body count

May 15, 2007 at 8:24 pm | Posted in Akbayan | 1 Comment

i’m getting a headache! not necessarily from the lack of sleep the past week or so, nor from staring at the computer monitor all day.  i’ve been tallying election related violent incidents as part of my monitoring work here at the akbayan headquarters, and the facts that are coming in from media reports are appalling.

just this morning two teachers in batangas died after unidentified men set fire to a polling precinct.  in cebu, children are being deployed to distribute sample ballot outside polling precincts under the searing heat of the sun.  across all regions, island groupings, there is an entire slew of ambushes and shooting incidents that have claimed about a hundred lives.

you’d be surprised at the number of local politicians involved in these incidents.  several reports indicate how some reelectionist incumbents would go around campaigning brandishing weapons — high-fire power guns with a coterie of thugs right behind them.

where reform-oriented reformists are present, private armed groups and rebel groups would not hesitate to brandish violence as a weapon to maintain the status quo.  it’s infuriating, especially if you’re coming from a place where you believe in peaceful, sustained efforts to introduce changes in society.

and to top it all off, the police authorities are saying the elections have been relatively peaceful , since ERVI’s tallied are at 219 only, compared to 289 in 2004.  but this isn’t about the body count.  one dead person for a ballot is one blemish too glaring on our fragile democracy.

it isn’t about reducing fatalities and  underemphasizing statistics, it’s about rooting out the problem and upholding the right of the public to an informed, empowered choice. and that freedom cannot thrive nor exist in a climate of fear and want.

i still believe in elections.  there is much power in the ballot, and with the right shaping and education, it is more potent as a weapon than any gun ever could be.   otherwise, why would trapos resort to goons to subvert the ballot?

but the government is in a state of general denial that serious, long-term reforms are needed to make violence and fraud a distant feature of elections.  modernization is still an ongoing struggle, there is much resistance to overhauling the comelec, and of course, issues of legitimacy are cloaked by opaque policies that seek to cover up the truth.

transparency, accountability, legitimacy — are not just keywords, but actual living principles that we lack as a society to truly exact the kind of leadership that we deserve as a country.  until we can learn to appreciate the role these ideals play in nation-building and development, the cycle will just keep repeating itself.

thankfully though, there is an abundance of hope if you know where to look for it.  and i haven’t lost hope.  with each tally i am thankful that i can see these things behind the comfort of my desk, in my airconditioned corner of the workspace.  the relaity on the ground  is more exacting and taxing, and i take off my hat to those ground troops who are fighting the good fight out there.  getting those much needed votes up there on the board, protecting those numbers from the precinct level to the municipal level — it’s a lot of hard work, and entails no small amount of sacrifice.

it’s during times like these when i get to reaffirm the fact that i am in the right place, at the right time.  i realize that my place is in the struggle, and my personal problems are no bigger than my capacity to cope with them.  but the dillemas we face as a collective whole?  that’s something else.

and that’s the challenge  i am glad i am tackling along with everybody else who dares to call themselves an activist.

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  1. i can attest to the fact that minors were being deployed to distribute sample ballots. the street along the lahug national highschool was filled sample ballots as if paper fell like rain that day. Ironically, the school was just beside the lahug barangay hall. the barangay captain happened to be a mayoral candidate of the city of cebu.


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