Los Angeles Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon with Comelec Representative at 4:00 am, May 10, 2010.

Fr. Meloy accompanying an octogenarian parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary on Mother's Day, May 9, 2010 and also a prayer Mass for Inang Bayan, Pilipinas!
Fr. Rodel gifting each mom 90 years older and below up to 70 years old on Mother's Day Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. A red rose for their passion in nurturing their families with love, and a red rose for Inang Bayan to symbolize our passion and to remind us all to say our prayers for the Philippine elections to be clean, safe and honest!
Mother's Day pink roses at a Los Angeles-based French bakery, founded and owned by two Filipinas: Carmen Salindong and Josephine Santos. They turned their bakery into a gathering place for mothers on Mother's day.

” The principle of transfiguration, of God’s transformation, in our world is at work when something so unlikely as the brown grass that covers our veld in winter becomes green again. Or when the tree with gnarled leafless branches bursts forth with the sap flowing so that the birds sit chirping in the leafy branches.” Bishop Desmond Tutu

Mother’s Day was the day before May 10, 2010 presidential elections wherein 50 million in the Philippines and 130,000 voters overseas were expected to vote. The day before, I was reminded that an Inang Bayan Mass will be held at 4pm at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. And what better way to show our love and concern for Bayang Pilipinas, by joining the international call for clean and safe elections.

Momar Visayas of Asian Journal in New York reported the joining together of Loida Nicolas Lewis with cause – oriented groups, Bayan and Gabriela, on monitoring the elections and saying prayers, signaled a new day we all wanted to see.

Both examples of coming together for clean elections, including the people’s forums organized by US Pinoys for Noy-Mar in Los Angeles boosted morale. My optimism solidified when I reflected on the efforts of a nationwide prayer group, during the last U.S. presidential elections, when hundreds of rabbis, priests, nuns all prayed for the Holy Spirit’s intervention to protect and guide Barack Obama, who at that time, was faced with multiple threats to his life and Americans wanted change in their national landscape.

Divine Spirit’s Intervention. At the Inang Bayan Mass, Fr. Rodel spoke of the Divine Intervention of the Holy Spirit that will teach us everything, whether small or big, and guide us to do what is good for us. I have been influenced by this particular verse of Psalm 91.

A thousand may fall at your side,

And ten thousand at your right hand;

But it shall not come near you.

Only with your eyes shall you look,

And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place,

No evil shall befall you,

Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;

For He shall give His angels charge over you,

To keep you in all your ways.

In their hands they shall bear you up,

Lest you dash our foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

Active Guardians of Democracy. I had been monitoring the ABS-CBN’s election debates and their use of the pulse of the nation or pulso ng bayan, at their forums, called Isang Tanong, Isang Sagot. 4 regional clusters of potential voters, selected randomly, assessed the candidates and their answers. They helped the viewers distinguish the candidates who spoke their truths authentically, and those who delivered their party lines, with or without regard for the highest public good. Credible candidates got high marks, while those whose body language betrayed their stance, got low marks.

A week before the elections, the automatic PCOS machines failed. Summarily, completely and comprehensively, when tested in several pilot locations! Asian Journal featured US Pinoys for Noy-Mar spokesperson, Loida Nicolas Lewis, who called on President Obama to have Smartmatic investigated, the company behind the election automation in the Philippines, with questionable corporate filing papers in Florida and with questionable ties to Hugo Chavez. The automation concerns influenced Joseph Estrada to file a petition to postpone the elections.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that the COMELEC did not abuse its discretion and elections shall proceed. By Sunday morning, eve of the elections, some of the machines still had not been replaced, and some of the flash cards had not been delivered. As more concerns were shared, 346 international observers registered to monitor the elections.

Typical of his calm demeanor, Noynoy Aquino stayed his course and asked the COMELEC to step up its oversight, and called for a parallel manual count. He called on his Yellow Army, his supporters, to remain vigilant, to monitor the elections and to hold novena masses around the world. By early Monday morning, the day of elections, failure of elections had been declared in six Lanao del Sur precincts.

In precincts with just 500 voters, it was a snap, one facebook friend took barely five minutes.

In some precincts, a wait of five hours and NoyNoy Aquino himself took 4 ½ hours, as reported by Ces Drilon on ABS-CBN. When asked why he waited with folks and did not push to get to the front, Noynoy said “ If we are to lead, we must also follow, like the rest. “ Both presidential and vice-presidential candidates, with orange in their party colors, managed to push themselves to the front of the lines. A stark contrast: one party felt entitled to special treatment, while another shared the sacrifice of waiting in the humid conditions, at 90F, with others.

In some precincts, folks endured a ten hour-wait to cast their votes. In Mindanao, folks braved the violence, the risks, as reported by BBC, and even isolated shootings from the Philippine Army, all in broad sights of the ABS-CBN television cameras, who could not determine the source of provocation to merit this army unit’s rapid display of machine gun force.

The Heroes of the day were the teachers, all 76,000 and more who used all sorts of ingenious ways to get the PCOS machines going: a paper clip, a hanger, a tip of an umbrella, even a broomstick. Kulang na lang na ihain nila ang sarili nila, sabi nga. It was the Filipino teachers’ ingenuity which led to enfranchising the votes of these Filipino citizens in these 76,000 precincts.

ABS-CBN, active guardians of Philippine democracy, made a huge difference. Weeks before the elections, they conducted televised training on how to feed the ballots to the PCOS machines. Karen Davila patiently learned the use of PCOS machines and linked with COMELEC to determine their policies as the deficiencies surfaced. The station deployed their celebrities as poll-watchers on the day of the election. They got calls from folks reporting problems, obviously frustrated and fed up, but voters stayed put just the same, to make democracy work.

It was the resilience of our kababayans, supported by one another, who made democracy work, imperfect as it was. Thousands of unnamed pollwatchers, even computer students offered solace to the voters who were frustrated by the automated system’s failures, and got the machines going. When Smartmatic technicians could not, the teachers took the risk of making the machines work. Imagine that!

Smartmatic’s machine imperfections literally showed up until the very day of the elections, some of which could have been prevented with adequate testing, quality control, and contracting with a much more seasoned company with a track record of systematic, nationwide automation. Smartmatic showed by their actions they were coming up short.

Still, COMELEC kept saying the failure rate was only .003% of the precincts, even if diminished to less than 1%, was enough, as only few hundred votes are enough and can actually change the will of 5,000,000 voters. Such is the importance of adequate control, testing and quality control that were unimaginably absent, as reflected by the failure of all 76,000 flash cards that registered results opposite to what were inputed during pilot runs.

Imagine if no one was watching and all these 76,000 flash cards were operational during election time, we would have installed leaders that were not elected by popular mandate. But, our combined vigilance and monitoring made democracy work.

In Los Angeles, we had our chance as guardians of democracy. We too had our long wait in the Los Angeles’ Consular Offices. We were there at 230am, and canvassing started at 4am, on May 10, to coincide with the closing of the polls at 7pm in the Philippines. Media came, which included Asian Journal’s Joseph Pimentel, the crew of Kababayan LA’s Jannelle So and Jorge, a single cameraman, Paul of GMA – TV, and UNTV crew, filing in at dawn. Throughout the day, 3 pollwatchers of US Pinoys for Noy-Mar in Southern California were present: Rosalie, Herbert and Christina, along with other group members. Two kept vigil until past midnight. Nacionalista Party had one poll-watcher, the rest of the parties had none.

COMELEC was too quick to declare the winners and even transmitted a statement aired over ABS-CBN at 440pm yesterday, that they had already received the transmission of overseas votes, all 100%. As of press time, today, May 11, at 234pm, we have no results yet from 3,609 votes cast from Los Angeles, Texas, Southern Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona. Balitang America today reported 1,183 votes for Noynoy, from San Francisco and 1, 401 votes for Roxas while Binay got 126 votes. Balitang America affirmed that Los Angeles had not finished the tally of votes, with one precinct still unfinished.

The Pastoral Parish Council for Responsible Voting had reported these unofficial results, as of today, May 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm: Noynoy Aquino got 13,165,152 and Gibo Teodoro and Manny Villar had already conceded to Noynoy as the president-elect of the Philippines. The contest for vice-president is still in contention, separating Jojo Binay from Mar Roxas by only 2%, with Binay at 12,921,315 and Roxas at 12,072,145.

ABS-CBN’s statistical sampling of the precincts showed Binay with 39.4% of the votes, and Roxas with 38.6% of the votes as of May 11,2010 at 4:15 pm. This margin is enough to be tampered with, enough to be tainted by just a few thousands, unless all the votes are counted.

Illustrado, a novel released just before the May 10, 2010 elections, was launched with a big bang and a series of mainstream write-ups in New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Montreal Daily. Miguel Syjuco, its author, wrote this, with a prescient preview, unrelated to the elections, but, describing the Philippines: “ Life works with the Lord’s benevolence and a generous application of duct tape and Filipino ingenuity. “ Indeed, that is how the elections worked on May 10, 2010, inspite of Smartmatic’s almost unfailing list of blunders, the elections worked because of Divine Intervention, the Filipino teachers’ ingenuity, the poll watchers’ monitoring, the voters’ resilience, and supported by their active guardians of democracy at work and their global prayers.

Democracy works, if its citizens actively work hard to sustain its electoral process to elect leaders worthy of their mandate, and leaders who are capable of representing the people’s will with their own personal traits of honesty, integrity, leadership and moral strength!


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