On why the Filipino youth must vote

Ideally, participating in elections is done by all youth.

My first fragmented memory about the Philippine election would probably be the 2007 Senatorial Election. It was under the Arroyo administration. My mom and my grandmother took me to their voting precinct early in the morning. They could not leave me to our house because my uncle was a volunteer vote watcher of a local politician in Manila, making me home alone.

As they cast their votes, my relatives asked the vote watchers to look after me. It was the last non-automated national election of our country, and I somehow experienced how it works. The vote watches observed that I was curious about what my guardians were doing. So, they gave me a sheet of paper and a pencil to ‘mimic’ what the actual voters do. I remembered how they just laughed at me as I turned sour about why my Mom and my Grandmother were the only ones who got the indelible ink to their pointing finger. Finally, the watchers explained that my votes are “invalid” because I just wrote the numbers 1 to 12.

As of this writing, four million Filipinos are now part of the pool of newly registered voters. During the previous 2019 elections, more than half of the registered voters are under the youth sector (aged 18 to 24). Given that many newly-registered voters will be coming from the youth sector, we are indeed the ‘game-changers’ of the upcoming election period. However, with the risk of misinformation, fake news, and historical revisionism—it should be deemed severe regarding what voting really can give in changing our nation.

Everything starts in school

Last week—Bryan, Karl, and I rushed for our last-minute meetup; since we are completing our enrolment requirements for our chosen university, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). So, while we are waiting for the rain to stop in a small milk tea shop, we’ve decided to recall how we’ve spent our week.

Bryan eagerly narrated how he accompanied his other group of friends in the COMELEC office in Manila. They’ve prepared their registration as early as 8 o’clock in the morning—since the PLM also includes voter’s ID registration as one of their admission requirements. While he already registered last February, Bryan still helped the rest of his tropa during the registration process. According to him, the registration was all smooth until the orange rainfall warning finally showed its powers, leaving them soaked and dipped in rainwaters. Karl and I chuckled how his ‘wet registration’ went through—while applauding his perseverance to be one of the incoming youth voters in today’s registration.

That is not the same case for Karl. For now, he is still processing his voter registration. While he finished his academic forms earlier than the three of us, he is worried about how he will comply with the PLM’s requirements. Bryan and I wondered how Karl didn’t manage to comply with the registration process while considering it a “come and go” habit. Still, we hope that he can catch up and be finally registered before the election period.

Our friendship grew beyond the voting poll and the same university. We were also former student leaders in our school. We are not perfect, but we’re still productive and passionate about serving the students. The concept of election was established through student government and school clubs. Youths will vote for their classroom officers, which will soon branch out into school clubs. The most significant election body will be the Supreme Student Government (SSG), wherein all student enrollees are included—and is considered the counterpart of “national elections.”

As someone who has been a consistent student of the same school, I’ve witnessed seen the rise and fall of our chosen student leaders. Somehow, the student government’s political climate changes annually. At one point, I can quickly point how who entered the school political room for passion—and those who joined just for the sake of campus fame. The indicator? Their platform.

Being the former editor-in-chief of our student publication, I had my fair share of knowing which student officials had actually complied with their sworn duties even to the last moments of their term. And of course, I have to witness—even endure—how these politicos in the making are disrupting the school’s order. I’ve remembered one of these events wherein the previous SSG of our school failed to coordinate for the upcoming Miting de Avance. It was a mess. The original plan was botched; we had to make an abrupt backup plan. I was also assigned as one of the main hosts of the event—cursing myself—as I save face in front of the crowd because of the delays.

While we’ve continued our afternoon discussion in the milk tea shop, we all agreed on one thing: participating in elections should be practiced in school first and foremost. The essence of knowing the good qualities of a leader begins by electing the right person. We might not possess the ideal characteristics, or we also fail and create mishaps at times—our hope for the betterment of the community still resides.

More and more students are getting engaged with campus elections. Sooner or later, they will also get engaged with the outside doors of the classroom—the actual election.

Teachers also help in encouraging the youth to utilize and knowing the importance of their rights of suffrage. Now that we are a bit older and considered the alumni of our former school, it is also now our duty to inform the incoming high schoolers. Our responsibility to choose the right political people doesn’t end in the classroom—it gets higher as we grow older. Participating in elections as soon as we’ve reached the voting age is a must. It is done for our country and setting an example for the future youth voters of our nation.

Country above self.

Youth voting, pandemic, and violence

Ideally, participating in elections is done by all youth. However, we must not also set aside the fact that it can be the right to vote is deemed a privilege. While the likes of us can comply with the voting requirements, some youths are challenged with the current condition of the Philippines.

As of this writing, around 2.6% of the Philippines’ entire population had received two doses of vaccine. With the possibility of another lockdown coming this August, COMELEC already assumed that it will affect the current flow of registration precincts. While COMELEC urges people to use remote options like Mobile Voters Registration app that caters to people outside Metro Manila, the system could have downtime, too.

While the pandemic and economic crisis are already hindering the potential youth voters, election-related violence could also be a deeming factor. In a case study presented by the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, election-related violence peaked during 2001 and 2004. As defined, election violence is the “systematic and premeditated act aimed at monopolizing electoral victories through various coercive means.”

This means that politically motivated violence can occur on any period, resulting in a physical assault like harassment, coercion, threat, and even killings. The statistics also revealed that around 229 cases occurred during the 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections alone. In addition, before the 2019 Philippine General Elections, several provincial and barangay officials were shot dead while outside their office. A current statistics released on New Mandala revealed that around 115 incidents occurred from 2016 to 2019 in correlation to political violence.

With the rise of political killings and state violence, we should not set aside how youth are also victims of these forbidding events. In the article released by The Guardian, activist groups “blamed” the Philippines’ war on drugs campaign for the untimely death of 122 children, including a one-year-old. Rights groups estimated that thousands of people could have been killed in anti-drug killings began following Duterte’s inauguration in 2016.

Fight against tyranny—vote

With the pandemic, political violence, and war of drugs parading on our way, should the youth remained fearful? Of course not! There is still hope of achieving a massive victory of not letting tyranny come its way again in power.

Several youth groups and non-government organizations are providing step-by-step procedures in different languages and dialects in the Philippines. This is done to make the process understandable for people with minimal understanding of the English language. A Filipino youth abroad? Contact the Philippine Embassy handling the Filipino diaspora in your respective territory to register yourself and be part of the country’s bloc voting overseas.

If you have not registered yet, feel free to go to COMELEC’s official website to register yourself. Afterward, contact your nearest COMELEC Office to validate and complete your registration.

Indeed, it is frightful in the world outside. But as part of the youth sector, I am encouraging every Filipino youth to fight for what is right—and it is done by securing our votes. Our voices must not be trembled, not at this moment that we are crippled by our own hesitations. The Filipino’s core of resilience is already torn and cannot be adhered to anymore—we need to protect our country and the next generation’s future despite all the odds.

Lagi’t lagi, ang kabataan ay para sa Diyos at Bayan!

Micah Corin A. Salonoy

Micah Corin A. Salonoy is a HUMSS graduate of Manuel A. Roxas Senior High School – Manila. Salonoy became Ang Gulong’s editor-in-chief in the school year 2018–2019, becoming a two-time RSPC Qualifier (2014, 2018). Together with 17 other Filipino students, she represented the Philippines in the third batch of the MEXT’s Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Email Micah at: micah@voxpopuliph.com.

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