Why Saramago’s Seeing is Impossible in the Philippines

Reposted from last year because it’s almost election time again and because it’s been raining and I’m doing something more important rather than write anything new for this blog now. Thus, here’s something about Saramago’s novel Seeing and elections in the country which I originally posted in my former blog last year.

It’s been raining here Metro Cebu straight every afternoon since Wednesday, reminding me of the introductory passages of one of the books that I’m now reading – Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago’s book – Seeing.

The book started by narrating the circumstances of the elections in the capital of a “democratic but right-wing state.” “Terrible voting conditions,” remarked a polling station official as really heavy rain in the morning of Election day seemed to have discouraged the populace from coming out and vote.

But surprisingly, a deluge of voters all went to the polling stations late in the afternoon leading the Ministry in charge of elections to extend the hours given for voting. However, after the counting (which was amazingly done in the dawn after the polling day) it was found out that 70% of the ballots are blank!

Amidst all the disquiet in the capital, the polls was repeated one week after in accordance with the law but with the same results as the number of blank votes increased to 83%! Panic seized the nation’s political class as they grappled with the unexplained attack on “democratic normality.”

Thus, intelligence operatives were redirected to double efforts in spying against its own citizens to get to the heart of this “destabilization” attempt. But failing to decipher anything, the terrified authorities declared a state of state emergency. Then a state of siege. And so on…


1986 Snap Elections Ballot Boxes by banyuhay.

In my view, the book offers a satirical attack on the growing disinterest in politics of the electorates of the affluent nations and the role of the traditional politicians and parties and their “business-as-usual” attitude which leads to the degrading of the state institution’s credibility.

However, I don’t think the storyline is applicable in the Philippines. That is despite the same “trapo” attitudes of both our country’s and the story’s politicians. The reason I have in mind is also outside the obvious disparity between a modern capitalist country and our own economically lagging country.

If the situation presented in the book, where voters left ballots blank during elections, did occur in the Philippines, officials would not display the same panic that seized the politicians portrayed in the book. While the said book plot underscores the disillusionment of the electorate over the political system, I am sure that our own authorities will be quick to seize the opportunities presented by such a phenomenon.

What I am saying is – with a Comelec that stands for “Commissions from Elections” and a gang of traditional politicians known for vote buying, vote padding and shaving and all sorts of electoral shenanigans, the situation narrated in the book would make another Maguindano experience easier to conduct.

The more blank entries, the more chances of winning! The merrier it will be for corrupt officials and more commissions for the Comelec too! ■



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