Registration centers will be closing down December 31, 2006. We’ll be putting up the chairs, turning the lights off, and closing the door behind us. And when 2007 comes around, you can bet anything that there’ll be people asking for more time to file their applications for registration. The chances are good that these people are going to blame the COMELEC for this sad state of affairs (their not being registered, I mean). And they won’t be the first, nor the last.Not surprising, really, since most people are used to blaming the COMELEC for alot of things. Naturally enough, I tend to see the whole situation from a different point of view.
There are two things I hold to blame for the failure of many people to register. The first is procrastination. Naturally, I’m not accusing everyone of this – I’m certain there are those who missed the registration window for a whole bunch of good reasons – but I think for the most part, we can agree that a lot of the people who are not going to make the deadline are gonna miss it because they kept on putting off registering; not because they didn’t know when, where, or how to register but because they were too preoccupied with doing something else.
To be perfectly frank, there’s really nothing wrong with that. People are entitled to their own priorities. I just wish that people who put registration at the butt end of their list of things to do take responsibility for their own actions and not dump all the blame on the COMELEC. And that’s the second thing wrong: a lot of people simply refuse to take responsibility for their actions – or in this case, INaction.
We’ve been putting out reminders in the papers – thanks to all the newspapers who gave us free space, by the way – mentioning registration in radio talk shows and plugging it on television. We may not have been a marketing juggernaut like Globe or Smart, but our announcements and reminders were all there for prospective voters to read, see, and hear. And besides, where have they been hiding all this time that they don’t know that in a democracy people vote, and that only people who are registered can vote? I can’t accept that people are as clueless as all that, especially with the way things have been going in this country.
For the past two years, elections have been at the forefront of many controversies that hogged the headlines. At the start of 2006, rumors of a no-elections plot experienced a resurgence and many people rallied to defeat that scheme. When the people’s initiative became the hot-topic-of-the-day, one of the main issues was the proposed postponement of the 2007 polls. In the latter half of this year, an adovcacy group with massive publicity aggressively advocated elections as a means of holding elected officials accountable.
How many dots do you have to connect before you realize that elections are important? And from that realization, is it such a leap to expect people to want to find out when, where, and how to register?
And what about family members? Kids who will turn 18 on election day 2007 (14 May) can’t possibly have sprouted from out of nowhere. What about their parents or elder siblings? Didn’t they know that once every three years, these older relatives went out to vote? Or did they think that every third year, on the second monday of May, these older folks simply went to an adults only picnic where they got their fingers all smudged with purple ink?
The bottom line, cousin, is that it’s no secret that there will be elections in 2007. And everyone interested in it had every opportunity to enlist. If they truly didn’t know how, all it would have taken was a little initiative; a little sense of responsibility to find out what they needed to know.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not absolving the COMELEC of all blame. But there has to be a point where you realize that the responsibility for protecting your rights – particularly your right of suffrage – falls mainly on your own shoulders. People can’t forever blame others for their failure to do what they ought to.
Procrastination and the unwillingness to take responsibility. These are two awful traits that we will be reinforcing if we extend the period for registration. Think about it. If move the deadline forward into January, the message will be sent that it’s OK for people to keep on putting off their civic duty to register; if we postpone the last day for registration, we tell people that they can sleep on their rights and we will bend over backwards for them when they finally deign to exercise those rights. And that’s just ridiculous.