I was blessed to be part of this year’s Barangay Elections as a candidate’s poll watcher.
I’ve been interested in participating in the elections as a poll watcher since I was in college. Unfortunately, all the training sessions were scheduled during school and work hours so I was never actually able to be one until now.
The Barangay is the smallest administrative unit in the Philippines. In English, Barangay means ‘village’. It is governed by a Barangay Captain and a Barangay Council composed of 7 Kagawads, who are assigned to develop and implement projects under various committees. The populations of barangays range from two thousand up to two hundred thousand. Thankfully, we reside is a small barangay, so there weren’t much people. The teachers who assist in the voting and counting, members of the police force and volunteers from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) actually felt relaxed during the voting hours.
The excitement came when voting was closed and vote-counting commenced. Unlike the national elections wherein voting is done manually, but tallied through a machine, both voting and tallying are done manually during Barangay elections. I guess this is because there is a large multitude of Barangays and it would be too costly for the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to distribute or ship PCOS machines again, collect the names of candidates, lay them out and print ballots for each of them.
As this was the case, the teachers posted a large tally sheet on a white board (Tally Sheet 1) – with one tally sheet per precinct. The tally sheets had a long box on the left for the candidates’ names, and had boxes to its left for the vote tallies. The boxes were enough to fit five tally lines.
We had three precincts, so there were three counting paper sheets. Another tally sheet was prepared on a table adjacent to the precinct’s ballot boxes and white board (Tally Sheet 2). Then they listed the names of the candidates down on the tally sheets with a black marker. One teacher was assigned to read the votes, another one was assigned to tally the votes on Tally Sheet 1 and another was assigned to tally the votes on Tally Sheet 2. Prior to the counting, PPCRV and the candidates’ poll watchers were also made to sign documents to validate their participation.
Each poll watcher was required to bring his or her own tally sheet. Before the official tallying began, I wrote down the names of the candidates on my own tally sheets.
The tallying soon started after I wrote all the candidates’ names down. The teacher assigned to read the votes in the precinct I volunteered for read the votes at a fairly steady pace so I was able to count along with them. For each 100 ballots, we tallied the partial results before proceeding onto the next hundred. After about an hour, vote tallying was done and the total for each candidate was written down on the official tally sheets and validating documents were signed. Soon after, the winners were proclaimed.
During the vote tally, voters are free to go to the polling place and watch the process. I wasn’t aware of how many watched the tally until it was over. I was delightfully surprised to see many people there. The Barangay is the smallest unit – and for some – the most useless. But I am thankful that people in our community continue to see its value.
I want to thank the COMELEC and DepEd’s teachers for the smooth voting and tallying processes. I would like to especially salute the teachers who were assigned in larger barangays – I am more proud of our public school teachers than ever! With that experience, I hope to participate again as a poll watcher for the coming 2016 elections.
I am very happy to say that the candidate I volunteered for won. As part of the team, I was very nervous, even as I was counting. I could not imagine how that person must have felt! Thank God for the win, now we can all rest and look forward to a new chapter for our community!