Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesman James Jimenez did his job well. He led a successful initiative to educate voters, mounted drives to raise awareness around abusive political campaign practices, and publicised processes and procedures to encourage Filipinos to register and vote. In a country where confidence in the electoral process delivering fair results is so low that many ordinary Filipinos view any effort to vote as an exercise in futility, Jimenez’s is a thankless job.
Unfortunately his personal track record of exercising the very privilege he is pitching to his compatriots had recently caught up with him…
Jimenez confessed his voter’s registration has been deactivated because of his failure to vote in the last two elections. He said his work with the poll body prevented him from going to his voting precinct.
Jimenez said he has not been able to reactivate his registration, making him ineligible to participate in the local absentee voting, which is being offered by the Comelec for its employees, other government employees and military and police who will be working on Election Day.
Indeed, unfortunate. Jimenez did his job well. So well, perhaps, that he neglected to sort out his personal circumstances relevant to this job. In his own apology to the public, he rightly called this oversight “inexcusable”. But I agree however with what Jimenez also said in his apology — that the shortcomings of one campaigner should not diminish the righteousness of an advocacy.
How many of us are top-notch organisers and systematisers in our day jobs but fall short of the same standards we apply at the office in the running of our own households? I personally maintain a tightly-organised folder structure and sparse desktop in my work PC. The computer I own for personal use, on the other hand, is anything but. Most of my files are strewn in a clutter across its desktop and my folder structure is a random blob devoid of any logical hierarchy. Does the scandalous state of my personal PC diminish the quality of the work I put in in my day job? Hardly.
Sadly, Jimenez will be judged harshly by a public who see him as the face of the COMELEC and its well-run advocacy to encourage Filipinos to go out not just to vote, but to vote wisely. The COMELEC, after all, is not one of the more trusted government agencies around, perhaps ranking just a notch above the Philippines’ Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in that space.
For people who are quick to indict Jimenez for his personal lapse in rigour, the important question to ask is really quite simple:
Does the personal circumstances of a communicator make what he is communicating any wronger or righter?
I am an overseas Filipino. I get challenged a lot by people who see this little fact as a basis for evaluating the validity of the views I articulate and publish on the Net. I also have blogging colleagues who suffer the same sort of non-sequitur arguments thrown by critics who use privileged knowledge of their (my colleagues’) personal circumstances to discredit them and their messages. This is a fundamental but common failure in thinking.
My questions therefore to Mr Jimenez are a bit off-tangent…
(1) How did your personal circumstances as a voter come to be made pubic?
…or if you took personal initiative to make this information public;
(2) Why did you feel compelled to do so?
As far as I know, your status as a voter, your willingness to vote, and your actual track record of voting are all as personal as who you have voted for or will vote for had you voted in the past or if you plan to vote in the coming elections. All of that is none of anyone’s business. The really important thing that everyone should really be paying attention to is what you say as spokesman of the COMELEC. Because what you say is the outcome of doing your job.
Filipinos should go out and vote. Because for most ordinary Filipinos, voting is pretty much the only option available to exert any semblance of influence over the quality of the people who represent and govern them. Indeed, failing to vote does not absolve any of us from accountability for the quality of the government we get. But whether we vote or not and who we vote for if we do is personal.
[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]