Choose now

To vote is not just a right—it is a sacred obligation of every qualified citizen. Our history, as well as the histories of other democratic nations, is replete with the examples of many great men and women who fought valiantly to earn and defend their right to suffrage. Today, it is practically unimaginable, even illegal to deny women or people of the right to vote on the basis of their skin color, degree of education or financial standing in society. Laws are in place—they are supposed to punish those who seek to violate the right to suffrage or those who commit acts that render the electoral process a sham—and this includes vote buying, vote tampering, dagdag bawas, flying voting, and what nots. But many are able to run away scot free!

An era of indifference, apathy and neutrality

In most parts of our country, it is relatively easy, albeit a bit inconvenient, to vote. Unlike our forebears and those who are located in the more violent areas in the country who had to risk life and limb to vote, many of us are lucky to have to endure only the inconvenience of long registration queues in order to vote. While it is heartening to see efforts like Boto Mo, Ipatrol Mo, sadly, there are still those of us who did not register—and worse, did not even bother to undergo the small inconvenience of registering in their respective election precincts. To me, this is just another indication that the time of political activism has passed and that we are now in the era of indifference, apathy and “neutrality”. How can we complain about the present administration and yet not participate in the elections?

Your vote will make a difference

Your vote, at first glance, may not look much. But a few thousand unregistered voters who think like this could definitely affect the results of a tight race. The truth of the matter is that the importance of participating in the national and local elections could not be further underscored than at this time. Clean and honest election results provide chosen leaders the legal mandate to govern us. People Power is just an extra-legal means of doing that and should be used only in extreme conditions. Elections present an opportunity as well as an obligation for us citizens to put or retain deserving leaders at the helm of government, and take back popular mandate from the corrupt and the inept. Theoretically, just as the system of checks and balances exists in the three great branches in government—the executive, the legislative and judicial branches—we, the people, ultimately check the government we task to lead our country for better or for worse. Put simply and in concrete terms, if we don’t want another GMA in government, we must look for a candidate who is not like her (and not her in the second district of Pampanga). The bottom line is we have to pick a candidate, and we must pick the right one too.

The time to choose is now!

But when is the right time to choose a candidate? With a few weeks before May elections not all of us have chosen our respective candidates for the local and national posts yet. Indeed, surveys indicate a percentage of the population as still undecided on that matter. Being undecided is not necessarily a bad thing, if the reason for your indecision is confusion from the task of going through the platforms and personal qualifications of the current crop of candidates. The sheer number of candidates to choose from can truly make an informed vote difficult for an average voter. The important thing, I think, is not really when to choose your candidate, although choosing one as early as now will matter—you could have the time to campaign for him or her. What matters most is that you mulled over your vote and you let it be counted and heard.

After voting…

We have to zealously guard our ballots, especially now that we are entering into this unknown territory called automated elections—on top of the usual election related violence and cheating. We must hold our chosen officials to their platforms of government and try them in the courts of justice and public opinion if they do us wrong. Our obligations as citizens of this country do not end the moment we cast our ballots. We must choose now not just the leaders of our country but also choose to be leaders in our own right, in our respective niches in society—to do our share so that our country can be great again!

Originally posted on March 10, 2010 at Reposted with slight edits on dates.