Friday, October 30, 2009

The Butuanon Can!

This is the full text of my letter-complaint against Abelardo Saco, Butuan City Election Officer, addressed to the COMELEC Chairman Jose R. Melo, Republic of the Philippines.

I do not know what will come out of this complaint. At least, I can sleep well at night knowing that I did something about the situation, rather than keep on yakking about it and do nothing. It is my prayer that this small voice in the wilderness will be heard and get results.

I know there are a lot of Butuanons who wish to see change in Butuan. I know we can do it if we exert a unified effort, one step at a time. To those who are far away from Butuan, your prayers will be enough to help this cause. If you know anybody who went through a similar situation, please direct them to me or to ABS-CBN Butuan.

I already contacted the people from ABS-CBN TV Patrol Caraga. They might accompany me when I furnish the copies of this letter to Mr. Saco, the Mayor's Office and the Civil Service Commission - Caraga, this afternoon. At this point, FAITH and HOPE are all we really have. God bless us all!


October 30, 2009

Chairman Jose R. Melo
Commission on Elections
Republic of the Philippines

Dear Chairman Melo:

My name is Jennifer Michelle Flores Navarra-Divinagracia, an overseas worker who is based in Japan since October 2000. I recently came back to the Philippines to have my voter status reactivated through COMELEC – Butuan City. I have been traveling to the Philippines and back to Japan for the last 10 years. The last time I voted was in 1998 but I remember applying for a Voter’s ID when I changed my last name and updated my civil status after I got married in 2003. I would just like to share my grueling experience at the hands of Mr. Abelardo Saco, City Election Officer of Butuan City.

I originally planned to come home on the first week of December 2009 to process my voter reactivation, before the original deadline for registration, which was December 30, 2009. I am one of the many voters who were saddened when the deadline was moved to October 15, 2009. At that time, I was still waiting for my Machine-Readable Passport (MRP) from the Philippine Consulate of Osaka, so I was already losing hope about voting on May 2010. With God’s grace, I finally received my passport around the same time that COMELEC announced the extension of the deadline for registration to October 31, 2009. I immediately booked my flight back to Butuan via Manila from Nagoya. I safely landed in Butuan City last Friday, October 23, 2009.

On Monday morning, October 26, 2009, at 8AM sharp, I went to the COMELEC office in Butuan City and was accommodated by one of the COMELEC - Butuan personnel. I later learned that he is Mr. Abelardo Saco, Butuan City Election Officer. I showed him my previous Acknowledgement Receipt bearing my Application No. 020230000310. I also mentioned to Mr. Saco that I checked my status at the COMELEC website and found out that my status is deactivated. Mr. Saco DID NOT BOTHER TO HAVE MY STATUS CHECKED THROUGH THE OFFICE DATABASE. Instead, he told me outright that since my status is deactivated, I needed to line up outside the office together with the last-minute registrants. I graciously thanked Mr. Saco and went outside the COMELEC office to fall in line.

Outside the COMELEC office, I learned that COMELEC - Butuan is only processing 250 registrants per day. The line outside the office that Monday morning was around 1,000 people, most of whom, were already in line since the previous evening. There was no priority list whatsoever but there was also no rule against proxy-queuing. So, I arranged for somebody to fall in line for me at midnight that night for processing the following day. However, at around 6:30PM that evening, I was informed that the line for October 27 (Tuesday) already exceeded 50 people. Upon hearing this, I was alarmed and immediately asked my proxy to proceed to the COMELEC office to start falling in line. My proxy arrived at COMELEC - Butuan at around 9PM. The people in queue made a head count among themselves and my proxy was already 212th in line.

I went back to COMELEC - Butuan shortly before 8AM on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. At 8AM, the COMELEC staff started releasing the 250 application forms which were to be processed that day. I witnessed first-hand how bad the system was but I had no choice but to trust our good COMELEC staff that they knew what they were doing. Things got worse when the 250 forms were about to run out. There was too much pushing and shoving and the COMELEC people were not able to control the situation. The military personnel at the location could only look on because they really could not start shooting at the unruly crowd. Needless to say, MY PROXY WAS NOT ABLE TO GET AN APPLICATION FORM EVEN AFTER ENDURING 12 HOURS IN LINE WITH NO SLEEP. My heart just broke when I learned that some of the people in queue were there for 3 days already. These are those who lived in the far-flung barrios who were forced to camp out at the COMELEC office just to process their registration. They were already panicking because their food provision was already depleted. I could not bear the thought of these people being forced to endure another day of the same rotten process that I witnessed that morning.

I decided to talk again to Mr. Abelardo Saco and offer my proposal for a more efficient system based on my personal experience with the very efficient town hall services in our area in Japan. I presented to Mr. Saco the easiest and most cost-effective procedure that I could think of under the circumstances which is the use of a priority list. This list is only for the releasing of the application form so that people who come in do not need to fall in line. Instead, they could just write their names on the list, indicate their category of application, and affix their signatures. This list would then be read throughout the day. When their name is called, the registrant will then personally present his/her valid ID, receive an application form, fill it up, and go through the rest of the procedure in an orderly manner. The same process will continue until the office closes at 9PM in the evening. Mr. Saco said that he will discuss my proposal with his subordinates and told me to go back at 1PM. Again, I graciously thanked Mr. Saco and promised to go back in the afternoon. 

As agreed, I promptly returned to the COMELEC office at 1PM. It was then that I was told that my proposal was denied. He did share to me their decision that starting Wednesday (October 28), instead of a priority list, they will release 500 application forms but still, only 250 will be processed that day. Application forms 251-500 will be processed on Thursday (October 29). This means that applicants 251-500 will be allowed to bring home the application forms and go back the next day. There is no guarantee that these people will go back with their tax-funded application forms so, there is already a risk of wasting government resources. The same procedure will be repeated for Friday and Saturday (October 31), which is the last day of registration. I tried to plead with Mr. Saco but he categorically said that the decision has been made by him and his subordinates. For the third time, I thanked Mr. Saco for considering my proposal and told him that I respected their decision.

At this point, I was already exasperated with the situation that I decided to use my humble connections at the Butuan City Hall. I did not want to resort to this because I am not the type of person who tolerates “palakasan” in the government system. Sadly, COMELEC - Butuan’s inefficiency left me no choice but to ask for help from some friends in the office. I only asked for my voter status to be checked through the COMELEC database. It turned out that I was indeed DEACTIVATED for failure to vote in the last two elections but I was already VALIDATED. This means that I only needed to fill up the yellow application form for Reactivation in 3 copies and print my two thumb marks. There was no need for me to line up for the forms contrary to what Mr. Saco told me when I first came to the COMELEC office on Monday morning. I was totally shocked that the whole procedure for my reactivation took less than fifteen minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder why Mr. Saco told me to fall in line and endure the same hell-like conditions of the last-minute new registrants while he was holding my previous Voter’s ID claim stub. He, of all people, being the head of office of COMELEC - Butuan, should know that the white claim stub that he was holding was proof that I already underwent the process of Voter ID registration.

I left the COMELEC office, relieved but still pondering on the possible reasons why Mr. Saco did what he did. I wanted to take everything at face value and consider it as just another case of INCOMPETENCE in the Philippine government system. But in all honesty, I FELT THAT I WAS DISCRIMINATED IN MY OWN COUNTRY.

It is in this regard that I strongly appeal to the good COMELEC Chairman to take disciplinary action against Mr. Abelardo Saco, City Election Officer of Butuan City, for GROSS INCOMPETENCE in the handling of the voter registration process in Butuan City. I could not stomach that the same Mr. Abelardo Saco will sit as Butuan City Election Officer come election time.

Mr. Chairman, please save Butuan City from the abomination that is Abelardo Saco.

Herewith attached are scanned copies of my old and new Acknowledgement Receipts for your reference.

Your very prompt action on this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Very truly yours,

Jennifer Michelle F. Navarra-Divinagracia
805 L.E. Amante St., P1 Ampayon, Butuan City
Precinct No. 0179-B
Voter ID Application No. 0202300000310


- COMELEC - Administrative Services Department
- Civil Service Commission – Caraga Region
- COMELEC – Butuan City
- Office of the City Mayor – Butuan City
- ABS-CBN “Boto Mo, Ipatrol Mo”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Type of Facebooker are You?

All of my closest friends should know by now that I'm a Facebook junkie. I am logged on almost the whole day and I find it sooooo hard to peel myself away from the monitor. So, imagine my amusement when I read this article on about the 12 Most Annoying Types of Facebookers. I immediately identified myself on the list. Can you guess which type I am?
The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore. "I'm waking up." "I had Wheaties for breakfast." "I'm bored at work." "I'm stuck in traffic." You're kidding! How fascinating! No moment is too mundane for some people to broadcast unsolicited to the world. Just because you have 432 Facebook friends doesn't mean we all want to know when you're waiting for the bus.

The Self-Promoter. OK, so we've probably all posted at least once about some achievement. And sure, maybe your friends really do want to read the fascinating article you wrote about beet farming. But when almost EVERY update is a link to your blog, your poetry reading, your 10k results or your art show, you sound like a bragger or a self-centered careerist.

The Friend-Padder. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. Schmoozers and social butterflies -- you know, the ones who make lifelong pals on the subway -- might reasonably have 300 or 400. But 1,000 "friends?" Unless you're George Clooney or just won the lottery, no one has that many. That's just showing off.

The Town Crier. "Michael Jackson is dead!!!" You heard it from me first! Me, and the 213,000 other people who all saw it on TMZ. These Matt Drudge wannabes are the reason many of us learn of breaking news not from TV or news sites but from online social networks. In their rush to trumpet the news, these people also spread rumors, half-truths and innuendo. No, Jeff Goldblum did not plunge to his death from a New Zealand cliff.

The TMIer. "Brad is heading to Walgreens to buy something for these pesky hemorrhoids." Boundaries of privacy and decorum don't seem to exist for these too-much-information updaters, who unabashedly offer up details about their sex lives, marital troubles and bodily functions. Thanks for sharing.

The Bad Grammarian. "So sad about Fara Fauset but Im so gladd its friday yippe". Yes, I know the punctuation rules are different in the digital world. And, no, no one likes a spelling-Nazi schoolmarm. But you sound like a moron.

The Sympathy-Baiter. "Barbara is feeling sad today." "Man, am I glad that's over." "Jim could really use some good news about now." Like anglers hunting for fish, these sad sacks cast out their hooks -- baited with vague tales of woe -- in the hopes of landing concerned responses. Genuine bad news is one thing, but these manipulative posts are just pleas for attention.

The Lurker. The Peeping Toms of Facebook, these voyeurs are too cautious, or maybe too lazy, to update their status or write on your wall. But once in a while, you'll be talking to them and they'll mention something you posted, so you know they're on your page, hiding in the shadows. It's just a little creepy.

The Crank. These curmudgeons, like the trolls who spew hate in blog comments, never met something they couldn't complain about. "Carl isn't really that impressed with idiots who don't realize how idiotic they are." [Actual status update.] Keep spreading the love.

The Paparazzo. Ever visit your Facebook page and discover that someone's posted a photo of you from last weekend's party -- a photo you didn't authorize and haven't even seen? You'd really rather not have to explain to your mom why you were leering like a drunken hyena and French-kissing a bottle of Jagermeister.

The Obscurist. "If not now then when?" "You'll see..." "Grist for the mill." "John is, small world." "Dave thought he was immune, but no. No, he is not." [Actual status updates, all.] Sorry, but you're not being mysterious -- just nonsensical.

The Chronic Inviter. "Support my cause. Sign my petition. Play Mafia Wars with me. Which 'Star Trek' character are you? Here are the 'Top 5 cars I have personally owned.' Here are '25 Things About Me.' Here's a drink. What drink are you? We're related! I took the 'What President Are You?' quiz and found out I'm Millard Fillmore! What president are you?" You probably mean well, but stop. Just stop. I don't care what president I am -- can't we simply be friends?

Not sure which type you are? Take the QUIZ.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The 37th International Emmy Awards

The nominations for the 37th International Emmy Awards have been announced. This year, the Philippines bagged three nominations:

Best Performance by an Actress
Angel Locsin
The Wolf (Lobo)
ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation

Best Telenovela
Magdusa Ka
GMA Network, Inc.

A Time for Us (Kahit Isang Saglit)
ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation/
Double Vision SDN BHD

Congratulations to the nominees! This is a good day for Philippine television! I hope this is the start of the end of the network wars and everybody will start focusing on how to produce better shows.

Angel Locsin's co-nominees include Julie Walters, who plays Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter film series. Interestingly, South Korea, which also produces popular Koreanobelas, only had 1 nomination.

The awarding ceremony will be held at the Hilton Hotel in New York on November 23, 2009. To see the full list of nominees, click HERE.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Efren Peñaflorida: CNN Hero of the Philippines

I first heard about Efren Peñaflorida from Lea Salonga's tweet on Twitter. Efren is a 28-year old former slum dweller who rose from poverty and formed Dynamic Teen Company, a team of teenage volunteers who teach basic reading and writing to Filipino street children via a "pushcart classroom". Efren is currently featured as 1 of 10 CNN Heroes of 2009. You may read more about Efren Peñaflorida on You may also vote for him as the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year by clicking the link below.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Frency II

As I wrote in my previous post, the month of September saw me scrambling to secure downloaded copies of US TV show season premieres. I checked out 10 new programs, plus 9 of my old favorites that came back for a fresh season. Below is a quick look at each of these returning shows.

"How I Met Your Mother" (Mondays @ 8PM on CBS) is my favorite comedy right now. If you are a fan of "Friends", you would easily warm up to this series and its 5 lead characters. The  whole premise of the show is set in  the year 2030, where lead character Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) narrates to his children how he met their mother. Thus, the title. Each episode recounts these events in flashback. The show is now on its 5th season and loyal viewers still have no idea who the mother is.

"Heroes" (Mondays @ 8PM on NBC) is a science fiction drama that was much compared to X-Men when it first came out. This is not surprising since they both have the same elements - superhuman abilities, good vs. evil, and graphic novel-like stroytelling. The success of "Heroes" is propped by its multimedia campaign. An  extension of the show exists as "Heroes Evolutions" on the internet. Go check it out!

"America's Next Top Model" (Wednesdays @ 8PM on CW) is a modeling reality show which is hosted and produced by supermodel Tyra Banks. Cycle 13 is particularly special because this is the petite model edition, which means all contestants are 5'7" and below. This is also the same cycle where a lot of girls were hurt during a stampede at the New York auditions.

"Fringe" (Thursdays @ 9PM on Fox) follows FBI special agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), mad scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble), his son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson of Dawson' Creek fame), and their team from FBI Fringe Division in Boston. Together, they investigate unexplained events which is part of "The Pattern". This series is said to be a geek's delight, with fans engaging in episode "mini-games" like "Spot the Observer" and "Break the Glyph Code".

"Grey's Anatomy" (Thursdays @ 9PM on ABC) is a multi-awarded medical drama that remains to be one of the most watched primetime shows on US television. However, the show lost some of its viewers last season  and the 2-hour Season 6 premiere was lackluster. Perhaps this was due to the numerous spoilers that spread on the internet about the death of George O'Malley (T.R. Knight).

"Private Practice"  (Thursdays @ 10PM on ABC) is a spin-off of  "Grey's Anatomy". It stars Kate Walsh as Dr. Addison Montgomery, the ex-wife of Seattle Grace Hospital's Dr. Derek Shepherd. The series follows Addison as she leaves Seattle and heads to sunny Los Angeles to join a private practice. Fans of both "Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy" enjoyed multi-episode crossovers during the first two seasons. I myself look forward to these crossovers.

"The Mentalist" (Thursdays @ 10PM on CBS) stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a "psychic medium" who serves as an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Simon Baker received an Emmy nomination for his role. This series averaged 17 million viewers during its premiere season. It also stars Robin Tunney as Teresa "the boss" Lisbon.

"Project Runway" (Thursdays @ 10PM on Lifetime) is a reality show which focuses on fashion design and is hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum. I only started watching this show during the season break. I downloaded and watched Season 5 and I was instantly hooked. Season 6 started ahead of all the other shows on August 20.

"Brothers & Sisters" (Sundays @ 10PM on CBS) is a family drama which focuses on the Walker family. The talented cast includes Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Balthazar Getty,  Rob Lowe, Patricia Wettig, and my favorite, Matthew Rhys. The Walkers are much like the Kennedys and watching the show makes me want to become part of the family.

My other comedy favorite, multi-awarded comedy series "30 Rock", will premiere its 4th season on October 15 @ 9:30PM on NBC.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall Frenzy

September is over. That means Fall Season TV is officially here. This past two weeks, my favorite TV shows from the US came back on air, as well as other new ones that are definitely worth watching. Here is a run down of the new shows that I watched which premiered in September, in order of their premiere dates.

"Glee" (Wednesdays @ 9PM on Fox) technically premiered in May 2009 but the 2nd episode was not shown until September 9. This show is most often compared to "High School Musical" but it has a wider audience demographic. The show focuses on a glee club or show choir of an Ohio high school. Chris Colfer who plays Kurt Hummel is a revelation. The pilot averaged 10 million viewers and it is the first to be picked up for a full season.

"Community" (Thursdays @ 9:30PM on NBC) is about a lawyer who was forced to enroll at community college after his degree was deemed invalid by the State Bar. I may soon tire of this show but for now, Danny Pudi as Abed makes me laugh.

"Accidentally on Purpose" (Mondays @ 8:30Pm on CBS) stars Jenna Elfman of "Will & Grace". She plays Billie, a San Francisco movie critic in her 30s, who gets pregnant after a one-night stand with a chef named Zack (Jon Foster). I love Jenna Elfman so I'm keeping this show on my list.

"The Forgotten" (Tuesdays @ 10PM on ABC) stars Christian Slater, who also starred in "My Own Worst Enemy", which was cancelled last year after only 9 episodes. The pilot episode of this new series, which is about a group of amateur detectives who volunteer to identify John and Jane Doe crime victims, did not captivate me. I'm watching 2 or 3 more episodes and if I'm still bored, I'm "forgetting" it.

"The Good Wife" (Tuesdays @ 10PM on CBS) has Ridley Scott as one of the executive producers. The "dream team" cast includes Juliana Margulies, Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth. The story revolves around Alicia Florrick (Margulies), the wife of politician, Peter Florrick (Noth), who returns to her old job as a defense attorney after her husband is jailed following a very public sex and corruption scandal. It's about time for a good legal drama such as this one to come to primetime television.

"Mercy" (Wednesdays @ 8PM on NBC) is a hospital drama which focuses on the nurses of Mercy Hospital. The pilot was my least favorite among the new shows simply because I find it unrealistic to have a show about nurses and not have any Filipinas. Filipina nurses are like signatures on every major hospital in the US! Let's see in the next episodes. I read that this show got good ratings.

"Modern Family" (Wednesdays @ 9PM on ABC) is a mockumentary-style comedy about a quirky family composed of Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), his daughter Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), his gay son Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Fergusin), and their own respective families. I did not read any spoilers about this show so I was genuinely surprised towards the end of the pilot when it was revealed that the three families are actually part of one big family. Also, the "Circle of Life" bit really got me laughing.

"Cougar Town" (Wednesdays @ 9:30PM on ABC) immediately follows "Modern Family". It stars "Friend" Courteney Cox as Jules Cobb, a 40-year old newly-single mother living in Florida with his 17-year old son. I was not wowed by the pilot but I'm still watching a few more episodes.

"Eastwick" (Wednesdays @ 10PM on ABC) is the 3rd new show on ABC's Wednesday night line-up. It is an adaptation of the novel, "The Witches of Eastwick", by John Updike, which also had a film adaptation in 1987. "Eastwick" is beong compared a lot to "Desperate Housewives" but I think "Eastwick" is slightly better. Maybe it's the magic!

"FlashFoward" (Thursdays @ 8PM on ABC) stars Joseph Fiennes as FBI agent Mark Benford, who ends up investigating a global phenomenon where everybody on the planet simultaneously lost consciousness for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During the blackout, people worldwide see what appear to be visions of their lives six months in the future. Towards the end of the pilot, a CCTV footage shows a mysterious man walking through a baseball stadium in Detroit while everybody else was unconscious. And so the mystery begins... and I'm hooked.

"The Beautiful Life". starring Mischa Barton, was this year's first casualty. The show, which followed the lives of New York models, got cancelled after 2 episodes. The 2nd episode had a dismal 1 million viewers or less than a third of executive producer Ashton Kutcher's Twitter followers. It's sad because I think it was better than those "90210" and "Melrose Place" rehashes. Oh well, let's see who gets the next axe.

Up next... my favorite returning shows and my take on the premieres. Stay tuned!