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Opinion

Your vote is your voice

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

Today is the day of reckoning. Every vote has the power to change the destiny of our country. We must go out and vote. If we don’t vote wisely we are giving away the chance for a better future.

My column today is reminiscent of the yesteryears. The building up of a strong nation happens when people get together and rally behind a leader. The pre-election period was a revelation of the many facets of Filipinos. We saw the true colors of people with their presidential choices. Many have become frustrated with the leadership we have today. The pandemic has also contributed to the heightened emotion of the people. Our countrymen are very patient and docile but when public officials become too abusive of their positions, Filipinos go out in a silent protest and cry “Tama na, sobra na!” (enough is enough).

Today we see a collision out there. One of which may possibly bring the changes we want to see. This is about the candidate, the movement that brings hope to the people. It is about going out there to make a stand, to make a difference, to save the country.

This period reminds me of my late father’s writing during election period. His wisdom and brilliance inspire us about that moment in history when we enjoyed victory – the achievement of democracy and freedom. In one of his columns, The Sweet Smell of Liberty, he wrote, “They like to talk about the sweet smell of success. The march to victory is compounded of many different scents, among them the odor of stale sweat and urine, mingled with the fragrance of steaming coffee and the companionship of a shared sandwich. These are scents that greet you in the streets. People’s power smells of people – but in their wake comes the sweet smell of liberty.”

He describes our rallies as – one fifth holy crusade, one-fifth angry protest, one-fifth picnic, one-fifth high melodrama (deteriorating at times into low comedy). Indeed, during these past few weeks we have witnessed so many rallies here and there. It was like an avalanche of people power. Who had the largest, the strongest, the best show in town.

We saw the people fight on and even pray a rosary crusade. Their banners raised, their placards raised high above them. These people came from all walks of life. It was amazing to see how even the poor donated food and drinks. The taho vendor and ice dream man happily shared their products to passersby. The merrymonth of May, known for fiestas, indeed turned out to be fiestas during the rallies in every province with colorful displays of their culture, their food and their hospitality. The rich, the middle class and the poor once again united to bring on the most qualified leaders for the country.

As my late father would amusingly narrate, “The poor donate water and bread, the middle class sandwiches and steaming platters of meat, fried chicken, the rich whatever – nobody munches on caviar or patè de fois gras but the tension is leavened with fun – and with hope.” Their “reinforcements” continue to stream in from the surrounding provinces.

The thousands of men, women and children, students, priests and nuns I personally witnessed again during this campaign period bring back nostalgic moments of the past. I felt good seeing everyone wanting to make a difference, risking their lives even with the threat of the pandemic while standing for long hours under the heat of the sun, even totally drenched after a heavy downpour at times. It was a show of solidarity and strength. Filipinos coming together in an outpouring, not of bitterness but of purpose – the beginning of a Revolution of the Heart.

Now as we await the results of the elections, can we start to celebrate? Yes and no. We must wait for our votes to be counted. We must continue to be vigilant. Ours is a country that lacks efficiency in our systems. Unfortunately, there is still a strong element of power play happening around, specially in the far-flung areas where voters’ voices are suppressed.

There will be a final reckoning for all these deeds. What we can celebrate now is that the Filipino, robbed of his dignity and self-respect for so long and taunted by his tormentors, has stood up and slugged it out and won. Yes, as my father would always cheerfully quip, “God reached out and touched our hearts. And all of us responded.”

Today, the electorate has changed. Gone are the days when we easily lose heart over distorted facts and disinformation. When we cowered at every move to tempt or dissuade us to vote against our conscience. Technology has changed that. We can easily get to the truth of what is written and shown in the news. When the numbers during the rallies are contested by all parties, the people just shrug it off and smile. “Fake news” ruled the campaign period. Some candidates even set up a barricade of legality and technicality. Yet, no one succumbed to it. Why? The truth will always prevail. The Filipino people have finally come to terms with the reality that it is time to stand up and be heard. If we do not do so, the death of those who fought for our freedom will all go to waste.

The battle will be long and hard. But if what we witnessed in all the rallies is any harbinger of the future, will we see a people’s victory this time?

*      *      *

By the way, today we have over 67 million Filipino voters (over 1.5 million Filipino overseas voters). According to Comelec, we have 7 million new voters who are considered the “game-changers”. In 2013, there were only 52 million voters. In 2016, there were over 54 million voters. The young voters will make a stand this time around. They want their voices to be heard. Don’t under estimate their power. It is a force made of passion and idealism to protect democracy.

Our polling precincts will open at 6 am and close at 7 pm. Remember to fully shade the ovals. Use only markers provided by the election board. Return marker and secrecy folder to Board of Election Inspector. Wear face mask at all times. Dont’s – Do not overvote. Do not mark the ovals with X, a check or any other marking other than fully shading those. Do not take a picture of accomplished ballot. Do not bring voter receipt outside of polling precinct.

Before you cast your vote, it would be wise to recall the words of our national hero, Jose Rizal – On this battlefield man has no better weapon than his intelligence, no other force but his heart. Let’s go out and vote. May our choices reflect our hopes for a better Philippines.

ELECTIONS

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