By Justine Nicole Malonzo
I was nervous when I stepped inside our voters’ precinct last Monday. I held my ballot and pen gently, afraid I might accidentally put an unwanted mark or shade the wrong circle that would invalidate my vote.
I was worried when the machine didn’t read my ballot the first time. And the second time. And the third time. I gave out a nervous laugh and the election inspector, in an effort to relax me a bit, said, “The machine is just tired.” I do not know if it was in their manual of operations but the machine finally read my ballot on my fourth try after the inspector suggested I feed it bottom first. Relief washed over me when my voters’ receipt reflected my votes correctly.
It was 10 AM in the morning when I cast my first-ever ballot.
Except for my ballot-feeding difficulties, my entire family had an easy time of it, unlike many other voters. As a first time voter, I was curious at the long lines I saw in other precincts. We were lucky, it turned out.
We left for home soon after, except for my father who is a media worker and had to do his job. As a Kontra Daya volunteer, I later on proceeded to its Quezon City headquarters, excited to be contributing my time verifying reports of election anomalies. Kontra Daya is a poll watchdog that documents and reports poll fraud. I was oriented on what I would be doing, verifying reported anomalies in precincts listed in a Google Sheet I was given. To verify said reports, I would call and ask sources for further details.
My elation at having successfully cast my first ever ballot was again replaced with anxiety when reports of broken vote counting machines (VCM) came flooding in. There were also reports of illegal campaigning and other issues, such as VCMs refusing to print ballot receipts. Hundreds of precincts had to resort to asking voters to sign waivers agreeing to let the poll watchers feed the ballots to replacement VCMS when and if they arrive.
The issue of broken VCMS persisted until nighttime. I was still talking to people who failed to cast their votes even when the precincts have supposedly closed by 7 PM. By then, the unofficial count was already being projected at the headquarters, and the one leading in the presidential race was the son of the dictator.
And my anxiety turned to foreboding. I was scared for myself, for my family, for every Filipino’s future.
As a journalism student I’ve studied in several courses about what Marcos supporters now tout as the “golden era of the Philippines.” I heard from a professor her experiences under Martial Law that prompted me to read up on our recent history. I also met people who survived imprisonment and torture under Marcos Sr.’s regime. With the election results scrolling before my eyes, I felt so bad and devastated for all those who either died or survived the dictatorship.
Nearly a week after the polls, I still cringe whenever I see someone celebrating Marcos Jr.’s impending victory. I cried when my best friend told me how her family ridicules student activists protesting on the streets — I was one of them. My friend’s family also mocks her, a Robredo supporter, telling her to give up because the margin of Marcos’ victory was insurmountable. I cry every time I hear “Rosas”, that aspirational song I sang lustfully with the Pink crowds during the campaign period. It’s now a song that reminds me of what could have been had my candidate won.
I am sad at how the first election I directly participated in turned out. But it’s not over because I am not losing hope. I will oppose the next six year if it turns out to be the same horror story that I heard and read about. I believe there are enough number of Filipinos who will not let it happen again. I am hopeful that the Filipino youth are discovering their worth and would be the generation that will stand up for truth. They will not let the people be silenced and oppressed again. #