How Voting Happens in the Philippines

Today is the day Filipinos exercise their civic duty and vote.

If you are aged 18 and above, you are allowed to vote for half of the senate seat (12 out of 24), and part of your local government (e.g., mayor, councilors, etc.). The entire list are here.

My mom and I woke up early to go to our local precinct to vote. Since I’ve been away for almost a decade, sadly, I wasn’t registered, but I was happy to accompany my mom and act as her body guard. Voters by the way had to be registered by October 2012, or would be ineligible to vote.

Our precinct is in a local university, right beside the squatter area. Here is the street leading up to the backend entrance of the school.

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By the entrance, you can verify your correct precinct and information. Voting precincts open at 7:00am, and close at 7:00pm. Citizens are asked to bring their identity cards to verify their registration online.

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Thank God for this volunteers who made the process even smoother!

Since my mom is a senior citizen, we thankfully didn’t have to fall in line, and was lead straight to the voting area. Woe are those who had to suffer the long lines.

In the Philippines, the voting area is usually a covered basketball court. Here you can see it’s just made by makeshift wooden separates, with the voters asked to sit in wooden chairs and given simple folders to “cover” up their votes.

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Watchers can sit by the side, away from the voters. But it’s not really that big of a problem to both watch and take photos. I got away with it, haha!

In the special voting area where you are given a ballot, a marker, and secrecy folder. Similar to taking a computerized standardized test, you are asked to shade the oval beside the candidate’s name you are voting for.

No erasures are allowed, so it’s advisable that you already have a list of candidates before entering the poll. You can under-vote but not over-vote, or your ballot will be invalidated.

Afterwards, the ballot is fed to a machine and the election officer will mark your finger with indelible ink. Here is my mommy’s finger.

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It’s supposed to only wash off after a few days.

Thankfully, since the entire process is computerized, there is less cheating during the elections. In the olden days, votes are counted manually and the counters are paid to add a few 0s to the total count.

These days, since voting is computerized, cheating occurs beforehand.

Vote-buying still remains to be popular, and widespread. My auntie for example, has been approached and has been offered to sell her votes. If she and her household can vote for a specific list of candidates which would be given earlier, each of them would receive Php 500 (approx. USD 12).

That’s still not that high,” my auntie said. “Some of my helpers were asked by their elders to go back to the province to vote with the promise payment of Php 5,000.00) each!”

That’s almost USD 112! You can buy a lot of things with USD 112…

A photo of a sample ballot and the bribe is attached. As you can see, it already contains the list of voters you have to go for.


It saddens me that democracy has led us to this. Since Filipino over 18 years old is allowed to vote, it is sad to see this process abused.

My vote doesn’t count” one voter may say in defense of vote-selling. “If I sold my vote, one person shouldn’t make too big a difference.”

That is true, my friend. But one vote totals to a lot of votes collectively. If you sell your vote, then how much more will the others sell theirs?

In other words, you are selling your right to vote for a measly Php 500. To put it in perspective, Php 500 is 1.5x the average daily wage rate. This is the cost of one vote in the Philippines. And yes, vote buying is still sadly rampant.

Despite all this farce, it still doesn’t matter. While we cannot completely stop cheating, at the very least, we can do our best to prevent or minimize it.

For one, we can always try to keep abreast with what’s going on, and get ourselves informed of our candidates’ credentials and their respective agendas. While it may be a losing battle, at least, we are doing our part.

Two, let us discourage vote buying amongst our own households. Tell our household help to keep their dignity by making their own choices, and not sell out to others.

Three, do not vote for those candidates who are buying votes. And do our best to inform others who these corrupt officials are!

Today is the day of the elections. Vote wisely everyone!

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