The day started out early for Max’s Restaurant in Intramuros as national labor leaders, non-government organizations, church-based groups, and the media flocked to the venue for the launching of the Workers’ Electoral Watch or WE-Watch last February 22.
Of the expected 50 participants, seventy-three (73) showed up going well beyond the expectations of its organizer, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER). They represented a total of 58 unions, organizations and non-governmental organizations throughout the country. There were also regional participants coming from Davao, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Subic, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite.
Labor groups who graced the event include those from the telecommunications, banking, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and electronics industries. Also present were Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines, Mr. Joselito Natividad, the Executive Director for EILER, Mr. Johnny Cardenas, the NCR Director for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Atty. Carlos Medina, Co-Convenor of Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), Mr. Rick Bahague Jr., lead convenor of the Computer’s Professionals Union (CP-Union), and a representative from the Center for People Empowerment in Govenance (CenPEG).
“We in the Philippine labor sector are not against the automation of this important tool of governance, nor are we traditionalists rejecting technological advancement in the country’s political institutions. What we are against is the precipitate manner with which the automated election system (AES) is being deployed, and the propagation of the falsehood that automation in itself reduces or even eliminates electoral fraud,” said EILER’s Natividad whose statement synthesized the backdrop against which the WE-Watch was formed.
The PPCRV and CenPEG representatives shared this same conviction and expressed their support to the WE-Watch netwok in its bid to combat fraud in the May 2010 elections.
EU Ambassador MacDonald, whose agency is funding the project, imparted this message to the participants, “I would offer the thought that governance is not so much in the hands of those who govern. Rather, it is truly in the hands of those who are governed – and it is your choices, your voice, your vote which will set the course of Philippine democracy for the six years ahead, and for all the years after that.”
Shortly before noon, a press conference was held where media members inquired about the WE-Watch’s SMS monitoring mechanism. This was eagerly demonstrated later on in the program.
The audience was also treated to a performance by singer-composer Danny Fabella, who crafted the piece Bantayan ang Boto, WE-Watch’s official jingle.
By the end of the event, participants pledged their commitment to form an alliance for clean and honest elections by signing and affixing their thumbprints unto the WE Watch Unity Wall. “With the formation of this non-partisan network of worker-volunteers, we commit ourselves to promoting good governance, human rights and social justice,” capped Natividad.