Last week’s article (“Unforgettable Election Campaign Experiences”) evoked memories of my friends’ and readers’ own election stories.
Allow me to retell some of their memorable moments.
My college and law school classmate, Atty. Jack Jimenez, volunteered as a human rights lawyer during the martial law years. At that time, he was among the valiant few who repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of the decrees of President Ferdinand Marcos. Later, he wrote a legal opinion which was used as evidence by the victims of human rights violations who successfully sued the Marcos family in the United States.
He recalled his 1986 election experience in our Ateneo Jubilee Yearbook.
“I volunteered to be one of NAMFREL WATCHERS in Makati City during the 1986 presidential election. A policeman pointed his pistol at my head and snatched the ballot box from my hand.
“When the people witnessed what was happening, they emerged from their houses and surrounded the police officers.
Somebody shouted: “Huling baraha namin yan! Hindi na kami maaring magpadaya pa uli kay Marcos!”
“The police officers retreated. These people came from ordinary walks of life: jeepney drivers, market vendors and daily laborers. I burst into tears. I felt very proud of the Filipino people. They proved that they realized the value of their votes.”
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Meriam Cajepe, an election volunteer for a local candidate in Muntinlupa, recounted a different type of “snatching”.
The candidate was holding a small neighborhood meeting. His speech was interrupted by a ruckus behind the stage and shouts of “Habulin ninyo. Habulin ninyo.”
Somebody had run away with a carton of sandwiches meant to be distributed after the meeting!
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In 2010, inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa were given the opportunity to vote for the very first time.
Lawyer Ramon Rosello, Muntinlupa City Comelec Registrar, explained that inmates whose convictions are not yet final (i.e., still on appeal) are allowed to vote.
Teacher Arsenia Padua Roxas was a member of the Board of Election Inspectors assigned to the special precinct for Bilibid inmates. Two weeks prior to the election, she conducted an orientation for the prospective voters.
“They were very well-behaved,” observed Teacher Arsenia. She sadly noted, however, that “(q)uite a number of those who registered were “no read, no write”.
Came election day, some of the inmates voted by dictating the names of their candidates to the teacher-inspectors who duly recorded the vote on the ballot.
Teacher Arsenia noticed that one inmate appeared to be just staring blankly after she handed him his ballot. After a few minutes, she approached the inmate and asked: “Kailangan ninyo po ba ng tulong?”.
“Hindi po, Ma’am,” the inmate replied. “Hinihintay ko lang po siya (pointing to another inmate) na makaboto, para mahiram ko yung kanyang salamin.”
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Retired Principal Verna Penaflor Obias, was just a new teacher when she first sat in a Board of Election Inspectors during a referendum in 1976. In that referendum, the voters were asked if they wanted Martial Law to continue and if they approved the proposal substituting the Interim Batasang Pambansa for the Regular Batasang Pambansa.
Then Teacher Verna was horrified when she overheard her principal instructing the principal’s trusted aides to change “No” to “Yes” or simply to disregard and not count the “No” votes.
“I felt petrified. I can’t even remember what happened later.”
The Comelec later certified that 87 per cent voted “Yes”.
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Lawyer Eleanor Hernandez was a volunteer lawyer of the Party List Ating Koop. “House to house campaigning was tiring especially when your constituents have no idea on what Party List is, its benefits and purposes.”
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The late Senate President Neptali Gonzalez was fond of telling the story of a senatorial candidate who was the last rally speaker among a group of 24 senatoriables.
By midnight, the huge plaza crowd had dwindled to just a handful.
Nevertheless, Candidate 24 delivered his campaign speech. Before closing, he thanked those who had stayed behind.
One of them said: “Walang pong problema, Senador. Kami po ang may-ari ng sound system.”
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Retired, but not tired. (ATTY: IGNACIO R. BUNYE)