March 2006 was when I first officially tried to make a mark of chronicling my thoughts online. This was when Friendster used to be a bustling online hang out of friends. Lynette was the one who introduced me to blogging after, if I remember it right, she distributed her poetry booklet(?) through email (yes she spammed me! LOL! Love you Lynette ).
I’m quite busy these past few months as I try to finish my thesis writing, however, a recent event urged me to blog about this to warn others.
A massive clean-up is underway after wild storms hit Metro-Perth yesterday. Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, in a report by Perthnews.com, said that it was the State’s worst storm since 1994.
This week prominent leaders here in Australia and back home in the Philippines made headlines. One could not resist noting the parallelism between the two events despite seemingly to be unrelated.
Australian journalists have a lot to be thankful for. They live in a relatively safe and free environment. The violence that they will, at most, get will probably be a bashing from their news subject. And yet the government will protect them even if they run after government personalities, not for witch-hunting, but to deliver information on the politician’s performance to the public.
Last Saturday, the electoral district of Willagee had a by-election after its MP, who was the former State Premier, resigned. The campaign and voting went well despite seemingly unnoticed. The campaign mainly consisted of print ads in community papers and distribution of leaflets in letter boxes of residents. If there was some exchanges between the candidates in media outlets, the topics will mainly be on policy concerns and what they can offer. Voting is also compulsory here in Australia, anyone who fails to vote risk paying a fine. I think the fine is to cover the cost of the materials and preparations allocated for each voter. Voting started from 8:00am to 6:00pm by 7:00pm votes have been counted halfway and before 9:00pm the winner was already known.
The number of overseas absentee voting (OAV) registrants was unofficially released recently. As expected, there was a low turnout for the OAV registrations. The Department of Foreign Affairs said that overall it fell short of its goal to have 1 million registrants by the end of OAV registrations last 31 August. Reports from GMAnews.tv said that there are over 216,000 OAV registrants worldwide.
This might be a comparison between an apple and an orange but if we look closely to a possible link, one might note the difference in the prevailing attitudes in the politics in both countries. Sure there are cynics in Australian politics or public but the general action of most Aussie politicians show that they are united in trying to figure out what is best for the country. From saving the economy from the effects of recession to leading the global talk on climate change–be it the government or the opposition. There are downsides but one can’t help but notice the good sides in Australian politics.
Zoom into Philippine politics, save for a few, a number of congressmen are out to bend almost anything to protect, not the people, but themselves. There are would-be presidents who are mum on issues surrounding their pasts and would-be presidents who are trying to be someone they are not. In the August Hall, there might be some discussions on proposed legislation but, most of the time, the proposed legislation would likely be for the benefit of the few or the elite. Result–on the opposition side? Well, instead of focusing on proposing sound legislation, they are on the ‘attack mode’ to quell any action by the government to continue to plunder and corrupt. There are good sides but one can’t help but notice the bad sides of Philippine politics.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer was blunt in noting that if, indeed, this will be President Arroyo’s last term, the legacy that she will leave is a “legacy of corruption.” There were hints that if the charter change (first thought to be decided on through referendum but was later said to be decided on through a constitutional assembly), which the opposition allege was meant to extend Arroyo’s and her cohort’s term, fails then she might run for congress. Sure there is nothing wrong about Arroyo running for another electoral post but if we believe the assessment of Dr. Benjamin Diokno of UP School of Economics (where Arroyo received her PhD), then I think the Philippines has had enough of her. Will she step down? Her speech has some hint that she might not. This might be a good or bad news, remember when she declared in a previous SONA that she will not run for president but decided to run anyway?
There are a number of uncertainties in the Philippines as there are many uncertainties bugging most of the expats here and around the world. For instance the OAV system, one cannot blame that some of us will never participate, some by choice and/or some by the inadequacy of the OAV system. But for the few who will participate, futile as it may be, but it will be an exercise of our rights and stand that we will never be silenced.
One thing that the Philippine government has succeeded to do is to isolate its people. It has isolated its citizenry to fend for itself, be it in health care, housing or even the basic daily needs. If there are those who will doubt that most Filipinos are lazy and should be working on something for their country instead, they are mistaken. We’ve done our part and we are continually doing so, however, some life principles such as give and it will be given just never becomes a reality.
Call me a pessimist but I do hope that there’s a miracle round the bend.
I was about to update some of you about the OAV initiative here in Perth when Noelle inquired on how we were doing here. Well here it goes.
At this stage, I was able to coordinate with the consul general here in Perth. While they were helpful in some way, I’m not sure if the OAV registration is something of a priority based on what the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has been stating. I think it is common for our embassies anywhere to claim that there has been an intensive campaign to reach more Filipinos to register for the OAV when there’s hardly any campaign at all, save for a few maybe (or is it just a PR stunt?).
As Noelle complained, even the consul general in Melbourne is at lost as to how the OAV will be set up. Well, I hope that by the time we’ll be able to reach our 200 mark target here in Perth, the Philippine Embassy in Canberra will know what to do. And we will be able to participate and will not be a mere spectator to the history-making election next year.
Despite the expected automation of the election system next year, there are some Pinoys here that have begged not to register out of frustration in the electoral system some of them expressing doubt whether the vote they will cast here will definitely be counted for their candidate.
The future might still be uncertain despite the possible improvement in the electoral system in the Philippines, but for some of us away from home, we could not just sit down and watch our countrymen just slug it out themselves, we want in and yes while there might just be a few that will be voting away from home. We will be part of election history next year, we will be counted.
UPDATE: GMAnews.tv has a good primer re the OAV registrations. It’s interesting to note that the PDF file containing the comprehensive research re the OAV was from an ABS-CBNnews.com researcher. There are calls to extend the 31 August deadline of OAV registration to a later date–let’s hope that this call will be granted. GMAnews.tv is calling for Pinoys abroad/expats to air their stories re OAV registrations. So, I think this is a good opportunity for us to tell our side of the story and let them know that much of the hyped public awareness on the OAV is dud. Email your stories at email@example.com
If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and I apologise if it hasn’t lived up to its name lately), you know that I’m personally involved in advocating Filipinos here in Perth and surrounding areas to register as an overseas absentee voter. The campaign is a personal one and I do not have direct funding from anybody, so I am using online and offline social networks to disseminate the information (and to some point personal resources such as petrol, paper, inks, phone credits, etc.).
As a communications specialist, I know the importance of “gatekeepers.” Gatekeepers in communications or marketing are important links to your target audiences or clients. I knew their opinion will matter especially in this very important initiative. Some of my identified gatekeepers here include Asian shopkeepers, association leaders, peer group leaders and religious leaders.
I have tried to distribute a paper for Filipinos to sign to express their interest to register for the OAV and recently, I have asked a friend for help in this campaign. I have specifically asked him to show it to their church members. Their religious group is one of the biggest in the Filipino community here and their assistance would be a great boost to this campaign.
However, to my surprise their head minister turned down the request that the paper be passed on within the church. According to my friend, the minister said that there is an “unofficial” directive from Manila that their expat members (or those based outside Manila) do not participate in the coming election as the Philippine election is “chaotic.” My friend was very apologetic that he wasn’t able to help but I said that I do understand and respect their minister’s decision, who, by the way, is already an Australian citizen. I will be vague at this point as I might inadvertently give details that might identify the group.
For now, off to the next target audience and hopefully I’ll be able to reach my goal by end of July.