MONTREAL, Canada – I take my hat off to the Commission on Elections for having played its gatekeeping role more aggressively lately. Ensuring that bogus party-list groups and nuisance candidates are kept to a minimum has never been their strong point until now.
In the voter registration front, they seem to have avoided the mess that they had to deal with before the 2001 elections, when a good number of voting age citizens were in effect disenfranchised. They failed to register because there was not enough information campaign on how to go about it and until when.
This time around—at least from anecdotal evidence—there is truth to the claim of Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez that the Commission made an effort to inform people that it is their duty to register to vote.
He noted, and I agree, that when people are so eager to give their two-cents worth on every issue over Twitter, Facebook, and even 9gag, they should at least pay attention to this minute but critical detail: that one must register in order to vote (duh!). And so, he wrote, Comelec would not pander to late registrants.
May I ask the Comelec, however, to indulge me here? Because I have discovered a little something that it has apparently overlooked in its preoccupation with just getting as many as possible to register.
I am an approved overseas absentee voter in Canada. I am still a registered voter in Quezon City. I am a double registrant.
And how did I end up as one?
I registered in the Philippines in 2006. Although I had since gone in and out of the country since for my graduate studies, I managed to vote in the succeeding elections, in Quezon City. When I moved to Toronto and at the same time had to renew my passport in March this year, I figured I might as well ask the consulate how I could have my voting registration record transferred from Quezon City to my new home in Toronto, Canada.
To my surprise, it was a painless process: I filled out a form, swore an oath, and shook hands. I was wearing a wide grin as I stepped out of the consulate while recalling my previous run-ins with the staff at Quezon City’s Comelec office. Needless to say, I did not miss the sad state of Quezon City’s elections office.
About a couple of months later, I got a notification that my application to transfer my records was approved. I encouraged the Filipinos here whom I knew to register as well. It’s a simple and painless process, I recounted to them. Certainly they could spare a few hours to troop down to the consulate if they live in the Greater Toronto Area.
Fast forward to a few weeks back and I re-discovered Comelec’s wonderfully useful toy: the Precinct Finder. I did remember using this website the last time I voted in the Philippines, to find out where I was supposed to go to cast my ballot.
It’s there online, and I couldn’t help myself—I had to check it for my name! So I keyed in my personal details, expecting to be amused by the record reflecting my new city.
Surprise, Virginia, this is what the Precinct Finder gave me:
I’m still an active voter in Quezon City!
I knew there was a fluke somewhere. Here I was, assuming that since the Comelec already released a resolution approving my application under the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, my records had been updated (read: expunged from the voters list in Quezon City).
While it is commendable that Comelec is weeding out bogus groups from the party list and nuisance individuals from the roster of candidates, I’d want to see the poll body being as thorough with the roster of voters.
I mean, I’m now not that naïve anymore to think that the list automatically cleanses itself. As Miriam Grace Go pointed out, if ever the voters’ list magically loses some names, it’s courtesy of our politicians, through their minions, for a different purpose.
Right now, I kid my friends and say, it seems that the Comelec expects me to perform my civic duty twice. An American friend noted that this presents an opportunity for me to be very patriotic, albeit in a very expensive way, since that would mean taking a Philippine Airlines flight to Manila after I shall have cast my vote here in Toronto.
Seriously, though, I know that I will be casting my vote from here, as an overseas absentee voter. What worries me is that someone back in Quezon City might shape-shift and take my appearance, fingerprints and all, fool the elections inspectors, and fill a ballot on my behalf. We know that’s very possible in the Philippines.
In fact, my bigger fear is that there might be many Janssens, a.k.a. Accidental Double Registrants, out there among our OAVs. This is not how we overseas voters wish to be a swing vote back home, if you get my drift. – Rappler