Elections: through the years, the youth has been strategically and sometimes corruptly used for electoral purposes from campaign ads to solicitations to school events and even during graduation ceremonies exploiting our national hero, Jose Rizal’s famous line, “The youth is the hope of our Fatherland. ” Same stories, same strategies. But how is this year’s election on the hands of the youth any different? Are we still the un-empowered generation who, in the near future, will take over the nation?
Fortunately, the youth was becoming more discerned, more involved, and more vigilant to the things that greatly affect most of the Filipinos prior to this year’s selection of our next leaders. There is progress in the decision-making mechanism of the youth as to what organizations to join, whom to support, and up to what extent do we allow ourselves to be used by aspiring candidates to become public servants. We are more discerned.
Common strategies of politicians before and during campaign periods were repairing faulty roads, giving T-shirts with their faces printed either in front or at the back part, inviting the youth to become a member of an organization and do a series of activities under their name, or sponsor a youth program where his name was acknowledged a hundred times. Whenever I get to ride on a tricycle passing through faulty and bumpy roads which looked like mini pools during rainy days, I have always asked the driver why those roads were not yet repaired for the longest time. I was always given the answer that it’s because it’s not election time yet.
This makes me shake my head to the candidates’ desperate moves for public office at the expense of public safety. I am affiliated with two community youth organizations and often times, we were invited to do volunteer works and sometimes get invited by other organizations under a certain name. In every activity, there were free snacks, free transportations to the venue, and free T-shirts which they expect us to wear. But I, together with my co-members in our organization, did not wear the shirt during the activity. One reason was that to avoid ourselves being captured in a camera doing volunteer works under the candidate.
The other was that, we do not want to be used for indirect campaign purposes. What was clear to us was that we were there to help them with cleaning the coastal areas, planting trees on the country sides, doing medical missions, and assisting the feeding programs. A friend once told me that they were invited on a team building training and orientation of a mayoral candidate’s youth organization. The participants were registered youth voters in their barangay. To be a participant of a two-day training, to be given the chance to learn something new, to meet new friends, and to gain a worthy experience, they became so much excited.
Later, during the first day of the training, they realized that the supposed to be training and orientation turned out to be some sort of vacation. There was no training or orientation: they were there to have fun. My friend and her company were disappointed. They thought it wasted their time. We asked to ourselves one common question: did that politician seriously think that today’s youth can still be lured to a strategy like that? He only lost our votes. Not all organizations were well-funded. There were times when we solicit funds from private establishments or from public servants to conduct our planned activities for the youth.
There were politicians who gave donations in cash while others gave in kind such as shouldering the snacks for the participants, paying the venue and taking charge of the giveaways. Although all these were returned with merit, our discernment commended those who consistently helped us out even without elections. We are more vigilant. The Anti-Epal Movement was very much supported by the people from the different parts of the country revealing the premature campaigns of electoral candidates both in the national and local positions.
Many have contributed photos that captured candidates’ “epal” moves such as sponsoring programs with their faces printed on tarps, donating books, bags and goods with their names bigger than the title of the book or the brand of the goods, vandalizing public walls with their names and political bets, putting their names on government-owned vehicles: buses, fire trucks, garbage trucks and police cars, and hanging up tarps that brag about their projects when in fact, funds came from the people’s taxes. We are getting more and more updated to what was happening.
My friends on social networking sites, instead of posting nonsensical statuses and tweets, have posted links of online discussions prior to the election. We were more than active in the deliberations on online talks on whom to vote based on the criteria set for choosing candidates. We have scrutinized the facts of each candidate including their platforms for governance and try to bring it to the general public hoping to convince them to discern and discriminate their votes. We are more involved.
Last October, youth volunteers assisted during the last ays of the voter’s registration held at the University of Cebu. There will be youth participation in a series of awareness drives and refresher symposium with regards to the voting process and operating the PCOS machines. We will participate on the day of the election. We will cast our votes to those who we think are worthy. We participate in online discussions. There, we have expressed our sentiments on the present political trend which is a one-man rule. We have reacted to the inconsistencies of the candidates’ membership to political parties.
We have asked the same question as to why an ex-convict, famous actors, and those with no political background were allowed to run for office. We have despised “epal” strategies of the candidates. We have criticized the irony of the surveys: one survey says less Filipinos think that they are poor while another survey says more Filipinos say they are hungry. We have questioned the logic behind the statement that goes like, we should be thankful that our roads were on traffic because it meant a better economy. It is not my first time to vote for the national elections.
I was a victim of popular voting, and it is something that I do not want to happen to me again or to my friends. That experience led me to be more aware, more questioning and more discriminating when it comes to giving my vote to a candidate. I am aware too, that there are still apathetic young people who allow themselves to be used because of varied reasons: scholarship, personal relations, debt of gratitude or major sponsor in their organization. They are not to be blamed. They are the characters who have no choice but to act what they are expected to do. They are victims, too, of our political system.
They are vigilant in their own right, but are they vigilant enough to recognize what needs to be changed in the system? We have many entertainment centers in the country. We have the Malacanang, the Senate then the Congress. The future lies on our hands. We need to involve ourselves. We need to screen our country’s next leaders. We need to continue the progress that the concerned youth of today have started. There is still something that bugs me though. There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics, only vested interests. Do you think we can change the political system with our vote?