On the night of the canvassing of votes at the Baguio Convention Center, the loudest sound that can be heard in the area did not come from inside the hall where the general public was barred from entering and only Comelec personnel, poll watchers and members of the media were allowed to witness the counting of votes. It came from a loudspeaker just a few meters from the entrance – a bingo game was ongoing and apparently an election was not reason enough for the operators of the gambling game nor the supposed beneficiary (we were told that it was a “Barangay fund-raising effort”) to show some respect and give way to the process that is the heart of our democracy.
We called the attention of a policeman on duty, who escorted us to their commander who was slouched on a chair on one side with his feet up, texting. “May permit yata sila e,” he said to and without looking at us. “Yata.” I asked, would you like to get up and check if they do have one? He didn’t reply. A city councilor who happened to be in the area politely reminded the commander that gambling is prohibited during elections, whether they had a permit or not. Still no reaction from the commander. I said, “hindi po ba nakakahiya ang Baguio na habang nagbibilang tayo ng boto ng taumbayan ay may pasugalan sa tabi ng bilangan?”
So what happened inside? Out of 153, 423 registered voters in Baguio City, the total number of votes cast for mayor was only 86,945, which meant that 66,478 did not bother or were unable to choose the city’s top executive in this election. For congressman, there were 86,976 votes cast, and 66,447 missed the chance to choose their representative in congress. In Baguio, just over half of the voting population, 57%, made their voices heard.
The incumbent mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, garnered 43, 218 votes – or more than 4,000 votes less than his total in 2010. Opposition candidate Jose Molintas got 39,073, or over 12,000 more than what he got three years ago. The decrease in Domogan’s votes and the overwhelming increase in Molintas’ were not enough though to unseat the incumbent, or steer this city towards a new, better, direction.
So who won inside the Baguio Convention Center? Mauricio G. Domogan. And while only 28% of us wanted Mauricio Domogan to continue to be at the helm, the rest of us, the 72% who either did not vote for him or at all, would have to rally behind him in every just, righteous and honest endeavor that would help make Baguio a better place for all of us,or in front of him whenever an attempt is made to put the welfare of the people and this city in peril.
So who won in that bingo game just outside the Baguio Convention Center? I don’t know, but I know that the people of Baguio lost there and the people behind the travesty just spat on the face of our democracy and the dignity of our beautiful city.