Saturday, December 19, 2015

Comelec Tales: The Return of the Dead Voter

It’s almost election season again, a time for cripplingly long lines and tall tales. Sadly, while most of us will probably be forced to marinate in candidates’ assorted vats of lies, not all of us will be given the privilege to cast our votes for our preferred liar. “No bio no boto” stands.

I almost didn’t make it though, and it was partly my fault.

I do not do anything at the last minute. I am, moreover, so anal retentive that I quadruple check anything I’d already done, which is why it came as a surprise to me that I decided to depart from my usual insanity.

For some inexplicable reason, I trusted in the system. I registered years ago, and in my voter’s certification, they printed my signature, thumbprint and the face of the first functional zombie on earth.

I was therefore quite distressed to find my name among the list of voters without biometrics a week before the deadline for voters’ registration.  I suspected that it might have been my otherworldly beauty that may have led Comelec staff to doubt that I was human.

Regardless of the reason, I made up my mind to line up the following day to show my certificate of proof that I am a voter in possession of a face. This is despite the fact that, with very little time left to registrants, the lines would likely redefine despair, patience and fortitude all in one day.

By the way, can anyone remind me why do we do this? Why do we voluntarily subject ourselves to such a painful inconvenience when we always end up electing officials who torture us with inane or corrupt governance anyway?

I do not know why. I suppose Filipinos are simply eternally hopeful that eventually we’ll hit the mark. Unfortunately, the last time we did this, we mistook PNoy’s shiny pate as the bullseye and missed by a mile entirely.

So, armed with a dose of determination and a layer of hope imbibed from listening to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing on perpetual loop, I marched to the registration area the next day, only to discover that there were no separate sets of numbers for inquiries, new registrants and registered voters without biometrics. We all had the same queue and the last priority number had been given at 6 a.m.

Those of us who persisted in inquiring, gathered like lost sheep at the exit, united in our mutual cluelessness. With the seasoned tutelage of Manong Guard, our self-appointed shepherd who had hitherto been intent on making sure none of us went over his imaginary fence, we eventually devised a fishing game to reel in passing Comelec staff to gang up on (with the meekness of a gang of sheep of course). We appointed official bait who we threw at our prospects.

Two catches later and our group had grown considerably smaller, with most of the sheep marching home sheared… err, verified. My situation however, had gotten murky. Our first catch declared that my certificate was enough proof that I had the all clear to vote for my choice of clowns in next year’s cirque de gobierno. Our second catch however, said I had no biometrics despite the printed proof to the contrary.

Manong guard had a word of sage advice for us few remaining disconsolate sheep: We should line up at 2 a.m. the next day so we could be the first in line for priority numbers at 6 a.m.

I could almost hear Heneral Luna hollering his now immortal question in my ear, “Bayan o sarili?! (Country or self?!)”

Such a difficult question. Can I use a lifeline please?

The predominant feeling was disappointment, but I have, these past years, been decidedly dissuading myself from the immediate urge to complain about public service. First, because it isn’t always the public servants’ fault. In this case, we were given 18 months to sort ourselves out, but many chose to do so only at the last minute. Second, because not all government employees take one hour to finish their 15 minute breaks while queues simmer in high blood pressure. There may have been flaws in the local systems they chose to adopt, but the local Comelec staff clearly worked seriously and diligently.

With no solution in sight, I trudged home defeated, and in a twisted attempt to relieve my disappointment, I took to Twitter to bask in the despair of other voters. Fellow blogger, Vic ended up tagging Comelec’s James Jimenez in a tweet I made in reply to one of his. Naturally, I thought nothing of it. You simply do not expect people of consequence to take notice of little people (although technically speaking, years of stress eating has made me anything but little).

To my utter shock, Jimenez asked for the details of my problem and had Ms. L from his office call me long distance from Manila. I was astounded. It was as if I was in the middle of a bizarre late night telenovela where everything was so absurd that nothing made sense. Someone from up the top was personally trying to help me.

Succeeding referrals from Ms. L to Ms. M and Ms. H of their local offices finally revealed the reason behind the discrepancy in my records. Apparently, my file had been deactivated due to death. More importantly, it wasn’t my fault, Ms. H said. It was involuntary manslaughter on their part.

Get up. Time to vote.

My husband rejoiced at the news because it meant I never had to pay taxes again --- I was dead after all. To his dismay, I opted to rise from the dead with the help of Ms. H who had restored my biometrics.

And I lived happily ever after… I wish. I might still end up with a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, voting for loonies we’d end up suffering under for the next six years, again.

But really, the highlight of this story is Jimenez. This should teach me not to lose faith in our public servants. Hallelujah! There are still some good ones out there. Here’s hoping that next elections, we put more of them where they can help.

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