Over 61 million Filipinos are expected to head to their respective polling precincts on May 13 to elect new members of the national and local government. According to the National Youth Commission, 40 percent of these voters will be comprised of the youth aged 18 to 30 years old. Given the potential impact of their collective vote, young voters are constantly urged to educate themselves on the candidates’ platforms and review their performances in order to make informed decisions when they cast their ballots.
Voters in the Lasallian community had the chance to learn more about the election process and their role in the upcoming elections during A Vote for the Country, an electoral education forum held last March 1 at The Verdure in Henry Sy Sr. Hall. The event was organized by Democracy Watch, in partnership with the Political Science Department, the University Student Government, and Kaunlaran.
Finding your best bet
Dr. Francisco Magno, Governance Program Convener for Democracy Watch, began the program by reminding students that the candidates they vote for must be both discerning and forward-looking. He stated, “[The] leaders that we are electing should be able to identify what the common good [is], but before they can even point the direction that we are supposed to take [they should know:] what are the common problems?”
Magno went on to list several prominent national issues that continue to trouble Filipinos, such as poverty, corruption, and widespread pollution. In spite of the seemingly pervasive nature of these problems, he stressed that they are not unresolvable. “The problems may be chronic, old-age problems but the world is changing. You need to have new, innovative solutions,” he claimed.
The expectations and responsibilities of an elected official make the process of choosing the best candidate to vote for more challenging. While the right choice ultimately depends on the voter’s preference, Magno recommended the use of the I 4 Juan Candidate Assessment Criteria, which is composed of intelligence, integrity, inclusiveness, and innovation. By evaluating candidates using each category, he hoped that voters would be able to look beyond the typical motherhood statements of candidates to find someone who is capable and truly committed to service.
Gearing up for election day
Like the 2016 presidential elections, the upcoming midterm elections will be primarily automated. Leo Lim, an information officer from the Commission on Elections, demonstrated the use of the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) and elaborated on the steps voters will be taking on May 13. He began by explaining how the machine would be set up prior to election day, in order to ensure that it was functioning and that no votes had been tabulated beforehand.
Several students were then given the opportunity to fill up sample ballots and submit it to the VCM. Lim highlighted the importance of marking the ballots properly, stating, “[Sayang] naman yung choice mo kung hindi siya mababasa ng makina.” (Your vote will be wasted if it cannot be read by the machine.) While the threshold for shading is set to 25 percent of the oval, voters are still strongly encouraged to shade the entire oval.
Students were also reminded of certain conditions that are crucial to the voting process. If they opt to undervote or abstain, it will still count as a valid vote. However, overvoting will lead to invalidation of the vote for the position that exceeded the maximum count. Lastly, each voter is entitled to only one ballot. The ballot may be exchanged for a replacement only if the voter finds a defect prior to entering the voting area, such as pre-shading of circles for specific candidates.
Lim also shared that polling precincts in certain areas will be pilot-testing the use of the Voter Registration Verification System (VRVS). The VRVS allows voters to verify their identity through biometrics, instead of manually searching the printed list posted in each polling precinct. In the National Capital Region, voters from Manila, Quezon City, and Caloocan City will be using the VRVS, although a back-up verification system has also been prepared should there be any complications.
Not just shading a circle
Apart from knowing the technical aspect of voting, Dr. Arwin Serrano of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) emphasized the need to be considerate of other voters. He shared his practice of deciding beforehand on who to vote for, instead of choosing when the ballot is in front of you. In doing so, he is able to fill out his ballot and submit it to the VCM in mere minutes.
The youth, who Serrano saw as the embodiment of Jose Rizal’s vision of the hope of the nation, can also be involved beyond voting. They can join the PPCRV by approaching their respective parishes and registering as volunteers. “Maging involved kayo. Mag–participate kayo. Kung maaari nga, mag–volunteer kayo,” he urged the audience. (Be involved. Be participative. If possible, you can also volunteer.)
A choice for change
As May 13 draws nearer, University Chancellor Br. Bernard Oca FSC hoped that Lasallian voters will take the chance to shape the future into what they envision it to be. “While your future rightly begins here in DLSU, the quality of this future will greatly depend on a lot of decisions you will be making,” he said. He later added that the impact of the choices they make extends beyond their generation alone, stating, “Vote like the next generation’s lives depends on it. Vote because the life of our country and our democracy depend on it.”