Optional bloc voting in the 2010 elections is one of the practical and easy ways to strengthen the political party system, and thus strengthen democracy, in the Philippines. Optional bloc voting entails that the design of the election ballot will allow a voter who wants to vote for all the national candidates of a particular party from president, vice-president, to the 12 senators to simply mark a box corresponding to the party. Since this is optional, those who still want to mix the candidates of different parties can do so by shading the boxes in front of their names in the long ballot for the automated elections.
Optional bloc voting will make voting easier for those who do vote straight for a party's national candidates, and will make the counting easier, as long as the counting machines are programmed properly. More importantly, optional bloc voting will encourage the candidates to actively campaign for their parties and to take their party platforms seriously. Thus it will strengthen party discipline, loyalty, and teamwork.
Yesterday, I asked Comelec Chair Jose Melo about the possibility of optional bloc voting in the coming elections, and he said that it would require a law and it did not seem feasible because of insufficient time plus its negative baggage because it was practiced during the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa (Transitional National Parliament) elections in which Ninoy Aquino and the Laban candidates were cheated and the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement) of the Marcos dictatorship swept the polls.
Chair Melo might be unaware that bloc voting was practiced during the Commonwealth period before the Second World War, and it is practiced with favorable results in some current democracies. Even though I believe that, strictly speaking, a new law is not required for the Comelec to design the ballot to facilitate optional bloc voting, Congress might have to pass a law in order to obligate the Comelec to offer the option to voters. Conscientious citizens should clamor both Congress and the Comelec to offer Filipinos this option so we can strengthen our democracy. The return of optional bloc voting can be considered one of the priorities for parties today.