What I've Learned

Mina Fajardo Bergara of the COMELEC 35

Mina Fajardo Bergara walked out on February 9, 1986 to protest the apparent tampering of election results. Here's what she's learned, what she hopes for.
IMAGE National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections
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Mina Fajardo Bergara served as the IT Specialist for the Commission on Elections in the 1986 snap presidential elections; one of 35 tabulators who walked out on February 9, 1986 to protest the apparent tampering of election results. The walkout began a string of events that eventually led to the People Power Revolution.

In 1986, the COMELEC commissioned a private company to do the election quick count, because there was so much mistrust from the public. They got the services of the National Computer Center (NCC), which is a government agency under the Office of the President. Since we only had two months to finish the whole thing, everybody at NCC was somehow involved in the preparation. Project managers, system designers, and project analysts were involved in the development of the whole system to do the tabulation. I was a part of one of the teams in the project management office. There were many computers to generate the results per region, and there were people manning those computers. If I remember correctly, I was assigned to man the results of Regions 3 and 4, working on the night shift.

In general, the people at that time were feeling very cautious, because after 20 years of Martial Law, they were sort of unsure about what was happening, but at the same time they were optimistic—like finally, we have an election; and finally we can have somebody new at Malacañang. I remember the campaign was intense.


My hope is that we will never go back to the Martial Law years, when so many human rights violations and extrajudicial killings happened. It’s simply too high a price to pay. I hope that we will have leaders who will learn from the past and can guide us and can lead us to ensure that whatever economic gain we will have will reach our masses.

The whole thing started on the night of February 8, when we noticed that the figures we were generating—meaning the reports that we had per region—did not tally with those posted on the board for the public to see. Essentially the process would go like this: We would get the telex from the regions, and we would convert this telex into digital format. They would give us diskettes and it would be segregated by 35 regions, and we would run the data through the tabulation program, and it would show the results per region. One machine would do the summary of all the regional totals, and this report would be given to a group of consultants who would check the veracity of the reports, and then they would be given to the people who would manually post them on the board for the public to see.

At that time, on around February 7 and 8, the results were coming in trickles, so the people who were coming to the PICC to watch us were actually booing and heckling us, saying that the reason why the reports were very slow was because we were doctoring them, which is the farthest from the truth. So, on February 8, when they started posting on the board, we noticed there were some discrepancies between our printouts, and what was being posted. One of the senior designers of the program, Irma Sunico-Buño, reported the anomaly to one of the senior [officers]. She was kind of agitated—she said something was wrong, and she was very confi dent that the programs they had written was right. But Shiony Binamira told her to check everything first, to make sure that there were no bugs in the program. They came back the next day and said there were no bugs.

On the morning of February 9, there was a visit from [then-US Senator John Kerry] to inspect how things were being run. We had to generate a tally when he came and he was comparing the figures that we had versus the figures in the tally board, and at that time, everything aligned. The figures we had were exactly the same. So we just thought there must’ve been a glitch somewhere. People became more relaxed as we waited for more results to come in to be processed. Though from then on, we noticed that some of the senior guys managing us became more strict. We couldn’t group together, or look at the figures from the person doing the summary. We were just told to stay in our station and do our assignments.

On the night of the 9th, we noticed the discrepancy again. We started writing down what was written on the board and making extra copies for ourselves. Since we couldn’t group together, we used our dinner breaks to talk about what was happening. During one of those meetings, we made the mutual decision to call our superiors. We asked them to go back to the PICC so we could discuss what we were observing. On the next run, when the discrepancies continued on, we went to a room and narrated the whole incident to our bosses, Shiony Binamira and Linda Kapunan. They asked someone higher than them about what was happening—but no one could explain the discrepancies. At that point, we decided that we didn’t want to be a part of this, whatever was happening, we didn’t want to all our efforts to create honest, right programs to go into waste.


So the decision was to go home. Linda Kapunan asked for cars. We simply wanted to go home and have drinks, because we were all tired. We decided that one of the girls would give a signal, and everyone would go at a certain point when the cars were there. We also figured we would have to tell the media, because nobody aside from us actually knew what was going on. Nobody had a copy of the results we were generating. So the only thing the public could see were the figures posted on the board. No one was aware that what was being posted was different from our figures. So when we walked out, we thought everything was well, and we were just going home.

We were surprised that there were so many people outside of PICC, and suddenly we were surrounded. We could hear people shouting, “Protect them! Protect them! Keep them safe!” We started thinking, why do we need protection? It dawned on me that our act of walking out would be perceived as an act against the current regime. I heard the instructions given to our driver: if anyone would try to stop our car, they should shoot it out with those blocking our car. It was then that I realized that I was really in grave danger. Some of the members in our group started crying. We couldn’t drive away because everyone was blocking us. We were trapped. One of the cars, I remember, had 13 people inside.


We heard people suggesting that they take us to the Mondragon Industries Building, I think the headquarters of Cory Aquino’s party at that time—but we said no. Somebody suggested the US embassy—but we said no. Until we heard someone suggest Baclaran, so we went there, to a room behind the altar. The whole place was packed with reporters, people were giving us food and mattresses. We said we just wanted to go home. The only priest there was Father [Joaquin] Bernas from Ateneo, and Siony asked him to tell the people to go away. Father said, “The people will not leave until you give a statement.” So right then and there, we had to scribble a statement to the public, telling them that what we did was simply to protect the integrity of our profession. We did not do anything to go against anyone, we are not political. It’s simply a protest because we felt like they were making a mockery of everything, of all the efforts that we had done.

If I remember correctly, we were in hiding from February 9 to February 18. We had to move from one place to another. I remember distinctly we were hiding during Valentine’s Day. There was a priest from Ateneo who would do all the shopping for us: shampoo, soap, sanitary napkins, medicine... and on Valentine’s day we requested for a heart-shaped cake (laughs). While hiding, we tried to maintain a normal life, even if people were breaking down. I myself broke down at the Cenacle Retreat House when I realized that I may not see my family again.

When were told we could go home, we were advised to go to the province. Looking back, it was like a cryptic message— Red Kapunan [Editor’s note: Lt. Col. Red Kapunan was Linda’s then-husband, and was one of the leaders of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement] was telling us that he had a dream, that there was blood in the streets, and he told us to go home to our respective provinces. So I went home to Pampanga where my father had my kids.

The walking-out was a decision of people who were physically tired, and those who would not allow others to use what they’ve done for whatever purposes. We’d been working together at the NCC for a long time, and we take pride and have dignity in what we do, in the integrity of our work—that none of us can be bought. And that was the sentiment we brought into the preparation for the whole COMELEC thing.

Courage is acting in spite of your fear. It was people coming together to EDSA in ‘86, unsure of what will confront them, or if there will even be a tomorrow.

Integrity is knowing what is right and standing by it. At work, it means being professional. It is walking out from the 1986 Quick Count because we did not want to give credence to the untenable situation where our generated figures do not tally with the posted election results.

Courage is acting in spite of your fear. It was people coming together to EDSA in ‘86, unsure of what will confront them, or if there will even be a tomorrow.

I’ve learned that when you work, it’s not just simply getting the job done.


In terms of the candidates: then, the vote was between right and wrong. Today, we are voting for someone who you think would best lead our country to greater heights.

The elections then and now, as far as computerization is concerned, are very much different. In 1986, it was barely computerized—it was really just the tabulation part that was computerized; whereas now, the actual voting is computerized. In terms of the candidates: then, the vote was between right and wrong. Today, we are voting for someone who you think would best lead our country to greater heights.

The era of the Internet has allowed our youth to get information fast, and there’s so much information out there. What I would advise the youth to do is to read and discern, not just simply accept what is there. They have to research, read a lot, and decide for themselves what is the truth.

A good citizen is one who is responsible, who believes that the change should start from within, and not to simply expect the leaders to make the change. Every citizen should act responsibly, be it against climate change, social injustice, or corruption.

A good citizen is one who is responsible, who believes that the change should start from within, and not to simply expect the leaders to make the change. Every citizen should act responsibly, be it against climate change, social injustice, or corruption.

I believe that Filipinos are a great people. Filipinos have a good sense of humor. Filipinos are hospitable. Filipinos are resilient. They take care of each other.

My hope is that we will never go back to the Martial Law years, when so many human rights violations and extrajudicial killings happened. It’s simply too high a price to pay. I hope that we will have leaders who will learn from the past and can guide us and can lead us to ensure that whatever economic gain we will have will reach our masses.

Anyone can be a hero. People can defeat the Bystander Effect, which is when people act less if others are watching. If no one is stepping up yet, we should just do it.

This piece originally appeared in our May 2016 issue. The photos in this article are sourced from the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections.

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About The Author
Meoni Bergara
Meoni Bergara is a journalism major at UP Diliman. It was only a few years back when she came out of the literary closet, realizing that writing is more than putting words together to make them sound pretty. While she still has much to learn about herself, the dynamics of those around her, and the phenomenon of life—she remains optimistic about the future and what it has in store.
View Other Articles From Meoni
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