Get empowered, register to vote
Macoy Dubs thinks, correctly, that colleges and universities should put up programs and courses to teach young people the importance of engagement “not just online but also on-ground” — for example, in the process of voting, and voting well. Speaking at a recent forum held to mark International Youth Day, the social media influencer sounded a “clarion call” for the move, citing the urgency of young people learning about such fundamentals as “what it is to be a public servant.”
“O, gusto n’yo ba akong kumanta?” he said, mimicking candidates for public office doing the song-and-dance that passes for campaigning in these parts, as much in urban as in rural settings. The need for voter education is quite pressing, especially calling to mind the motley group of lawmakers that made the cut in the 2019 midterm elections, including, among others, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ eldest child, the former chief implementer of the government’s bloody war on drugs, and a former city mayor and ranking government official who liked to employ sexy dancers in political gatherings.
And also the actor who made it back to the Senate despite being charged with amassing P224.5 million in kickbacks on his pork barrel while in office, in cahoots with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and his chief of staff Richard Cambe. Fresh from acquittal by the Sandiganbayan on criminal liability but, apparently on the “preponderance of evidence” principle, ordered to return P124.5 million to the public coffers, Bong Revilla danced on the stump with his trademark “budots” and, incredibly, elicited enough votes to return to the chamber. To think he is still in the dock for 16 counts of graft, for which he had to post bail. To think his chief of staff got it in the neck, so to speak, and is now languishing in the national penitentiary.
It cannot be overstated that young people have a crucial role in building this nation which is nearing a population of 110 million as we speak. In their energetic hands lie possibilities for seizing the moment and making things right in the 2022 elections. Far from a mechanical task, or hopefully not one made under duress or the dictates of pelf, voting is an act of will and of choice, a means to make one’s voice heard—now more than ever, when a crisis in public life continues to rage.
Voting will be a way for young people to have “a direct hand in the way policy is changed in our country,” said the musician Frankie Pangilinan, speaking at the same forum moderated by the human rights lawyer Chel Diokno. Her point challenges the dominant top-down system in which decisions purportedly for the public good are issued from on high without benefit of consultations with the common folk or their true representatives.
“Every single vote does count,” Pangilinan said, perhaps seeking to wrench young people like herself from a fashionable ennui — “read up [on candidates’ credentials],” she said, “feel empowered”—and also evincing a refreshing optimism. Indeed, the necessity of voting in 2022 should not be lost on young people or their elders, or even conscientious objectors hard put to acknowledge the validity of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) (and, pained, will cite the still-unexplained 7-hours-long silence from its servers in the 2019 polls).
In fact, not only young people are sounding a shout-out to vote. Antonio Carpio, retired senior associate justice of the Supreme Court and untiring champion of Philippine interests in the disputed South China Sea, thinks “what we can now do as citizens is to educate ourselves, prepare for 2022.” The task is imperative; there is no time to lose although the next Election Day and our foreseeable future hinge on a virus. “We cannot take the chance on a candidate promising to jet ski to Scarborough Shoal and, after he gets elected, he will say, ‘I was just joking,’” said Carpio, recalling the brash pledge of then candidate Rodrigo Duterte in the last of the presidential debates, to challenge Chinese interlopers in Philippine territory.
Likewise hardly a joking matter is every qualified Filipino’s right and duty to go out and vote. But first, there is the mandatory voter registration that the Comelec has resumed starting on Sept. 1. It’s important for the young to understand that those still to turn 18 on or before May 9, 2022, are qualified to register, the basis being the date of the election and not the date of registration. But given the labyrinthine ways of practically every process involving the government — even the so-called “ease of doing business” has driven many an investor to, as it were, run out howling into the night—and the health protocols demanded in this pandemic, voter registration bodes well to be more than the usual hassle.
Still and all, take heart. We must grit our teeth and keep our eyes on the prize.
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