Volunteering with PPCRV, in the nation’s service
HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2019 - 12:00am

The commitment and dedication of PPCRV volunteers reminds me that there are many good people in the land who want to do things right. And therein lies my hope for a better tomorrow for the Philippines.

Mel Alonzo described it as “assuaging angst,” and angst we had a-plenty.  But for me, it was a matter of keeping a commitment I had made weeks ago when Myla Villanueva, a sister in TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) Foundation called on the membership to support the PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting), which she chairs by volunteering as encoders in a parallel count of national election returns after the May 13 elections.

Five of us TOWNS members heeded Myla’s call and showed up at PPCRV on Wednesday afternoon: Elsa Payumo, Mel Alonzo, Lelen Berberabe with daughter Jaymie, Rina David, and myself, joined by TOWNS executive director Dada de Jesus. In the evening, Margie de la Rama and Deanie Go who came with her daughter Gillian.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, I thought it was time to earn the distinction of being “in the nation’s service” by spending an afternoon as a volunteer encoder. This senior citizen came away inspired and optimistic, not at the results of the elections, but the spirit of voluntarism among the youth that I saw at the PPCRV center of operations in Pope Pius XII Center on United Nations Avenue.

We spent Wednesday morning opening envelopes containing official election results from clustered precincts all over the country, folding them into fours, and bundling them 10 each, for easy access by encoders who would type in the votes of over 60 senatorial candidates into a computer program. Myla chided us for choosing the easiest and most mundane task, but Elsa and I were intimidated by the thought of typing in numbers into a computer, fearful of making a mistake and ruining the sterling reputation of PPCRV.

I never took typing lessons. I learned to type in a newsroom of the Sixties, using two fingers on one hand and one on the other, finding the letters as I needed them, on a heavy upright Underwood typewriter that had seen better days. It had missing letters and its ribbon would get stuck periodically, requiring me to stop and manually spin it to the other side. (The millennials who read this will not understand what I am saying, but yes, a lot of great journalism was once composed in this primitive manner.)

So, to this day, even on my laptop, my daughters say I type like I’m doing battle with the keyboard, with heavy hands, ignoring errors until the end when I go back to my manuscript to make corrections.

Being a poor typist, I decided that I would stick to the safe but boring task of removing ERs from their envelopes and folding and bundling them. But there were not enough envelopes to open so I relented and sat at one of the many computers in the room to encode the ERs.  Encoding wasn’t difficult at all. And I need not have worried. There was another group that would review our work on a system that would flag any inconsistency in the numbers.

Every person who wants to run for public office should spend a few hours encoding ERs and get an idea of how people vote. The list is long, alphabetically arranged, with the number of votes each candidate got in a given cluster of precincts. Only around 25 names – the more prominent ones — registered decent numbers of votes in the hundreds. There definitely was block voting. Duterte’s favored 12 had numbers close to one another; so did the Ocho Derecho stalwarts, with Bam Aquino leading the pack.

The rest would get 20 to 50 votes each, and the stragglers, a pitiful one to three, sometimes zero votes. It made me wonder why these stragglers, and there are many of them, bothered to run, and why the Comelec even allowed them to be on the ballot.

The wonder of it all, though, is that anyone even voted for them. Surely, they didn’t have relatives in every place who they could count on for one or two votes, but they got “awa” votes anyway. But looking at the big picture on the giant TV screens in PPCRV, their miniscule numbers do add up nationally, into several hundred thousand votes. Too far from the magic 12 to make them senators, but maybe enough to make them think they’ll do better next time? Dream on.

We each came for our own reasons. Besides fulfilling a commitment, my grieving heart wanted to experience something I could believe in and I saw it in Myla Villanueva and her young staff, and the dozens of PPCRV volunteers, many of them students who worked in shifts 24/7 to ensure the integrity of the vote by providing a parallel count that can confirm the results and detect anomalies, if any, in the official count in this very controversial election process. Their commitment and dedication reminded me that there are many good people in the land, especially among the youth, who want to do things right. And therein lies my hope for a better tomorrow for the Philippines.

PPCRV will keep the count going until May 30. Volunteers are welcome.

PARISH PASTORAL COUNCIL FOR RESPONSIBLE VOTING
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