Young Filipinos, go register and vote!
Elections affect all citizens, but they arguably have a greater impact on young people, given that they will live longer and thus suffer (or enjoy) most of the consequences of our political leaders’ action or inaction today. The fact that we are still paying the debts incurred during the corrupt Marcos regime speaks of the intergenerational and very real impacts of our political choices.
Despite the fact that the young stand to gain or lose more from elections, and despite their historically pivotal role in our ongoing struggle for genuine freedom and democracy, voter turnout among young Filipinos has historically been a challenge—a general turnout of almost 75 percent in the 2019 elections notwithstanding. Young people have faced hunger and poverty, barriers to education and health care, historical revisionism, disinformation, dim job prospects, and multiple forms of discrimination and repression—all of which have led to low and limited political participation. The need to register is another hurdle among first-time voters, and it is made even more challenging now with COVID-19 and its many restrictions.
These challenges notwithstanding, we would like to join the many voices that have been encouraging young Filipinos to register so they can vote in next year’s elections.
To register and vote is to contribute to the work of changing the nation in a way that is foundational to our democracy and guaranteed by our Constitution. As the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, the decisions that our leaders make can spell the difference between life and death, and can affect our future in many ways.
To register and vote is also to contribute to your local communities. We often think of elections in terms of the presidency, vice presidency, and the senatorial races. But, as also evidenced by the pandemic, local officials and representatives, both district and party list, can make a difference.
Moreover, to register and vote is to contribute to the campaign against electoral fraud. By having your vote counted, and by not participating in vote-buying and -selling, you increase the number of votes cast meaningfully and properly.
To register and vote is to feel invested in our country’s future, knowing that you played a hand in deciding it. While we do not think that only voters have a say in our country, we believe we can draw moral capital to hold our leaders accountable for their promises—especially those we voted for.
Finally, to register and vote is to encourage others to do the same: Your family members, friends, and peers will be influenced by your decision, and writ large, such acts will surely count. On this note, we applaud young netizens who use their platforms to encourage their audiences to exercise the right to vote.
Of course, we wish to emphasize that elections are not the end all and be all of democracy. We need to cast our votes every day on issues that affect us, by making our voices known and our ideas—yes, including criticism and dissent—heard. The idea that democracy is a once in three or six years’ exercise can foreclose possibilities of the kind of regular civic engagement that we need from our young people. It can also lead to voter-blaming, which we think is inimical to nation-building. Beyond voting itself, there are other forms of youth participation in the electoral process, including organizing for voter empowerment, advocating for clean and honest elections, volunteering in poll-watching, and holding candidates accountable for their campaign promises.
Even so, it cannot be denied that the act of voting itself matters, and that, being attuned to present issues and future challenges, young people should be at the forefront of maximizing the promises of our electoral system. This is also why young people deserve the critical education to be more discerning of politicians, and more discriminating of the information they get online and offline. By actually voting, they can turn this awareness into action.
Thus, we would like to call on all young voting-age Filipinos to make themselves count by making sure they are registered for the coming elections, and for the Commission on Elections and other government agencies to facilitate this process by addressing the barriers to registration.
If we all ensure we are registered, if we all cast our votes in the coming elections, and if we do so with criticality, courage, and hope, then democracy may yet be redeemed.
* * *
Sarah Elago represents the youth sector in the Philippine Congress under the Kabataan Party List. Gideon Lasco teaches anthropology at the University of the Philippines Diliman and is a columnist in this paper.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.