CAN'T TEACH old dogs new tricks, so it's said. Same thing, ho-hum, holds ever true for one of the Philippine's most doggone institution: the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Hereunder is a reprint of my latest opinion column in Sun.Star Cebu (July 18, 2007):
One doesn't have to be bad to go to hell. Doing good, like coming to terms with your right to be a registered voter, would be enough for a soul-scorching ordeal.
Nope, the gospel of Matthews had it mixed up when he bid you and me to "enter through the narrow gate." Where heaven doesn't wait at the end of the queue, the portal of the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is neither wide nor broad, but it still "leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it."
Horror happens not only when the cold crawls up one's spine, but also when one's head shakes. Or pivots a la Linda Blair when one's eyeballs dilate at this jolly dreadful dispatch: “The first day of registration for the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in Oct. 29 saw an impatient and rowdy crowd jeering at Cebu City Commission on Elections (Comelec) personnel for the delay."
Mayhem ran loose, so the report goes. Registration process "took seven hours to finish for some…Priority numbers were distributed late in the morning, but not everyone lining up received one." Were they waiting for Godot?
Come along with an exorcist, quick. Brace yourself for the slow burn of boredom, if not the creepy probability of a demonic possession when elbowing your way through the Comelec throng. Restless, they might as well be smoking out of their ears and spewing sulfur at the Comelec personnel who must have been cowering at their wit's end as if confronted by a lynch mob.
“Dalawang bagay lang ang mahalaga sa mundo," the cuckolded clock-repair guy in Ishmael Bernal's classic Ikaw ay Akin waxes philosophic. “Paghahanap at paghihintay."
But searching for systematic process and waiting for deliverance proved for those who went to Comelec no less harrowing than waiting in line for the gas chamber. Literally so, if we reckon how many had to endure inhaling a whiff of lethal wind breaking from the bowels, let alone Comelec's miasma of mismanagement.
Digging up the dead does seem less dire than getting a grip on the poll body's rot—from its putrid process of registration to its worm's pace of counting the votes, no thanks to its failure to latch on to modernization and to computerize the election process.
Pray tell, what unspeakable wrongs have we, especially those voter-wannabes, done in our previous lives to deserve a purgatory via Comelec? Everything awful about it has been aired out ad nauseam, and yet it continues to roil up the throat like regurgitated vomit.
How, then, do you solve a problem like lining up at the Comelec?
Lest you'd resort to shouting fire or strapping yourself with a bogus bomb—God forbid, just because you want badly for the crowd to scamper out of your way—consider whiling away your time with these few options:
* Bring a copy of Proust's La Recherche Du Temps Perdu so that you'd hit two birds with one stone by savoring how to take things slow and remember things past as well as impressing people that you're an intellectual who knows cursing is more elegant in French.
* Lug along your videoke component and earn money by charging people for a chance to warble their ulcers out instead of jarring the air with jeers for Comelec's ears long deaf to the broken record called change.
* Lead the praying of the rosary, but concentrate on the sorrowful mysteries. These, heaven knows, are what unravel in Comelec any given day. It's in the direst circumstance, after all, that one can stretch one's capacity for being holy sort of foolhardy.