Last Monday, the Philippines made history in its own national elections, just days after the UK elections left Britain without a ruling majority in parliament, leading to talks to form a coalition between the top two parties.

The Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine by Smartmatic-TIM allows for the reading of ballots and storage/transmission of electoral return data.

After decades of slaving away through ballot boxes for weeks and even months on end, the Commission on Elections took a massive step forward by initiating automated elections. This time, machines would do the work of reading ballots and transmitting results, supposedly speeding up the arrival of election returns and making for quicker announcement of winners. While a number of significant technical glitches abounded, including machines failing to read ballots and/or send data properly and issues with the thousands of pre-programmed flash cards for the machines, the count continued in the midst of long lines and the sweltering summer heat.

Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar Jr. was a strong contender for the presidency until new scandals such as the C-5 extension scam tarnished his image.

Also, the field of candidates for national positions such as president, vice-president and senators is arguably one of the most varied ever, with both neophytes and grizzled veterans jockeying for votes in a campaign period also marked by some of the most vicious mudslinging in the post-Marcos era. Who could forget Manny Villar and the scandals involving the C-5 extension project and questions on the truthfulness of his “impoverished” roots? Noynoy Aquino has stormed out to a good lead in the partial tallies so far, but remains hounded by accusations of riding on the name of his famous parents and the conflict involving distributing parcels of  family property Hacienda Luisita to the tenant farmers. And as always, disgraced ex-president Joseph “Erap” Estrada continues to beat a path to Malacañang as the runner-up despite his earlier conviction of the plunder charges which booted him out of the Palace in the first place. And even the candidates I (and many middle-class citizens) strongly favor on the basis of their clean and solid track records, namely Dick Gordon and Gibo Teodoro, do not have the same appeal to the masses, which explains their sad finishes in the partial tallies alone.

Still, I feel regret at not having been able to register for the elections. It would have been wonderful to make my voice heard by casting a vote for the candidates who I feel could do the most good for the country. While several factors did conspire to prevent me from getting myself in the voter’s list, this has strengthened my resolve to make sure I get a say in the next elections. Then, as my friends have said, I will have all the right to whine, moan and complain about where the country has really gone from here.

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, while enjoying immense popularity due to his famous parents, is also being questioned by others for riding on their coattails, among many other things.

Looking at the partial tallies, I only see a recipe for disaster. You have the son of democratic icons who has done little in his earlier terms as congressman and senator leading the way. Then the runner-up is a disgraced ex-president who should be in jail after stealing from the country during his time at the helm. At a distant third, you have a senator who has scandal after scandal involving fleecing government money into his pockets shadowing him while blinding the poorer segment with his “anti-poverty” image. And where are the more worthy candidates who have the qualifications to prove their worth? They find themselves near the bottom of the barrel.

Short of calling a significant number of voters something terribly derogatory, it annoys me to no end seeing that many still view star quality and charisma as being more important than performance and work ethic. I sometimes agree with the view that we deserve our crazy and ridiculous lot then.

I still stand by my view that Manny Pacquiao should have stayed in the boxing ring instead of going for the congressional seat in Sarangani. No offense to the man, but how much of him really knows what it takes as the voice of his constituents? And assuming the much-awaited bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. goes as planned in November, he can’t say for sure if he will be back in one piece to serve effectively as congressman. Still, I’d be happy if I were proven wrong and he does well as a government official. I just like the way he gets immediate “zero percent crime rate” days each time he puts on those gloves and takes his opponents to school.

Former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada is taking a new stab at the same post, despite plunder charges that got him in jail after his aborted first term of office.

And looking backwards and forwards, I will just have to accept the lesser evil as we Filipinos have done in every election for the past so and so years. While I fear the unknown quantity of Noynoy, I somehow fear the known quality of Erap even more.

At this point, I consider the political situation as a “hung democracy”. This does not bode well for the country since it will lead us back into regressive old patterns that have made the Philippines the “Sick Man of Asia”. At this rate, I’ll take the “hung parliament” David Cameron and Nick Clegg have on their hands any day.

But it does not change my choice of candidates, nor do I intend to surrender my sanity amidst all the lunacy. If I were indeed given the chance, I would still wear my heart on my sleeve (or the ballot, in this case) and choose who I feel would be the best people to lead us to the greatness we have reached before. Today’s defeats can indeed be the blueprint for tomorrow’s victories.

As for my plans for 2013, I leave with a quote from Lt. Col. James “Rhody” Rhodes in Iron Man 1:

“Next time, baby!”
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