Text & image by Anton Miguel D. De Vera, Vienna
Why do we vote?
For experienced voters, the reasons to vote are more defined and impacted by the actions of the concurrent and past administrations. However, many of young Filipino citizens—particularly those who belong to Generation Z who have just turned 18 years of age and registered as first-time voters—may feel overwhelmed or even uncertain on what to do prior to the election in 2022.
With that in mind, this writing serves to hopefully guide and share awareness to young people like myself who are finally eligible to vote and participate in possibly one of the most crucial elections of the Philippine nation. This article does not explicitly state who to vote for in the upcoming Philippine Elections 2022, but rather revolves around the question of what obligations do we have as voters and how to prepare in the months before the elections.
On the 29th of September 2021, the Philippine Committee of Elections (COMELEC) reported that over 63 million Filipino citizens have become registered voters for the upcoming 2022 (Rappler) . This number has exceeded projected expectations. To a great extent, out of over 63 million voters, 52% are classified as ‘youth voters’—registered voters between 18 to 40 years of age (CNN Philippines) . Such a percentage of voters represents an important electoral group that can prove to be ‘groundbreaking’ in the election campaign, for which the candidates must be convinced to get their votes.
A wide variety of numerous presidential and vice-presidential aspirants have filed their certificate of candidacy officially during the first week of October 2021— as of October 8, 2021 (The World) . Some candidates are well-known and have been serving as Philippine senators in the past decade, while others present fresh faces to the presidential election.
With the increase of registered voters and a diverse selection of presidential candidates, the demand for change is clear and likely to happen.
Each citizen residing in a state under the system of democracy legally possesses basic rights that are formalised from a written constitution. Among these basic rights for each citizen includes: the right to expression, the right to assembly, and the right to civic rights including the ability to vote and elect.
For the citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, this civic right to vote is formally written under the 1987 Philippine Constitution which means that the right to vote is legally bounded to the Filipino citizen; it has even been constituted in a manner that Filipinos abroad are able to participate and vote through absentee ballots (voting areas) provided by nearby Philippine Embassies (Official Gazette, GOVPH) . As someone who currently lives outside the Philippines, it is great to know that I can still practice my civic right of suffrage in a foreign country. This is a right that Filipino citizens, local or abroad, have the access to know and practice. It is an opportunity to contribute to Philippine society through the process of democratic election.
Let’s say you have already registered and just like me, you are being overwhelmed by information across various social media platforms, news agencies, rallies and movements among the crowd, including the conversations you listen to among your titos and titas about the electoral candidates.
This is what I would observe as something normal, especially during the time of campaigning for the candidates—although, the use of social media for political campaigns has been arguably used extensively and dramatically; it may be another topic for another time. You may encounter these moments digitally or in reality but it is important that you have your own set of values and convictions on who to vote for and a selfless desire to explore and learn more about the political environment.
You may ask, “how can you obtain these ‘set of values and convictions’ that would lead you to decide who to vote for?”.
To answer that, I think that through your life experience, your family values, and personal belief, you may construct the foundations to your personal preferences in choosing who to lead. It is important however, to be open-minded and explore your options (explore your candidates), by keeping up with the latest news, learn about our social and economic conditions, in that way we may discover which systems of our country we need to improve on or provide.
Read about your candidates—What are their achievements? What are their goals for the Philippines? Are these goals necessary for our country and people to achieve? I certainly look forward to the electoral debate in which candidates are given a chance to express their opinions and exchange views with other candidates. I would also encourage young voters to inquire in debates and conversations among your peers or friends respectfully. Listen to what they have to say or what their opinions are about certain candidates and try to understand why. It is important that we not only think critically about the elections but to engage in a dignified and respectable manner. Through these strategies, we might find the candidate that matches our sets of values and convictions and the ‘closest’ in putting our ideals into practice.
To be able to vote is an opportunity, a right and at the same time a duty that allows you to express your interest in the future. The imminent change we are thinking of, is within our reach and we decide what kind of change that will be.