he found Web sites where the American presidential elections could be monitored, and he figured that this could be a useful and interesting service for Filipinos as well. contains relevant information that may help the public in coming up with intelligent choices for the May 14 elections. It features profiles, platforms, and stands on different issues of senatorial, congressional, and some local candidates.

The Web site also contains political and economic news, issues, and commentaries. By understanding current events, voters may know which platforms and advocacies are relevant to the country’s situation. Also, by being updated with national issues, Filipinos may be more aware of whether or not the government is doing its job.

Voting 101, a section in, answers frequently asked election-related questions, such as the importance of voting and what to look for in candidates.

Conquering obstacles

The team, however, has been encountering difficulties in information-gathering and research.

“It's tough to scour around for platforms and profiles [of] candidates, as it seems like they do not even have platforms to begin with. We try to use our connections and all possible channels to find what we need from the candidates,” says Chin Tecson, deputy director for administrative affairs of

They contact aspiring politicians personally in order to get firsthand information, but there are some who seem unwilling to help or support their cause.

The team is also struggling in terms of human resources. They need more manpower to cover a wider area. Since all of them are either working or studying, current members of cannot commit full-time to the Web site. They try to gather as many volunteers and affiliates as possible, not only to help them in information gathering but also in information dissemination and Web site promotions.

Reaching out to people

The noisiest supporters of are those from abroad who get a lot of helpful information from the Web site. “I can say [that] we have achieved our goal of educating our voters and reaching out to those who wish to know more about our elections, but of course there is so much more [that] we can do to fully arrive at our goal,” Tecson says. was created with one mission in mind, which is to help make democracy work. Having a very ambitious goal, is but a small step in changing the way Filipinos view elections and how they make voting decisions. “Our achievements are somehow abstract and immeasurable so it's difficult to gauge our impact to the public, but we believe that in our own small way, by advocating what we stand for and actually doing something about it, we've helped shape the political landscape that the Philippines is currently in,” Tecson adds.

The team constantly updates their website to continuously provide the public with information that will aid them in exercising their voting rights. As stated in their website, “The right to vote is already ours. Let's make use of its power.”

VforCE Projects: Take your pick

by Kristina Amanda A. Cruz and Erik S. Fajardo

VforCE, a nationwide movement to safeguard the integrity of the elections, is a menu catering to all volunteers’ tastes. Political education, election monitoring, public information and communications, resource generation and more sub-cluster programs—just take your pick and make a difference.


Pinoy Voters' Academy

The Pinoy Voters’ Academy (PVA) of the Pastoral Parish Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) was developed in partnership with the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) of the Jesuit Philippine Province to be the anchor of political education work. The PVA is a participative process of political education leading to action-planning by local communities.

To volunteer, contact:

- SLB (09263041826;

- Bro. Javy Alpasa, SJ (09205556617; )

- Jess Paul Pasible (09273382282;

Bantay Pangako

Bantay Pangako builds on the covenants signed by the candidates and communities to create mechanisms for monitoring campaign promises and demanding accountability after the elections.

This project is inspired by the Silingan Ka experience in Ipil Prelature, Zamboanga-Sibugay. Organizations like the PPCRV, NASSA, SLB, the Ateneo School of Government (ASG), and the Office for Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI) are working on this front. It also aims to draw in various socially oriented organizations involved in direct community development work.

To volunteer, contact:

- Randy Tuano (09192837282;

- Benj Barretto (09282628384; )

Bantay Pulitiko and Bantay Agenda Candidates' Forums and Profiles

A central component of political education is the holding of candidates' forums. The Union of Catholic Student Councils (UCSC) sponsored a senatorial candidates' forum at St. Scholastica's College (SSC) last March 9.

Various schools, communities, and civic organizations have also been holding candidates’ forums and debates. The Commission on Elections (Comelec), PPCRV, and ABS-CBN have an ongoing senatorial candidates’ forum televised live over ANC on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6PM, and replayed at various times and channels, as an integral part of voters' education.

To volunteer, contact:

Bantay Pulitiko Web Profiles (SLB / De La Salle University /

- Bro. Javy Alpasa, SJ (09205556617; )

- Wadel Cabrera (DLSU COSCA: 09214850920;

- Gino Nacianceno ( 09176270870;

Bantay Agenda Candidates’ Debates (UCSC)

- Luis Abad (09178318861;

Voter and Volunteer Information Call Center

As the main secretariat for VforCE, the SLB, in cooperation with the ASG and Puwersa para sa Ganap na Demokrasya – Laban na Wagas para sa Isang Nasyon (PUGAD-LAWIN), operates a call center that helps in the recruitment, deployment and coordination of volunteers, and answers election-related inquiries from voters around the country and overseas.

To volunteer or call:

- (email)

- 09263041826 (mobile)

- 4265968 (fax)

- 4266101 ext. 3440/3441 (landline)


Bantay Kampanya: Campaign Finance Monitoring

Transparency and Accountability Network’s (TAN) Pera’t Pulitika, Ehem!, Libertas, the Consortium on Electoral Reforms (CER), the Philippine Political Science Association-Democracy Audit (PPSA-DA) and Access to Information Network (ATIN) all investigate fund-raisings for campaigns, ensuring expenditures do not go beyond the implemented budget per voter.

To volunteer, contact:

- Campaign Finance Monitoring (Pera’t Pulitika): Vince Lazatin (09228651228;

- Walang Hihingi (Ehem!) Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ (09177045474;

Bantay Presinto: Pollwatch 2007

The PPCRV is now on its 15th year of campaigning for clean elections and training poll-watchers to monitor election activities in almost 300,000 precincts.

Bantay Bilang: Operation Quick Count

It may be called “quick,” but accuracy is still priority over speed in the quick count simultaneous with the Comelec’s official tally. Volunteers of the PPRCV and National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) also participate in the quick count, aside from accredited citizens’ vote counters National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

Bantay Canvass: Monitoring of vote aggregation

The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) is composed of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Secretariat, other law schools, and One Voice—all volunteering not only as trained and knowledgeable monitors of vote totals, but as legal assistants when needed. IBP is harnessing its close to 50,000 members to volunteer in addition to LENTE’s lawyers, paralegals and law students fielded out in over 1,600 canvassing points in municipal and provincial levels.

To volunteer, contact:

- Atty. Carlos Medina (09178957001;,

- Ona Caritos (09064924438; )

Bantay Text and Bantay Blogger

Seminarians Network (SemNet) and the SLB take on the youth’s mode of communication: SMS and Web logs or blogs to attract (perhaps younger) citizens to participate in monitoring and documenting the election process.

Bantay Eleksyon: Comelec Watch

The Consortium on Electoral Reforms (CER) is focused on documentation of all election activities, especially those of the Comelec.

To volunteer, contact:


- 09214831153


The media campaign for VforCE is being conceptualized by Campaigns and Grey. For LENTE, Joan Orendain and Associates are handling communications. The communications work for Pinoy Bantay Bayan, the Ateneo-Jesuit contribution to VforCE, is led by the Ateneo Debate Society (ADS), the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR), and the Association of Communication Majors (Acomm).


The Makati Business Club (MBC) is set on financially mobilizing VforCE by putting up the Democracy Fund. The political education groups, election monitoring groups and other supported clusters of VforCE may all withdraw from the fund once all plans and efforts are formalized.

More contact information:

PPCRV Email:
Landline: (632) 5242855
Fax: (632) 5280149

Text: 09177339619
Landline: (632) 6362921
Fax: (632) 6345136

NASSA Email:
Landline: (632) 5274147
Fax: (632) 5274144

LENTE: Email:
Landline: (632) 8997691 ext. 2123
Fax: (632) 8994342

SLB 2007 National Elections Survey Report

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

2007 National Elections Survey Report

As of 7:17 p.m. of April 30, 2007

  • 182 people responded to the survey.
  • Out of 182 respondents, 92 are male and 90 are female.
  • Out of 182 respondents, 17 are below 20 years old, 57 are between 20-29 years old, 44 are between 30-39 years old, 37 are between 40 to 49 years old and 25 are above 50 years old.
  • Out of 182 respondents, 50 or 27% know the exact number of candidates running for Senate, 82 or 45% gave the wrong answer, 23 did not know and 27 did not answer.
  • Out of 182, only 11 or 6% respondents didn’t know when the elections will be held but 171 or 94% of the respondents knew the exact date.



Registered Voter?

159 (89%)

20 (11%)

Will vote this elections

148 (83%)

31 (17%)

Knows their precinct

160 (89%)

19 (11%)

77 out of 80 respondents answered.

  • 46 out of 72 or 64% vote every elections. 26 or 36% don’t.






20 %




Family Background


11 %




Political Experience






Family Ties



Good Looks



Financial Status



Educational Background



Total of 807 choices

  • 120 out of 169 or 71% people said they consistently vote every elections.

The Top 12 Senatorial Candidates






Joker Arroyo




Francis Pangilinan




Manuel Villar

Francis Escudero





Noynoy Aquino




Ralph Recto




Sonia Roco




Loren Legarda




Alan Peter Cayetano




Panfilo Lacson




Juan Miguel Zubiri




Edgardo Angara



Selected comments on why they chose these candidates:

  • I like their platforms.
  • Proven track record. A nobility of character. A good sense of "nation". Familiarity with the laws of the land. No major mistakes in the past.
  • Among all the candidates, I think that they have manifested the qualities that I believe will address the concern of the diff[erent] sectors in our society. They also have the capability of puting into law and policies the ways in which to address the issues.
  • I believe in their competence and integrity in their public service.
  • Gut feeling.
  • They have their own mind. Not easily swayed by the opposition nor the administration. Silent workers. Not much fanfare. Might give new hope.
  • They look promising (not trapo).
  • These people could be trusted, and for me may perhaps bring back the Philippines to its old glory.
  • They have good track record[s], [are] educationally qualified and have good family background[s].
  • Actually I would've chosen only 6 or maybe less, but the survey asked for I just chose those people who I think WOULD win.
  • They all have good track records, and have achieved a lot. Based on what I read in the papers and see on TV, I also think they all have good plans and platforms for the country.
  • They seem to be the only ones who can save the Philippines from its downward spiral.
  • They seem to be the most apolitical of all. The rest are just downright annoying. All talk, no visible action, typical Filipino politicians.
  • I find it difficult to select 12. I don't trust any one of them. I don't believe they would really like to serve the public, they want to be the "bosses."
  • Family background, educational background, achievements, platform, family ties.
  • I look at the way they speak, the way they live, and if the words coming out of their mouths make sense.
  • Primarily for their values, as evidenced by previous behavior. Secondarily, for the capacity for independent thought and critical thinking. Thirdly, for representation of the minority view (e.g. women, military) for plurality of thought.
  • They can morally uplift the Filipino people.
  • I based my decision on their political background, what they have done so far during their tenure in office (for reelectionists) or in their capacity as private citizens, what they have stood for, their platforms and their stand on the current issues hounding the country.
  • Various reasons. Change of the old guard. Record. Introducing an 'outsider' into the Senate. But honestly, it was very very difficult to choose 12. I was only certain of 4.

The 12 Worst Senatorial Candidates






Richard Gomez




Chavit Singson




Tessie Oreta



Gringo Honasan




Cesar Montano




Victor Wood




Vicente Sotto III




Henry Osmeña




Mike Defensor




Nikki Coseteng




Oliver Lozano




Antonio Trillanes IV



Selected comments on why they said these candidates were the worst:

  • I'm not even sure if they will do their basic job of legislation if they get elected. If they are not trapos, they are either comedians or rebels.
  • I am not very convinced by their motivation for running in this elections.
  • They're evil!
  • All talk and no action.
  • Very poor credibility, trapo.
  • I don't know some, and others... I don't believe in their competence and integrity in public service.
  • Dubious track record. Puppets of people in power. Unskilled and unknowledgeable in making laws. Passion and willingness to serve is not sufficient to elect someone to office—if it is then almost everyone can be a lawmaker!
  • They are either nuisance candidates, or have not shown good track record in the past (for re-electionists), or clearly contradict themselves during their speeches. Solely interested in serving for self serving reasons.
  • Nuisance candidates; unprincipled; corrupt; anti-poor; personal interest.
  • Because they are there to promote /protect only their personal interests; mga SALOT sila sa gov't; the movie actors should also just focus on their craft rather than meddle in government affairs; they have no business being in government because that is not their expertise; they should not ride on their popularity to win the votes of the "masa"; kawawa naman tayong mga Pilipino because we've seen it in the performance of their kapwa artista.
  • Some of them are highly UNqualified and some of them I just hate.
  • Turncoatism, lack of clear political platforms, vague campaign ads, lack of principle, lack of delicadeza, among others.
  • Comedians.
  • Who are these people???? What business do they have in politics????!!!
  • Showbiz people should NEVER run for Senate. I'm also very weary of people who switch from one party to another.
  • The first lot are actors, I even don't [know] why there isn't any law prohibiting this background. The second lot are just pure trash, obviously crooks. It unbelievable that the Comelec allow[s] these people as candidates. These guys have been involved in so many crimes, proven or not proven, the patterns are there. Trillanes! the guy is a freakin’ mutineer! He should be hanged! Not running for an election.
  • At the end of the day, this sums it up.
    1. Cost to Campaign (X Millions)
    2. Income (Legal Sources - Negligible)
    3. Income (Illegal Sources - Unimaginable)
  • They are either actors, convicts, criminals or outright corrupt people who so obviously want to be in power for their own interests, not the good of the Filipinos.
  • These people have shown that they are interested only in their own vested interests; they do not respect laws nor the sensibilities of the Filipino people.