This narrative is a testimony to PCJ servants’ willingness to serve outside of their comfort zones and to join hands, minds and hearts to serve God and country.
With barely a month to go, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the accredited Citizens’ Arm of the COMELEC, was informed that the May 14, 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will push through. The different PPCRV chapters across the country, were instructed to immediately organize.
Appointed by the PCJ Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) as head of the PCJ PPCRV for the May 14, 2018 elections, I was asked to represent PCJ in the Parañaque District 2 PPCRV organizational meeting, where the very urgent need to organize in each Parish the PPCRV organization and volunteers was the main agenda.
Believing that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose me for this task, I willingly agreed and lifted up the task to Him. I did not know how to proceed, given the very short notice, but help came from all quarters – parish servants volunteered for the various tasks needed to prepare and put in place the electoral machinery.
First to volunteer assistance was Melot Moral, a veteran PPCRV volunteer. “She can help you”, that’s what they said. When I approached her, without hesitation, she said: “ I will contact our former volunteers”. I was elated to know that at last I had somebody to work with.
Grace Lerios sent me a Viber(tm) message informing me that she has created a Viber Group Chat for PPCRV volunteers. That initiative of Grace gave me the boost to act quickly.
A PPCRV core group composed of PCJ servant-leaders was organized with the help of Grace. This core group provided the needed logistical support. Initial members of the Core team were: Gardi & Grace Lerios to head the secretariat; Melot Moral and Bobbit Annonuevo to head the poll watchers group; Mich Peralta to head the Voter’s Assistance Desk; Minnie Ramas of Commission On Youth (COY) galvanized the youth to action; Relly Nebreja for the security; and Lorna & Albert Buenviaje, our PPC Heads, for guidance and support, vital to the success of the group.
The core team was expanded to include Dailou Yap to represent Fr. Willie Ramos and the Parish Office; Chit Cabrejas to handle the Finance and Food; and Dan Cosme to help in the physical set up.
Romy Bordallo and Rene Estaniel were added to beef-up the security and crowd control group. Former PCJ PPCRV Coordinator, Atty. Bobby del Castillo, shared his experience in the 2016 elections. Members of the core team willingly accepted the tasks assigned to them and each contributed their best ideas knowing the urgency to put in place a working PCJ PPCRV organization.
The challenge was tremendous. Instead of the PCOS machines, the election process was to be manual. More voters were expected because it was a local election.
The PCJ PPCRV volunteers were assigned to man the Multi Purpose Hall (Rotary Club Basketball Court). There were 75 precincts clustered into 35 clustered precincts. There were a total of 11,582 registered voters eligible to vote for regular Barangay officials and 3,261 registered voters for Sangguniang Kabataan. With the ideal ratio of 3 volunteers per precinct we needed more volunteers.
Fr. Willie agreed to the announcing in all Sunday Masses of April 29, an appeal for volunteer sign-ups. With that awareness, more came forward to volunteer.
With the approval of Father Willie, a second collection in all masses of April 29th was announced to support the financial needs of the PPCRV. The parishioners responded generously and the financial needs were met.
Follow-up meetings by the core team were done on May 3 and 9 to finalize the list of volunteers, the food and drinks requirements, the security and crowd control plan, voters’ assistance procedure, physical set-up, t-shirts and IDs.
The general assembly of all volunteers was held on May 12 at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Center (SHJC) where a poll-watching seminar was conducted by Atty. Ronald Tugonon. The t-shirts and IDs were distributed by the secretariat. Final briefing for volunteers was then held. Volunteers were assigned as poll watchers, voters’ assistants, security, ushers, crowd controllers, food and drinks providers, medical assistants, and secretariat.
In less than a month, the PCJ PPCRV organization was ready with 100 dedicated volunteers.
Then it came: Election Day – 14 May 2018. The election process started as early as 6:00 in the morning and ended close to midnight. Before assuming their duties in their respective precincts, the poll watchers offered their day to the Eternal Father and asked Him “to be with them and guide them in what they have to do and what they have to say should the need arise”. Because there were not enough volunteers to man all 35 clustered precincts, some poll watchers had to do double duty, manning two clustered precincts at any given time.
Our youth volunteers joined the “veteran” volunteers in performing their tasks without complaint, in spite of the oppressing heat inside the basketball court. Thanks to the Food Committee and youth volunteers, no one suffered from heat stroke, since supply of drinking water was abundant.
The Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections were successful. The flow of voters getting inside the voting center was orderly and voters easily found their precincts without any trouble. It is amazing to know that our poll watchers were able to get the Certificates of Votes from all 75 precincts, thanks to the leadership of Melot.
The story of the PCJ PPCRV volunteers is a happy story – a story of team work and dedication; a story of friendship and camaraderie; a story of love for God and country! For without the grace of God, all efforts would have come to naught. It is by the grace of God alone that the PCJ PPCRV was organized with all the support needed and was put in place in less a month.
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the wonderful core team, to our volunteers, and to our very supportive Fr. Willie. Thank you! Thank you! And Thank you!