Concern over growing public apathy
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon has expressed serious concern over the growing public apathy and cynicism towards the government even as he sought to reverse it by introducing significant political changes the country badly needs.
Speaking at the 34th Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Conference, Gordon noted that the low voters' turnout in recent elections is a veritable evidence of the growing apathy and cynicism among the Filipino electorate.
"Today we have a country that has lost its confidence all together. We are filled with self-doubt; we are filled with cynicism; and it is largely because the leadership of this country has been generally a colonial hangover that does not exact ideology," he said.
"Change will not happen unless people buy into it, unless we decide to be part of the leadership, unless we can say that the government succeeds, (that) our nation rises, because its people have become part of the process of change," he added.
In the 2004 elections, there were 43,522,634 registered voters in the country, of whom only 33,510,092 actually voted. In 2007 elections, there were 45,029,443 registered voters, of whom only 29,491,488 actually voted - or a decline from 76.99 percent to 65.49 percent in 2004 and 2007 elections, respectively.
Gordon pointed out that it is definitely important to have a credible system of elections to encourage the public to exercise their right to vote and regain their trust in the electoral processes. One effective way is to have fully automated elections, he added.
"If people see the credibility of the electoral system and realize that their votes will be correctly counted, then we might just encourage them to actively participate in the country's electoral process," he said.
He also cited the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) automated election last August where the voters' turnout was at 84 percent, which is a far cry from a measly 21.99 percent voters' turnout in the Nov. 26, 2001 ARMM elections.
Gordon explained that the big difference between the 2001 and the 2008 elections in ARMM is a clear indication that people want and would very well accept change in the electoral system.
"Our Muslim brothers were eager to become part not just of history but of change. It started with them casting their votes during the automated polls. They were more confident to vote because they know their votes would be rightly counted," he said.
"This is a clear sign of the importance of automating our electoral system. It makes our people participate in the electoral process. And we must realize that citizen participation in the election is an indication of a vibrant and healthy democracy," he added.
Gordon, author of Republic Act 9369, the Amended Automated Elections Law, has been eagerly pushing for the full automation of the 2010 presidential elections to give way to a clean, honest, fast and credible election.