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Eleksyon 2013

Chaos marks last day of voters' registration in QC

October 31, 2012 9:07pm

With people shoving and screaming, it looked more like a protest rally than the first step toward performing one’s right to vote.

Outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office for Quezon City District 2 on Wednesday, a mob of irate residents was loudly asking for election officers to open the windows. It was only an hour past noon, but election officers had already implemented a “cut-off” for new registrants.

“I think ‘yung kanina parang naging false hope, baka sakaling magkaroon pa ng form kaya 'andoon pa sila sa line, although alam na nila na cut-off na talaga,” said Sheila Rafanan, an election officer in the district, in trying to explain the chaos outside.
Last-minute registrants swarm the Comelec office in Quezon City's District 2. Photo by Marc Jayson Cayabyab
The line was cut-off at 800 persons, the maximum number the precinct could accommodate for a day.

When an election officer announced over the microphone for residents of QC District 1 to fall in line for the sign-up, many registrants were taken aback. “Paano na ang District 2?” they shouted. “Nasaan na ang District 2?”

One registrant, a church volunteer named Ruth Tuzon, said: “Napa-exclusive naman ng District 1!”

“Pasiyensiya na kayo, wala na silang magagawa kundi tumingin sa atin at magsimpatiya,” Tuzon of the General Shepherd Church addressed her fellow registrants. “Huwag po tayo magalit, tayo po ay may pagkukulang. ‘Yun ang pakiusap nila, uwi na lang tayo. Uwi na lang tayo nang bigo dahil tayo ay nagkamali.”
The deluge of irritated voters marked the last day of voter’s registration in Quezon City for the May 2013 midterm elections. Comelec officials have constantly said they would not extend the October 31, 5 p.m. deadline.

Agitated registrants

One of the agitated registrants was Mary Jane Limpot, 38, a resident of Barangay Bayanihan in Litex, Commonwealth. The mother of one said she was in line as early as 2 a.m., but by noon she was informed that the line would be cut since the precinct supposedly run out of application forms.

That did not sit well with Limpot, who claimed to have last voted during the Ramos administration.

“Sinabi nila kahapon sa TV, 5 p.m. magsasara. Bakit wala pang ala-una pinutol na [‘yung linya]? Wala man lang pasabi,” she said.

Limpot said she wanted to register to complete her requirements needed for them to be relocated in Rizal, as she is currently residing in a landslide prone area, where a family and a baby were reportedly killed during last August’s deluge.

“Wala man lang sinabi na pahinga muna kami o lunch kami.. Wala, diretso sarado agad ng bintana,” she said. “Nakapagtataka nga ba’t sila naubusan ng forms, bakit ‘yung iba hindi?”
Tuzon, meanwhile, said she already felt ill in the midst of the agitation. Showing her arm already spotted in red marks, she said the stressful registration has caused her allergies to come out.

“Halos lumalabas na ‘yung aking physical allergy. Siguro dahil nastress na,” she said laughing.

But her allergies did not stop her from arguing with the police officers, who could only ask her to wait for further notice from the precinct.

Tuzon said she meant well and did not intend to fight the officers. She in fact said she only wanted to help and not to bicker. “Hindi naman tayo nakikipag-away ‘dun sa sistema. Nakikipagtulungan kami dun sa sistema.”

But Tuzon said being late does not mean they deserve being set on the sidelines during the registration. “Pareho tayong may pagkukulang. Pero hindi ibig sabihin na komo may pagkukulang ang  mga tao, deserve na namin na hindi kami i-accommodate.”

She lamented though that they were kept in the dark about the problems the precinct supposedly faced during the registration – the 200-person capacity of each biometric computer and the lack of application forms, among others.

“Nagugutom kami sa paliwanag lang,” Tuzon said.

High turnout
With a turn-out of 788 persons as of latest count on Wednesday, Rafanan, the election officer, said they have no choice but to limit the number of last day registrants.   

“We are not to be blamed,” Rafanan said in their defense. “They have two years to register. Properly informed naman sila sa media. We have to discipline ourselves. Hindi ‘yung pupunta sa last day. Alam naman nila ‘yung consequence.”

With the precinct having four computers with a capacity of getting the biometrics of 200 persons each, it was no surprise that the election officers could only accommodate 800 persons from the thousands who tried to register from the district.

“Due to the heavy turn-out ng mga nag-apply, talagang maabutan sila ng cut-off. If we cater to a thousand, what time can we stop?” Rafanan said.


At the end of the day, the voters met Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., who during his last visit scolded residents for registering late in the period.

For Brillantes, it was a job well done for the election officer to cut off the line early the day. “‘Yun naman ang instructions, kung ano kakayanin sa isang araw. Kaya pag nawalan ng forms hindi na kaya ng makina siguro,” he said.

Brillantes noted the unpleasant experience late registrants had to go through, adding that registrants should not expect a walk in the park during the last day of the sign-up period.
“Bakit umaasa pa sila na maganda sa huling araw kung dadagsa sila ngayon? Hindi ho naman siguro,” he said.

Brillantes maintained that voters’ registration would not be extended, stressing again that the voters are to be blamed for registering late in the prescribed period.

“Libu-libo dumagsa sa huling araw. Pero nung nakaraan, tingnan niyo ang record – pito, walo lang uma-attend. Wala naman nagpupunta. Ngayon pupunta silang lahat rito,” Brillantes said. “Alam naman nilang hindi kaya ng makina ‘yun sa isang araw na isang libo.”

He hoped that the strict deadline would set a precedent for the next elections. “Sana siguro mag-umpisa na itong example… Sana sa susunod na eleksyon hindi na magkakaganito, siguro matututo na sila.”

As the time nears 5 p.m, the closing of the registration, the chairman even quipped: “Kaninong relo gagamitin natin?”

The 73-year-old Brillantes made the gesture of closing the doors of the registration precinct, thus signaling the end of the registration for the 2013 elections.

Outside, only a handful of residents of district 2 were left hoping for the windows to open. One of them, 19-year-old Jasmine Tolentino, continued berating the poll body: "Wala kaming napala rito, umasa kami sa wala."
To which Brillantes responded: "Talagang mapapaasa sila sa wala kung pupunta sila sa huling araw." — KBK, GMA News
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