The Indelible Question: Why Voters Don’t Vote

by Paolo Luis Zipagan and Ma. Roxanne Fatima Rolle

Being late in parties may be fashionable – but not in voters’ registration.

Stats as of deadline

Last October 31, the Commision on Elections (COMELEC) officially ended the voters’ registration nationwide. Based on their data, over 54 million Filipinos have registered. Region IV-A or CALABARZON composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas,
Rizal, and Quezon had a turnout of over 7 million registered voters, the highest in the whole country.

For the past elections, according to COMELEC’s official website, CALABARZON still
holds the highest number of voters turnout with over 6 million last 2010 and more than 5 million last 2013 elections.

All time high in Los Baños

According to Randy Banzuela, election officer of the municipality ofLos Baños, there are 58,361 registrants as of October 31, the highest number in the history of elections in the town. According to COMELEC-LB’s data, more than 56,000 voted last 2013 elections. Meanwhile, there were 52,000 registered voters last 2010 according to the Philippines Statistics Authority. However, the catch is that bulk of the voters only started flocking the registration precincts a few weeks before the deadline. This is true not just for Los Baños but in other towns as well.

Thousands still unregistered

Based on the data from the Samahan para sa Tunay na Eleksyon sa Pilipinas (STEP Coalition), as of September 14, there still are thousands of unregistered voters in towns near Los Baños: Bacoor (47,685), Dasmariñas (17,642), and Imus (18,138) in Cavite
as well as Batangas City (43,070). The data is part of STEP Coalition’s list of top
20 cities and municipalities with the most number of voter’s without biometrics.

Davao City tops the list with 73,258 unregistered voters. The registration period
started on May 6, 2014 and ended on October 31, 2015. More than one year was allocated. What could have been Juan and Juana’s reasons for not being able
to register, choosing not to register, or deciding not to vote at all?

No time, undecided, slow process

Janine, 18 years old, is a resident of Los Baños and is a first-time voter. She is
one of the thousands who were not able to register. According to her, her inhibitions in registering stem from the slow process of registration. She is also undecided on who to vote and who she thinks is worthy to lead the country. “Mabagal ang proseso ng
pagrehistro. Mahirap din isipin kung sino ang iboboto kasi hindi tayo sigurado
kung anong pwede nila gawin sa bansa natin,” said Janine.

According to Miguel Enrico Ayson, instructor of the UPLB Department of Social Sciences (DSS), Filipinos have their own reasons on why they failed to meet the October 31 deadline. Ayson put forth that Filipinos may say that they were unable to register because they got caught up with their daily tasks. The problem with that excuse, Ayson furthered, is that the registration period has been long enough.

Credibility of elections
Apart from not being able to register, there are other reasons why Filipinos do not vote or are not too motivated to endure long lines of biometric registration.

One of which are the events that “happen in the country at the time when elections are conducted”, shared Ayson. For instance, Ayson shared that the highest turnout of voters was the first election in 1987 because of the eagerness of the Filipinos to vote without fearing the manipulation of a dictator.

The turnout rose again in 2001 when former President Joseph Estrada was ousted
during EDSA II. The turnout then dropped in 2007 when the “Hello Garci” scandal
involving Arroyo was exposed to the public and the election was still not automated.

“Yung credibility ng election, pagdating sa tao, posibleng naapektuhan pagdating ng 2007”, said Ayson. This is supported by the data presented by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). During the 1987 elections or the first
elections after the first EDSA revolution, 90% or more than 23 million out of the 30 million voting population of the Philippines participated.

In 2001, the turnout rose again from 1998’s 78.75% to 81.08%. In 2007, the voter
turnout dropped to 63.65%, the lowest since 1992’s 70.56%. In 2010, through
Republic Act 9369 or “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to
Use an Automated Election System,” the Philippine National Elections became
automated.

Ayson said that before automation happened in the Philippines, it took months to proclaim winners because of the manual elections.Banzuela added that automation would lessen
the manipulation of election results. The process is now more technical and the results are stored in the microchip of Precinct Count Optical Sanner (PCOS) machines. These machines automatically count the votes. In effect, the results are now released earlier.

Unstable political party system

Another factor that may affect the turnout is the unstable political parties in the country. Politicians would transfer to the political party of the president who won. The president has the authority and capacity to generate funds for the political party. Ayson said
that in the country, the political parties are not treated or dealt seriously. Political parties come and go during the presidential elections as an effect of patronage politics, said
Ayson.

He further stressed that there is a need to strengthen our political party system. Indeed, there is a bill pushing for reform in the political parties of the country. However, the proposed Political Party Development Act still needs more attention from
the legislators for it to be passed as a law.

The right to suffrage entails the right to vote and have a stand on who gets to lead the country. There may be compelling reasons for not exercising that right. However,
it should also be remembered that voting is an obligation. Section 4 of the General Provisions of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines states that “it shall be the obligation of every citizen qualified to vote to register and cast his vote.”

There are reasons, obligations, and duties to the country. One would just need to pick which of the three weighs more.

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