Monday, July 20, 2009

Computers counting the ballots?

So much has been said about the computerization of the coming elections in 2010, if there is going to be one, of course. Honesty does not seem to be one of our president's virtues. She has lied to us many times before.

Granting that there shall be one, so much has happened, most of which were speculations, since we began thinking about computerizing this very controversial democratic exercise.

Perhaps the main reason why we are adamant in adopting this kind of technology, in spite of its tremendous cost to the taxpayer, into our system is, we are running out of ideas on how to conduct an honest and fair election. From the time Marcos got re-elected sometime in the 1960’s, at least to my mind as that was my first election related experience (I was in grade school at the time), the phrase “whoever has the guns, goons and gold" (not necessarily in that order) wins the election. Since then, losers have cried "foul" and "rampant cheating" like an "amen" to close a prayer. Sadly, we have learned to accept this as part of the elections.

Is computerization the answer to our woes come election time? While I hate to be a doomsayer, I doubt it for the following reasons:

1. The players have not changed! We will have to travel a long, arduous road to change these politicians ways. Losers will still cry they have been cheated. Never mind the evidences. They will do so just the same. They will find enough reasons just to justify having lost in their bid to power and fame. And maybe rightfully so. What with all the money they have spent on their campaign. There should be at least an ROI, if not in office, at least a justification for losing face. So, the journey is until kingdom come.

2. Corollary to number 1, we are only minimizing cheating in the counting, not the entire elections per se. Remember that this activity starts with the campaign period until a candidate has been declared a winner. Just right now, while the campaign period has not even started, we see the moneyed politicians unabashedly using the media to glorify themselves. We see the names of government officials glaring in our face with projects they have undertaken. Never mind that they were obligated to serve. Never mind that it was our money that was used for the same.

3. Vote buying can still happen. In a country where there is hunger and despair, where there are people who are living in dire straits, selling their votes is easy money and will solve their problem at least for the day.

4. How will the system correct flying voters, or fictitious voters whose names were taken from tombstones? We have seen it before. People long dead voting. Have we shouted hallellujah, it's a miracle? Never. We simply shrugged our shoulders and maybe winced in pain.

5. How certain are we that these machines cannot be manipulated? These are man-made and even the highest type of program can be hacked. I remember the snap elections when the computer operators marched out of the PICC because they were being forced to cheat. If that happened before, it can happen again. At any rate, it just proves that computerization is no guarantee that it will eradicate cheating.

A democracy like ours is based on the freedom of its citizenry to choose its leaders. It is unfortunate that this exercise has been abused much to the detriment of the people. But still, let us keep our fingers crossed that our money is being spent on something that is useful for us. After all, we have already suffered for too long. Surely, there is no other direction left but forward. But how long can we wait? We deserve a break!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Someone is not going home tonight

As our HMO provider's contract has expired, we are now in the process of selecting our next health card. Last Thursday would have been an ordinary presentation of the various contenders for our school, or so we thought. Amid the hohums and hrmphs we gave out as we listened to each presentors, we did not expect to be shocked for the unexpected ending.

The last presentor could have been ordinary except for a minor slur in his speech and the fact that he was sort of hurrying up his presentation did not help any. It could have been an Ilocano accent, I thought. However, just as he finished and handed the mike over to the emcee, he collapsed! I did not notice it. I just got to realize something was happening when I saw a colleague rushing out of the auditorium and the guy was being carried out. We looked on puzzled but stayed inside the auditorium for the closing prayer.

When I got out of the auditorium, I happened to pass by the clinic and curiosity got the better of me, went inside to check how the guy was doing. He was still unconscious. I just got a glimpse of the school doctor unwrapping that thing she uses to take my blood pressure. I heard her suggest that the guy be taken to the hospital immediately. Since I was there already, I helped carry the guy to the vehicle. That being way past the dismissal time, the ambulance that stays inside the campus has already gone.

He was very heavy. I thought it was a wrong move on my part to take the head part. I may not be able to sustain enough strength all the way to the van. Thank God, I did. As we loaded him to the vehicle, I noticed that he has already wetted his pants. That was not a good sign. I remember the time when I took an unconscious neighbor, to the hospital one morning in 2007. He had a heart attack and he did wet his pants. I remember the doctor saying that was not a good sign. My neighbor was pronounced dead after several attempts to revive him. So you can just imagine the horror I felt when I felt the guy had wetted his pants.

As my car is still out of commission, (now they tell me it's the piston rings that do not function well) I had to stay with my friend to whom I hitch a ride all the way to my place. It was raining hard and we decided a couple of beers could be handy. It was there when my principal called me up to tell me the guy has expired. God bless his soul.

I wish the circumstances were different but experiences like this one makes my creative juices flow and it triggered my poetic instincts anew. Here is one poem I dedicate to the man who shall forever be unnamed to me. May he rest in peace.

Someone is not going home tonight

I can imagine how your morning went.
You probably calculated how much toothpaste
you shall put on your toothbrush.
Parted your straight hair with your favorite comb,
favored your black shirt over the red one
and meticulously checked if your white pants
have been ironed out well before putting it on.

I bet you never knew
you were not going home tonight.

You must have sat down quietly on the table,
said grace before your meal. Spread butter over
your toast albeit mindlessly.
Your thoughts were on your work
and a thousand other things.
You probably gave out reminders
to your kids like not to stay
late for after all

you never knew
you were not going home tonight.

You shined your shoes and put them on.
You kissed your wife goodbye
and headed for the door.
With your hand holding on to your youngest,
laptop clutched on your other shoulder,
you stepped out of the gate, walked a few steps
and turned around to look back at your house.
You missed your wife’s wave of goodbye
for she was engaged with household chores.

If she only knew
you were not going home tonight.

I noticed the slur on your speech
how your tongue rolled out the syllables.
Maybe it was just an accent you had
or so I thought. Then, all of a sudden
you melted like a candle.
Never got up until you expired.
To me, you may be a stranger
who shall remain unnamed except
for the thought that

you were someone
who was not going home tonight.


Thursday, July 02, 2009


Alas, the traffic I have to go through everyday is taking its toll on my old car. You see, the SLEX is undergoing its second phase of the skyway and causing a huge traffic gridlock (if that's what its called) on both sides. What used to be a three-lane street has been reduced to two and to make matters worse, the same clowns running the traffic flow refuse to give up the idea of having a counterflow of northbound commuters with us, who they probably consider as southbound second-class citizen road users. In effect, southbound street has been reduced further to just a lane and is naturally causing a very slim bottle neck.

I cannot manage to suffer traffic to and from work. That would be awful. So, what I do is leave the house early, say, 5:30 am and by the time I reach the SLEX, either the counterflow has not started yet or is just about to start. Sometimes, I see the motorcop heading the vehicles running opposite my lane with siren blasting and weaving his motorcycle from left to right as if he was sweeping the floor. \

Last Tuesday, however, in spite of the thirty minute ride to school, I noticed my car was registering a high temperature. That's bad considering that I was not locked up in traffic. I brushed it off thinking maybe I just need to clean the reservoir and add more water. Fine. I did those. Come time to go home, I prayed and headed for battle. As expected, the traffic had already piled up. My car was doing okay until I reached the Sucat area. The temperature was already very high and was continuously increasing. What was I supposed to do but stop and add more water. A kind worker helped to veer away traffic from me. After that, I was on my way again.

Then lo and behold, a traffic jam again at Market Market in C5. God, I'm so close to home darn it! I stopped again to do the same ritual when someone from a tow truck who happens to be right beside me approached me and asked if the car would not start. I told him it's just overheated. You're not getting any cent from me, silly :-)

And so, that was when I decided to either take a leave of absence the following day and take the car to the radiator shop or better yet, hitch a ride with my friend Jay to and from work. I texted him and told him of my predicament. Surprised (not), he replied back with a bargain. Done! Just tell me where to pick you up in the morning and that you will have to drink with us Thursday and Friday Hmmmm, free ride and pleasure vs staying with the mechanic for half a day ... tough choices. Guess what I chose.

Last night, not even a Thursday yet for the regular Thursday club soiree, "we" decided to have a beer or two. Well, as you know how this thirst quenching brew affects the senses, two led to three and then more until it was already way past 9.

Great! I have two more nights of pleasure. However, around 10:30 pm, a family friend called me up to confirm if a text message she received about no classes due to A(H1N1) flu in our school was true. I told her that was just a rumor but I will check it with my superiors just the same. What do I know? It was true. So there, what would have been a win-win trade off with my thirsty friend has been put on a halt just like that.