Young people contribute to democracy by voting, a vital act of civic participation. Youth involvement can take various forms. It is a powerful means for young people to have their voices heard and impact issues that affect them and their communities. It can also serve as a springboard for other forms of participation.
The Commission on Elections reported that more than half of the country’s 65.7 million voters are between the ages of 18 and 41, making them a “prime mover” in the election results in May 2022. According to official voter figures, the youth would play a significant role in electing the next Philippine leaders.
A total of 37 million people are in this age group, comprising 56 percent of local votes. The youth will make up the majority of voters, which means that their turnout will determine the election’s outcome.
The elections highly prioritized different marginalized groups. It is not an excuse to exclude youth in nation-building plans as they are the most number of voters. In figures, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) reported over 62 million registered voters this year, with 32.7 million of them being young people and five million being first-time voters.
To make a difference, young people should be involved in long-term planning for society. As the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) prepares its constituents for the upcoming local and national elections, most of the students at the University are first-time voters.
Irene, a first-year student, shared her sentiments as a first-time voter, “As someone a first-time mag vote, I am excited and overwhelmed for some reason.”
Another first-time voter, Mae, a first-year Political Science student, shared her belief in why students should vote in the elections. “I believe that as Filipinos, we must be able to choose the right leaders because the future of our country is up to the hands of those leaders. I also believe that every vote matters,” she said.
First-time voters who choose to register to vote speak what an Atenean voter is. Carrying inside them are the dreams and hopes of every Filipino voter wishing to build a utopia by exercising the right to vote.
Fake news, a virus deadlier than COVID-19
There is a virus deadlier than COVID-19, a virus that causes people to split, fall, and disengage in proper forums—fake news. As people divulge in the digital world, fake news creeps on Filipinos, and is more prevalent now more than ever.
Since December 2017, the problem of fake news in the media has gotten worse in all areas, with those who consider it significant climbing to 79 percent in December 2021, up from 68 percent in Metro Manila, 71 percent in Luzon outside Metro Manila, 65 percent in Mindanao, and 63 percent in the Visayas.
Irene can attest to fake news being prevalent on her social media feeds. “Since I am now sa province, dito sa lugar namin hindi siya sobrang magulo? Like compared to other places. But on social media? I can say that people play it dirty for the sake of campaigning. Fake news everywhere. The more na papalapit na ang election mas dumarami ang fake news and battles against different stances,” she said.
According to the December 2021 Social Weather Stations poll, 51 percent believed that it was tough to tell if news or information on television, radio, or social media is phony or incorrect, while 48 percent said it was easy.
In 2018, Facebook executive Katie Harbath acknowledged the difficulty of safeguarding election integrity on social media. She announced measures to combat the attack on knowledge, protect citizens’ safety, and ensure voter turnout. Harbath dubbed the Philippines “patient zero” in what many would later consider a fake news pandemic or “infodemic.”
Most young people are currently unable to distinguish between online fact and online fabrication. In fact, some students have trouble distinguishing between authentic news pieces and sponsored advertisements.
In collaboration with the COMELEC, election watchdogs, independent fact-checkers, and civil society organizations, META Platforms, Inc., the company that owns and operates Facebook, is preparing for the 2022 Philippine General Elections by developing new products, services, and stronger policies within the platform, with the goal of cleaner elections through a safe and unimpeded flow of correct information.
SAMAHAN Vice President Ninalyn Espuelas shared that it is important to stay vigilant amidst the political machinery we see on social media.
“All of this is dark propaganda, and it’s perfectly normal. It’s only that, with the rise of social media, it’s taken on a new shape. Always double-check facts and never trust TikTok videos or personal opinions since, first and foremost, opinions should not be the main basis for making sound decisions,” the student leader said.
The youth’s voting preference
The challenge for the youth is the lack of voter’s education. Elections cannot be democratic unless people know the differences between the candidates to cast an educated vote.
The study of Batala, et al. in 2021 emphasized how party affiliation and pre-election surveys were positively associated with respondents’ voting preferences, but issue orientation and candidate orientation appear to have little bearing on voting preferences.
Young people choose candidates that are aligned with a political party or parties who are supportive of a government that is gaining popular support from the majority. Candidates with a strong positive pre-election polling record were also favored. Because the electorate includes both youth and non-youth voters, a candidate’s stand or position on critical national issues, as well as their personal past, is crucial.
First-time registered voter Andrea said, “A candidate can have my vote if I see that they are passionate, hardworking, and truly interested in running for the benefit of the people, not for their gain. They are taking the position to bring change and a brighter future for the country.”
For Espuelas, she said that honesty and transparency must always be public for the candidates.
The youth’s hope for the election
Inclusive political involvement is not only a fundamental political and democratic right, but it is also essential for the development of stable and peaceful communities and policies that address the demands of younger generations. Young people must be informed about their rights and given the necessary knowledge and capacity to participate meaningfully in political institutions, processes, and decision-making, particularly in they elections, if they are adequately represented in political institutions, processes, and decision-making.
The UNDP, Youth Co: Lab Philippines, and Citi Foundation collaborated on a 2021 project that revealed what young Filipinos want and aspire. “Good governance, post-COVID recovery, and education” are at the top of the list.
Andrea said that she wants to see the concept of vote-buying eliminated. “Since that is difficult, I want to see those who violate the integrity of the elections being held accountable. Our political system needs to be fair, without bias towards certain people just because of bribery. The system should learn to follow the law and be able to deliver proper sanctions to violators as deemed fit.”
In the same manner, Espuelas emphasized that the elections “is for everyone, farmers, workers, skilled labor, professionals, unemployed, the gas prices, typhoon preparedness, etc. Everybody must understand that this election will decide how we will deal with the next six years of our lives. It is important to note that we must always think about the things in the future, and this isn’t just about you—we are talking about every form of life.”
The Ateneo’s efforts for student political engagement
In academia, simply having political experience can impact election outcomes. As the clock ticks down on electing the country’s next leaders, political discourse weaves its way through the University.
The University is well known for its support of strengthening Mindanao. On October 23, 2021, the AdDU Jacinto campus opened its doors as a satellite voter registration.
Espuelas shared, “Every election season, we hold or host projects and activities towards voter registration on why it is important to register, who to choose when picking the best candidates, and of course, why it’s important to vote no matter what.”
AdDU also has its own electoral management platform, AdDU Bluevote and Samahan ang Pinas, a Mindanao-based student-led election movement.
Various seminars were also conducted targeting voter’s education by different student clubs and organizations. Samahang Mag-Aaral ng Sikolohiyang Filipino (SAMASIKOFIL) conducted PsychSpeaks Episode 3 which tackled politics through the lens of psychology. Also, PINILIAY 2022: The Role of Social Media Politics in the 2022 Election is a webinar series by Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Agham Pampulitika ng Ateneo (SAMAPULA).
The Candid Dates 2022 series spearheaded by the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS) in collaboration with AdDU organizations aimed to provide a platform to discourse with national and local candidates with regards to their plans and visions.
The clichés “the kids are the future” and “the youth is the hope of our nation” are especially true in the following years. Today’s youth will become the scions of tomorrow’s land. In the face of several current challenges, they’ve gathered together, educated themselves, and pushed to be heard. The youth appears to be more determined than ever to get a say in their direction.
While the national elections may not have an immediate impact, they will in six years—for better or worse. As more young people are encouraged to vote, whether through organizational campaigns, familial influence, or social media, they play an active role in promoting a fair and unblemished electoral discourse, benefiting local communities and building the country.
The article was previously published in the Election Issue 2022 of Atenews. Read it here: tinyurl.com/AtenewsElex2022