The Call to Serve: The PPCRV Experience

“God calls not the worthy but those whom He chooses.” – St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

When God called me to serve in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish (IHMP), there was no turning back. Serving the Lord has given me so much joy. I thought being a member of the EMHC, Knights of Columbus, PREX & NeoCatechuminal Way is more than enough but there was another voice calling, this time to serve not only the parish but the country as well. In all humility, I again heeded the call to finally be a part of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the only accredited Citizens’ Arm of the COMELEC. PPCRV’s main goal is to have a clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful election or simply CHAMP.

Pre-election

I am aware that it was a challenge to put one’s self in a polling area but with God’s grace, I wholeheartedly joined the PPCRV-IHMP.

To prepare myself for the upcoming election, I attended the Voter’s Education Seminar organized by COMELEC. The event which was held at the Diocese of Cubao included discussion on the final testing and sealing of the Vote Counting Machines (VCM) and Voter’s Registration Verification Machine (VRVM) at the polling place.

The coverage area to be monitored by the PPCRV-IHMP were Brgys. UP Bliss, San Vicente, Central, Old Capitol Site, UP Village, TV East and TV West. I was appointed as coordinator for Brgy. Teachers’ Village West for the May 13, 2019 midterm elections. As Coordinator, my first agenda was to organize the old and new PPCRV volunteers.

With barely five (5) days to go before the national elections, Rev. Fr. Eduardo Apungan, popularly known as Fr. Educ called on the PPCRV core leaders namely, Bros. Rene Tongson, Roy Albrecht & Athom Almazan (EMHC), Ate Jane Estangco (BEC) and all coordinators of the seven (7) barangays and some seminarians for a final meeting. The agenda of the meeting included the urgent need to finalize the overall plan, the volunteers were assigned as poll watchers, voters’ assistants or ushers, crowd controllers, observers; as well as the logistics, venue of headquarter or command center, finance, food & supplies, legal support, transportation, communication, drivers, and others.

A day before the national election, 12 May 2019, Fr. Educ celebrated the 9:00 a.m. Holy Mass with the PPCRV volunteers at the parish. In the said mass, Fr. Educ strongly appealed to the congregation for additional volunteers. This yielded positive results as volunteers came forward to pledge for their participation in the PPCRV after the holy mass.

Thereafter, final briefing was given, and identification cards, tarpaulins and tshirts were distributed. In the afternoon, we started to set-up the voter’s assistance desks, signages and chairs inside the designated polling area at the Claret School. Laptops and extension cords were brought on the next day.

 

Election Day

There are 19 precincts compressed into 3 clustered precincts with 2,284 registered voters to be assisted. There were only eleven (11) of us and due to lack of volunteers, some PPCRV poll watchers manned two clustered precincts at any given time, if needed.

As early as 5:00 a.m., two (2) volunteers were assigned per clustered precinct. The election started at 6:00 a.m. and the early birds were the senior citizens. As in most cases, priority where also given to persons with disabilities, pregnant, and women with children.

At 1:50 p.m., one (1) of the 3 VCMs (Vote Counting Machine) malfunctioned. Hence, we have to wait for the arrival of its replacement. Voters still proceeded with the voting as advised by the COMELEC. The Board of Election Inspector (BEI) gathered 102 ballots inside a box and the voters were advice that they can no longer see the voter’s receipt if ever they will leave the voting precinct and won’t be able to return. Due to uncertainty of time of the delivery of the new VCM, a waiver was made entrusting to the PPCRV volunteers and other poll watchers to witness their ballots feed on the VCM upon availability of the new VCM.

At 5:00 p.m., the new VCM arrived and the SD card was then transferred to the new VCM. The polling precincts was closed at 6:00 p.m. The counting of 102 ballots inside the box was put to an abrupt halt when some of the poll watchers requested to have the receipt of the ballots read one by one publicly. This resulted into an argument between me and the other partisan poll watchers. I strongly opposed their request, because doing so is a blatant disrespect for the voters. Also, this was not written on the waiver. This issue was settled by Atty. Pip Cua (IHMP PPCRV Legal Adviser) who promptly arrived at the polling area to address the issue. Eventually, the feeding at the VCM proceeded without delay. Finally, I got the election returns around 11:00 p.m. All the election returns of the 7 barangays sealed in an envelope were collected & immediately delivered by Bros. Rene, Roy, and Athom at the Diocese of Cubao past 12:00 midnight.

Throughout the day, I experienced challenges such as humiliation and embarrasment from irate voters. I have witnessed verbal clashes of loyal supporters among political parties. I have discovered how the paid supporters has mastered the art of intimidation and persuasion.

On a positive note, the best part of being a PPCRV volunteer was meeting neighbors that I rarely see and gaining new friends whose cheerfulness enable the volunteers to hurdle the challenges. As I reflect at the end of the day, I realized that the bottomline is that we should help one another and heal our country in order to attain peace, prosperity and unity. Let us call on the love, mercy and compassion of our Almighty Father.

My PPCRV experience will not be complete without a shoutout to our supportive clergy: Fr. Educ Apungan, CMF, Fr. Lito Ancla, CMF and Fr. Jonathan Bitoy, CMF and to all PPCRV coordinators, poll watchers and volunteers who selflessly offered to serve God and country. To God be the glory! Vivat Jesus!