MANILA, Philippines – Past the 3 pm deadline on Monday, May 14, voters in some big barangays in Metro Manila still came to the polling precincts, hoping to be allowed to cast their vote in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections of 2018, which had been postponed a few times in the last 5 years.
Offering various reasons – from having to look for their assigned precincts for hours, to having gotten off their work close to 3 pm, to mistakenly thinking the polls would be open until 5 pm – they were turned away by school guards and teachers who were manning the precincts. Voters complained the polls closed too early, unlike the longer voting hours during the general elections.
In other precincts, voters persisted despite problems encountered at the polls, like senior citizens enduring the heat, long lines, and taking the stairs, while election volunteers could barely assist them. President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, failed to vote in his home city of Davao.
At Quezon City's Commonwealth Elementary School, the biggest polling center of the country's second most populous barangay, Rappler found Elizabeth Ton, 23, who was escorted out by the guard.
Ton works as a janitress at the Philippine Heart Center from 6 am to 3 pm. All this time, she thought the polling precincts would close at 5 pm. She took the 10-kilometer bus ride from the hospital to the elementary school, and arrived there at around 3:30 pm. She saw the guards already pushing dozens of people out.
"Sayang 'yung boto ko. Meron akong sinusuportahan, na'ndito ang kodigo ko," she said. (My vote has gone to waste. I was supporting somebody. I have my cheatsheet with me.)
Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler
Ronalyn Cruzet, 38, also thought the barangay elections would end at 5 pm but would be extended if voters lined up before closing time. She took a taxi from her workplace, the UP Town Center along Katipunan Avenue, around 8.5 km away from Commonwealth Elementary School.
"Kasi naman dati naman noon 'pag maraming nale-late 'pag bumoto, nag-e-extend pa sila," Cruzet said. (I don't understand why they can't do it now. In the past, when there were a lot of latecomers, they extended the voting hours.)
Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler
Jerome Calimbo, meanwhile, arrived at 1:30 pm, but he was passed around for over an hour and a half by elections officers. He only got the correct referral by 3 pm, and reached his polling precinct at around 3:30 pm.
"Paikot-ikot na kami (We have been going in circles)," Calimbo groaned, holding the hand of his girlfriend, who accompanied him on election day.
His journey went like this: When he arrived at the Commonwealth Elementary School, he was told to walk for 20 minutes to the Manuel L Quezon Elementary School (MLQ). Upon arrival, Calimbo was told to go to the Commonwealth High School half a kilometer away.
Elections staff at the high school said he shouldn't have left the Commonwealth Elementary School, he's precinct was there.
At 21, Calimbo was eligible to vote for both SK and the barangay elections.
"Parang nakaka-bad trip lang kasi sila din naman nagkulang sa information, hindi kumpleto. Tapos hindi nila papayagang bumoto 'yung ibang botante." Calimbo said. (It's so irritating because they were also at fault, providing incomplete information. Then they wouldn't allow some people to vote.)
Erma Elumbaring said she was already inside the Rosauro Almario Elementary School by 1 pm, trying to find her polling precinct to no avail. When she tried calling the Commission on Elections (Comelec) hotline, as advised, she encountered more delays.
“Tumawag ako sa Comelec. 'Pag tawag ko, ang tagal-tagal pa, pati-spelling [itinatanong pa],” she said, exasperated. (I called the Comelec, but it was a long process, and they were asking how I spelled my name.)
“Syempre gusto ko sanang bumoto kasi may mga manok din kami, may kandidato kami. Importante talaga makaboto,” she said. (Of course I wanted to be able to vote because we wer rooting for somebody. It was really important to be able to vote.)
Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler
“Sayang boto ko eh,” Cunting said. “'Tsaka sana malaman ko man lang ['yung tamang precinct] number, kaso wala eh. Di makita.” (My vote went to waste. At the very least I wanted to know the correct precinct number, but it wasn't there, we couldn't find it.)
In another polling presinct, a barangay watcher Joralyn Fuellas pleaded with the teachers to let the senior citizen she was assisting to vote just a few minutes after 3 pm.
“Hindi na siya pinaboto, eh tamang-tama naman nakita na niya. Kanina pa siya ikot nang ikot. Kawawa naman si Nanay. Tinulungan ko lang, kabarangay [kasi] namin,” she said. (She wasn't able to vote when just in time she found her precinct. She had been going around for some time. I pity her. I was just helping her because we live in the same village.)
“Sabi ko senior naman, sandaling oras lang, pero di na pinapasok. Ayun, umuwi na lang. Hayaan na lang raw…. Kawawa naman si Nanay. Hirap na hirap daw siya mag akyat-baba, may tungkod pa siya,” she continued.
(I was pleading with electoral board members, she missed it for a just minutes, please, but she wasn't allowed in. She went home, saying it was okay. I pity the old lady. She said she had real difficult climbing up and down the stairs, supported only by a cane.) – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.