Yesterday for mother’s day, our extended family splurged and went to the local Pinoy restaurant at the local mall. While there, a bunch of overweight 30ish white guys with ponytails came in, dressed in shorts, Birkenstocks, and wearing a vest saying they were there to monitor safe elections.

A good report of who are in these groups can be found HERE. Wonder who funds them? How do they get time off of work to travel around doing these things? I’d say “free vacations”, but believe me, it’s not a vacation here: it is the middle of the hot season, and we are not near the beaches.
So good for them (and since they ate the Barbecue instead of the Adobo Pusit, hopefully they won’t come down with food poisoning…but that’s another story).

But by the time we got home from the supper, our cook greeted us with the story that there had been another candidate shot dead. She has relatives who are tricycle drivers, so usually hears these things quickly.

We are supposed to have Comelec guard the teachers and bureaucrats who are counting the votes, and soldiers stopping politicians’ goons from intimidating the voters. The international human rights organizations are correct in pointing out that the military and police may have links with many of the hit jobs against leftist agitators (who often have NPA links, and the NPA does their own “intimidation” too). But here in the provinces, things are not that simple. We’re still semi feudal and resemble the Borgias rather than Ho Chi Minh. It’s about power, prestige, and of course getting one’s hand in the cookie jar.

Politicians not only give out gifts for support (aka vote buying, but not quite) but they have private armies with them who can intimidate people. This includes shooting rivals and their families, and shootouts during heated exchanges, such as the one last week, where two politicians goons shot it out…not a hit job, since both politicians had family with them.

So will people vote? Probably. Philippinos are known for their humor and jokes, but there is a sense of macho bravery in both men and women, and also a sense of Asian fatalism.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket 

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