As of 2016, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) records show that 54.36 million Filipinos were registered to vote. Out of that population, the age group 20-24 had the largest share of 7.98 million followed by the age group 25-29 at 7.37 million.
The youth, according to United Nations, refers to those aged 15-24 years old. With a total of 15.35 million combining the previously mentioned age groups, it only proves that the power to select and put into higher position is vested upon the Filipino youth.
Here are some of the insights from young voters that answer why the Filipino youth’s vote should be valued as that of the older generations.
The crucial role of the Filipino youth in the coming elections
According to a study in 2013, today’s Filipino youth “strategically use ICTs and social networks to gather support for their causes and to gain the attention of the traditional media and politicians.” This only proves that technology and social media help shape the youth’s awareness of the current political issues. However, this also begs the question: Is being aware enough?
A study from Far Eastern University’s Public Policy Center concluded that “young people today are “apolitical and “indifferent” to political and social issues.” The study claimed that they belong in Generation Z, who largely rely on social media and internet but lack in discernment and critical evaluation of the information they read.
Jeremy Ann Catunao, a recently licensed young teacher, pitched in her insights as to why Filipino youth are perhaps called apolitical:
“Siguro kasi palaging nadi-disregard ng adults ‘yung opinions nila kaya may time na parang ayaw na nila makisali sa discourse. Pero I think as young as they are, they should be aware. Kasi at some point, sila at sila rin ‘yung maaapektuhan ng mga panukala.”
As a teacher who’s always in contact with her students, Jeremy Ann believes that youth nowadays can do something more than just being aware. The youth needs to step up their game in criticizing potential leaders, no matter how game-changing the solutions they offer to the country. According to her, the youth of today are not totally apathetic because they somehow remain idealistic in terms of their view of how government should work. They still want good politics and social change.
“I think gano’n din ‘yung hanap nilang leaders: idealistic and is willing to change the system. Most of them ay aware na rin sa current events. Kaya siguro kaunting guidance na lang sa kanila so they can research more about the candidates’ platforms.”
This is backed up by Jhon Fhol Villaueva, a young professional working in an advertising company. He believes that social media is a channel that should be utilized more to participate in the discussions.
“The youth comprises more than half of the voting population. With that big number of youth voters, there’s also a BIG chance for an ACTUAL change in this country ’cause we have the means—Internet, for example—to do background checks of all the candidates.”
According to Jhon Fhol, members of the young generation have more edge in bettering the culture of voting for public officials. For him, people from older generations tend to “just go for the candidates they are familiar with so they end up electing the same greedy crocodiles in government.” Jhon Fhol believes that this cycle has to stop and the young generation is key towards making a change: “We need the younger generation to participate in this upcoming election and choose the candidates who are real PRO-PEOPLE.”
Filipino youth are sick of the outdated system of politicking
In a qualitative study from UP Diliman, it was concluded that “today’s youths are a promising generation of political activists whose energies, enthusiasm and aspirations can be mobilized and harnessed to strengthen democratic processes and achieve their aspirations for what they call ‘good society,’ ‘good government’ and ‘good politics.’”
In the previous election, however, about 8.5 million voters—mostly from the youth’s population—opted out from participating in the voting process. This goes without saying that we still need to empower the youth to be participative in elections for they will either benefit or suffer from the government’s actions in the long run.
Kyanna Bulan, a graduating research student who recently aced the PhiLSAT for her aspirations to be a lawyer, encourages her fellow young voters to exercise their right to vote. She claims that all Filipinos, not just the youth, should feel alarmed about the ongoing prejudices brought by the government’s incompetency.
“For me, the youth should feel alarmed sa state ng country ngayon. Since they are now eligible to vote, they should use that power vested upon them. Nakalagay sa Philippine Constitution ang right to suffrage. Naka-indicate do’n ang karapatan at ang requirements na at least 18 years old ay pwede nang bumoto.”
Kyanna wants her fellow youth to realize that elections are highly dependent on the voters. She acknowledges that today’s situation needs the help of wise voters who can think critically of who should be put into position. Many of the young generations nowadays are already informed–they just need a little push to be more participative in political processes.
“Kung ‘di man marinig ng gobyerno ang boses nila noon, ang pagboto ang magsisilbing boses nila… Kaya dapat, i-exercise ang right to vote! Right to suffrage! Lalo na sa mga kabataan na may mga matatalinong hinaing, let your voice be heard!” Kyanna expressed.
Student leader Rein Tarinay believes that loving your country can be expressed by the youth by exercising their right as voters. “Bilang kabataan, mahalagang mag-engage at makialam sa estadong panlipunan at isang paraan ay ang responsableng pagboto… “’Yung karapatang bumoto ay isang laban na ipinanalo sa atin ng mga ninuno natin kaya marapat lang na i-practice natin ‘to… deserve natin ng mga pinuno at opisyal na ituturing tayong tao.”
Raising the quality of political participation
More and more youth nowadays are becoming more involved in political discourse even in their own little ways. However, having a sound political opinion is largely influenced by the level of a person’s knowledge of how the government works. A significant chunk of the youth population still has no access to quality education, which includes civic education that influences their level of political awareness. This is among the reasons why Senator Sonny Angara pushed for free tertiary education so that the youth can be more capable to participate in governance.
Access to education really plays a huge role to empower the youth in wisely participating in elections. A researcher who’s also a member of the youth, Maika Nazareno, pointed out:
“We invest so much in their education and upbringing, and showing the youth that their votes matter gives them an idea of how much these investments can actually contribute to the society they live in.”
Maika also believes that what the youth learn from their formative years helps them in discerning who to vote. If we want to see improvement in the way we elect our leaders, we need to prepare the youth to exercise their right to participate in governance. More than looking at the numbers, it is crucial to look closer at the quality of the youth’s participation in politics and governance. We can only expect things to move upward if from the start the youth has the capacity to think critically.