PPCRV: Protecting the vote knows no generation gap | Inquirer News

PPCRV: Protecting the vote knows no generation gap

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 01:54 AM May 19, 2013

In the mission to protect the people’s vote, there is no generation gap.

From a first-time voter to an election veteran, spirited volunteers continue to power the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in the tedious task of watching over the nationwide vote—a mandate unenviable amid technical glitches, resource constraints and criticisms from many, often unseen, corners.

“Since it’s my first time to vote, why not try to also watch over the votes for the first time?” said 18-year-old Maria Ysabel Lacanlale, a biochemistry student at the University of Santo Tomas.


Her schoolmate Angelo Brian Castro, a political science major hoping to become a lawyer someday, encouraged 58 of his fellow students to take part in the PPCRV’s parallel count, believing that helping the country should be innate in every Filipino.


“It’s vacation, I should have been spending it somewhere else where I could relax, but I’m stressing it out here. It’s how it should be. The election is once every three years. This is the chance to help as early as now,” said Castro, unbothered that the task of manually encoding election returns into the computer could be “monotonous and boring.”

“This is the opportunity where you won’t lose anything but gain everything. When you come home, you can tell your parents that you’ve helped your country in the meekest way that you could,” he added.

He’s been at it for over two decades, but civic duty goes on well beyond retirement age for 78-year-old retired engineer Carmelo Dorotheo.

“It’s an issue to have clean, honest and orderly elections. When we have PPCRV working, at least we are able to show people that we are watching,” said Dorotheo in an interview at the PPCRV command center in Manila.

He lauded the youth’s increasing involvement in protecting the ballot, noting that there were far less young people who chose to volunteer during his time.

“When we started, most of us were already mature (in age). There weren’t a lot of youth yet. But now, they are participating. I’m glad because the youth are more aggressive and enthusiastic in their jobs,” he said.


For the Church-based watchdog, such volunteering “phenomenon” showcases a silver lining in an electoral process still growing up, still struggling to undo a familiar string of bad habits: While some would still opt to sell their votes, others are already standing up to guard the ballot.

“Sometimes, it’s a phenomenon to me that there are so many of them. They find it even a privilege. One told me not to give up despite all the attacks, because this is their only space to be able to serve the country and to be able to serve God,” said PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa, among the founders of the citizen’s arm some 22 years ago.

She told of a recent encounter in Cainta, Rizal, when a volunteer excitedly shared how being a PPCRV volunteer ran in the family.

“For most of our volunteers, it’s a family affair. I was so happy to hear about a volunteer who told me that her grandmother, mother, father and siblings are PPCRV volunteers,” De Villa recounted.

“And when I asked how old the grandmother was, the volunteer said ‘86 years old, ma’am,’” she said.

In De Villa’s eyes, the sight of PPCRV’s army at work—of teens opting to crunch numbers instead of enjoying what’s left of the summer, or of retirees sparing the energy to help—is proof that people not only want change, they are also taking steps towards it.

Indeed, it is not only “faith on fire,” as she called it. It is faith in action.

“Politics, the way it is practiced in the Philippines, is really an obstacle to development and to the Christian life. That’s why unless we are serious in being involved in renewing this, nothing will happen to us. And from that stems our motivation: It is love of country, but that love of country is always underpinned by love of God,” said De Villa.

Her daughter Ana de Villa-Singson, PPCRV’s media and communications director, saw such level of volunteerism among the young as especially encouraging.

“I think they’re very socially aware, the youth. They realize what’s at stake in the future. They will be joining the job market soon. They need a good environment. I guess they’re realizing that their vote and their involvement in this political process is self-actualizing in a sense because it’s their future that they’re defining by the choices people are making right now,” Singson told the Inquirer.

On its second time as the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) accredited citizen’s arm, the PPCRV found no trouble putting together its parallel count and election monitoring operation—an undertaking that is challenging for both its sensitivity and cost.

350,000 volunteers

The people’s organization, founded in 1991 by De Villa, the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin and the late former Comelec Commissioner Haydee Yorac, has grown to some 350,000 volunteers nationwide.

On Monday’s elections, these volunteers took vigil outside polling precincts to monitor the conduct of the polls, reporting incidents in their localities, from glitches in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and disenfranchisement to vote-buying and pockets of violence.

Meanwhile, at its command center at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila, an average of 300 volunteers work shifts daily to man PPCRV’s parallel electronic and manual count, an audit that aims to ensure that the Comelec’s count is really as it should be.

Volunteers at the parallel count come from colleges and universities in Metro Manila and even parishes in Bulacan.

PPCRV carries on its task even while Comelec put on hold the watchdog’s release of electronically transmitted election results until all 12 winning senators have been proclaimed. On Comelec’s orders, PPCRV suspended on Thursday the public display of partial and unofficial election results, figures culled from electronic data from the Comelec transparency server.

The manual encoding of election returns continues, and the data is to be collated for comparison with electronic results for consistency.

In all of these, no one is paid and nothing is paid for: Not the volunteers, who even spend their own money for transport; not the supply of lunches and dinners also graciously sent over by sponsors; not the giant screens that display the results (the P100,000 daily rental fee was waived); not the halls of computers and servers; not the wireless connection; and not the courier service that flies envelopes of election results from the provinces to Manila as fast as possible.

The operation could easily run up to the millions, but Singson refused to put a number.

It’s enough to see the thousands willing to help to defeat the feeling of disappointment over some who would still criticize.

Time and effort

“My motivation are the volunteers. They are so pure of heart. They don’t care about the brickbats. In their mind, it’s just about helping,” said Singson, who has received personal attacks, including claims that she’s under the employ of Comelec and its service provider Smartmatic.

“There are call center operators, pedestrian walk-ins. You can see they’re not affluent, they’re hard up, but they come. And they tell us that all that they could give are their time and effort,” she added.

Ultimately, for Singson, PPCRV volunteers paint a picture of Filipinos very differently from how others may view them.

“I have a different picture of the Filipino, because I see the nobility, the heroism of the Filipino every day here. And while working in the PPCRV, that keeps me going—the spirit of generosity of so many wonderful people with no ulterior motives,” said Singson.

Having gone through more than two decades at the helm of the PPCRV, De Villa prays for that day when the electoral process has grown to stand on solid credibility, when voters no longer give up their ballots for a few thousands, and election watchdogs would no longer even have to be there.

“For as long as we have to watch elections, the PPCRV is relevant. But I am looking forward to the day—and I’m praying for it—that Filipinos will reach that political maturity wherein monitors will no longer be necessary,” De Villa said.

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“I don’t think it will happen in my generation. But I hope in my daughter’s generation, it will,” she added.


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