Our last club meeting for this Rotary Year 2006-07 was a slam-dunkin entertaining one! No fireworks, yes, but there were lots of friends and guests, food and pulutan, beer and serbesa, red wines and giant wine glasses!
Last Monday, we had a joint meeting with RC Rizal South-west. Our classmate and my Red Teammate, Pres. Toni Francisco of RCRSW, was our guest speaker. She's our only classmate that I know who entered politics by running as congresswoman in the Malabon-Navotas district last May. Luck, or better, the politics of money and explicit cheating was not on her side though (she ran under the opposition) and she “lost”. So I asked her to speak about her experience and insights about Philippine politics.
Toni narrated why she suddenly decided to run for Congress, as late as last February only. Despite zero experience as a politician, and her family has never been directly into politics, circumstances compelled her to try her luck. Her main rivals are never from Malabon-Navotas, one is from Cebu , the other from Paranaque, suddenly went to Malabon-Navotas, mainly to protect their entrenched political interests there. The incumbent Congressman, a 3-termer and brother of her rival, was a cute Malacanang boy in Congress but was never cute in real performance in his geographical constitutency.
She mentioned that some community organizations that she's involved with, like the Kalipunan ng mga Kooperatiba sa Malabon (KAKOMA), asked her to run. The campaign period was a very exhausting activity. For instance, she'd go house-to-house campaign from 8 - 11:30am, 7 days a week, then caucuses and meetings in the afternoon until evening. But she noticed that about 2 weeks before the election day, she was the only congressional candidate doing the house-to-house campaign. The others have stopped doing this and reserved their energy and money in what’s more “crucial” – vote buying!
During election day, many of her supporters from poor neighborhood never got to vote for her. At P500 per voter in Malabon and up to P1,500 per voter in Navotas, some of her supporters received the money from her rivals, their fingers marked with indelible ink, meaning they cannot vote anymore and just stayed home. Those are several thousand votes for her that failed to materialize.
On “dagdag-bawas” (or vote shaving), Toni showed us pictures of 2 election returns (ERs) from 2 precincts. In one ER, the tally showed she got 55 votes; but just about 8 inches to the right of the same wide paper, her vote, the one signed by the election inspectors (the teachers), was only 5, her 50 votes went to the proclaimed “winner”. In another ER, her 32 votes in the tally became 12, her 20 votes went to another moneyed rival who also lost. So, what’s one lesson here? If you want to win in an election, spend on winning the hearts of voters, but spend MORE on bribing election officials!
After Toni’s talk, an open forum followed. One question was: if you want to change things in society, would it be better to bribe and cheat your way to victory, then change things using your political power; or run fair and clean, hope to win, then change things with little or no political and moral baggage? Toni replied that if she’ll ever run again, she’ll still choose the latter. Only that she’ll run wiser and experienced to guard her weak points. Now, that’s a true Rotarian, passing all the 4-way test! I also asked her if she has any regrets going through those hassles and still lost, she said No. For her it was a very educating and eye-opening experience, a very expensive one though.
After the adjournment around 9pm, that's where a riotous fellowships among members of the 2 clubs began. People exchanged more discussions, or exchanged calling cards and talked about business, or simply exchanged jokes. Toni brought red wines, my clubmates paid for the corkage, the waiters brought giant wine glasses, and we gulped the wines!
Our cluster AG, Edgar Castillo was laughing loudly; our respective PEs (and President by Sunday), Owe Lozada and Jorge Carmona, were discussing plans for more joint meetings during their term.
With that, my term, our term, is ending. Bonding with some classmates is always a very rewarding activity. I only regret that an evening where I also asked classmate Ces Singson to be our guest speaker a few months ago, did not materialize. I bragged to my clubmates that Ces is the most "gallant" president of our District this RY. It's just that some things in our club did not work right that evening.