VCM'S FINAL TESTING AND SEALING/MAY 6, 2016: Board of Election Inspectors and election watchers is all eyes to the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) during the final testing and sealing in Guadalupe Elementary School.(CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)
Election season in swanky Forbes, Dasma, Alabang, SanLo–how do they do it?
WHILE election season in the middle- and lower-class communities are louder and rowdier, the enclaves in Makati and Ayala Alabang are relatively quiet.
Except for Ayala Alabang where election tarpaulins and streamers are restrained and displayed in strategic areas, residences in other villages are free to hang posters and tarps outside their homes. Then again, candidates’ supporters meet at friends’ houses without the neighbors knowing about it.
The polls are usually held at the subdivision’s park side community centers or in schools.
Difficult to gauge
Unknown to many, a significant portion of the voters from these villages are the kasambahay or the domestic helpers and drivers. This makes it difficult to gauge the popularity of candidates in these places, since households tend to be divided, unless the employers persuade their helpers to vote for the former’s candidates.
“We have one of the most disciplined barangays,” said José Pio Luz, Forbes Park barangay captain, whose election district covers north and south Forbes Park, Kasiyahan Homes and the Polo Townhouses.
Luz estimated that many in the voting population of 3,200 are kasambahay. Hence, on Election Day, the barangay will offer free rides in north and south Forbes so that the maids and drivers can go to the polls early. More security and barangay staffers will be fielded, and the clinic will be open all day in case voters suffer from heat stroke.
The barangay coordinates with the village association, whose main concern is the long queues for impatient residents.
“Although some residents will insist on their own way like getting VIP treatment, being the first to go inside the poll, we will control that,” said Luz.
He added that the barangay has organized programs such as voter’s education and trial runs with the precinct count optical scan machines.
“You can’t predict the turnout at the precinct. Election Day falls on a long weekend; people usually go out of town,” said Luz.
Armando Padilla, barangay captain of Magallanes, echoed Luz’s observation.
“In gated communities, candidates can’t come in and do house-to-house campaign. These are not the regular barangays where there are barkers. Perhaps there are Viber groups or text brigades. You can’t feel the pulse here.”
As in Forbes Park, many of the voters are kasambahay. Padilla said their employers encourage them to get a voter’s ID so that they can avail of Makati’s social benefits especially free health care and senior citizen’s card.
“When they get sick, there’s OsMak [Ospital ng Makati] to take care of them,” he said. With all these perks, these helpers and drivers will most likely choose the Binay camp—at least in the Makati mayor category.
Meanwhile, some voters who no longer stay in Magallanes Village still keep their Makati voter’s ID because of the social benefits.
Padilla said the barangay has done its usual preparations for the precinct in coordination with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. Since the voting is done in less than 10 minutes, “it becomes a social thing. The voters huddle to catch up since they hardly see each other.”
In the past, San Lorenzo Village barangay chair Ernesto Moya weathered election recounts, threats and flying voter controversies. He said barangay elections can get more emotional than national elections.
While Forbes Park has its Roxas-Robredo streamers and posters, Moya observed that most San Lorenzo residents are relatively passive, though some are outspoken about their support for Mar Roxas.
He underscored that barangay captains in villages must remain impartial. “It’s hard to campaign openly. Otherwise, you will receive a backlash here. Barangays outside of the villages are more open. Since they don’t have the budget for their infrastructure, they depend on the city government and become beholden to certain people. A barangay captain in villages must show non-partisanship.”
Outside of the villages, the campaign is more visible and loud. “But here, nobody will mind you [the candidate] if you walk around. The village doesn’t allow door-to-door campaigning unless it’s a barangay election,” he said.
As in other Makati villages, Moya pointed out that many of the voters are the household help.
In Bel-Air, residents hang their streamers and posters of choice on their fences. Otherwise, the atmosphere is placid, said barangay chair Constancia Lichauco. “We don’t see any trend here.”
Martin Arenas, Dasmariñas barangay chair, sees the same thing in his community. “It’s not as exciting as outside. There are many ambassadors’ residences here. Ayaw nila ng magulo” (The don’t want any ruckus), he said.
Christian Espiritu, couturier-turned-editor of Ayala Alabang Village’s newsletter, said that the association is very strict with campaign materials. The political ads in the newsletter are sparse.
“During elections, many travel abroad. There seems to be some apathy here,” he said.
However, he was surprised when some 15,000 recently congregated on a lot across Vivere Hotel in Filinvest Alabang last April 8. “As early as 2 a.m., the intersections were closed. There was security. Then this throng appeared from nowhere to stage a Duterte rally,” he recalled.