Elago, Diokno, Frankie Pangilinan urge youth to vote in three-part webinar

Aiming to increase youth participation in the upcoming 2022 presidential elections, the BLAZE2022 Batch Government hosted PollPower, a three-part webinar, last July 25 and August 6 via Zoom. The event featured Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, Former DLSU College of Law Dean Atty. Chel Diokno, and social media personality Frankie Pangilinan.

Educating the youth

Beginning the first webinar titled Speaking Truth to the Youth of Politics, Elago underlined the importance of fostering critical thinking and literacy among the youth, especially at a time when information can be weaponized to manipulate public opinion during elections. 

She recounted how mock poll results conducted in schools ahead of the 2019 midterm elections were starkly different from those conducted in communities with less access to quality education, highlighting a gap in information access between voting sectors. “Napakaliit lang ang espasyo na malaman kung ano ba talaga ang tunay na stand ng mga tumatakbong kandidato,” Elago lamented.

(There is very little room to understand the real stances of running candidates.)

To clear misconceptions surrounding electoral candidates, young voters must be guided to better determine which sources of information are reputable. This, explained Elago, allows the youth to look past “promises” and “gimmicks” and focus on the objective stands of aspiring public servants. 

“Education would contribute to the empowerment of young people and those who have a wide reach and platform [to inspire] more people to speak up,” Elago asserted. “Yung inspiration na kailangan talaga gawin para magpa-register, sa pamamagitan yan sa pagcontinue ng efforts to raise awareness on why it is important to vote and make that vote count.”

(The inspiration needed to make people register is by continuing efforts to raise awareness on why it is important to vote and make that vote count.)   

Democracy ‘dismantled’

Diokno, who graced the second session titled Speaking Truth to the Future of Democracy, shared his thoughts on why he believes Philippine democracy is “being dismantled piece by piece”. He likened the current administration to the “one-man rule” of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who, he explained, consolidated control over the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government. 

“I saw so many parallels between what happened during Martial Law and what is happening now,” Diokno said, noting that while there are still three branches of government today, “our President has full control of Congress…[and] the attack on the independence of the judiciary nowadays is very indirect but also still very strong.”

The human rights lawyer also took note of what he found to be “very organized” attacks on the media, citing the legal trouble faced by Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa, the threats against the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal as examples.

Diokno’s view of the current state of Philippine democracy is a concern he has for future generations. “I am so afraid, especially for you—for the youth—of what will happen when it (democracy) falls apart because when you have no checks and balances…then the only kind of government that can maintain order will be authoritarian,” he warned, adding that such is already happening with the government’s enforcement of lockdown restrictions.

The former senatorial candidate, however, believes that young cohorts can play a role in initiating political change. Besides voting, the youth, he said, can also take part in demanding electoral reforms, particularly in amending election laws to “level the playing field” for candidates with fewer resources.

Speaking up

In the August 6 segment titled Speaking Truth to Power, Pangilinan called upon her fellow youth to initiate discussions on social and political issues with their loved ones. “While I can rant about something on Twitter and it gets more attention on that platform, the truth is I can’t talk to your mom, I can’t talk to your dad, [and] I can’t talk to your sister about issues the way you can—the way that’s fundamentally compassionate,” she reasoned.

While she has used social media as a platform for her political statements, the 19-year old social media personality, who is also the daughter of Sen. Francis Pangilinan, acknowledged that, coming from a place of privilege, “I will never be able to fully know what their (the masses) experiences are like and never fully understand their struggles and neglect.” 

Nevertheless, Pangilinan emphasized that having an awareness of the country’s socio-economic divide is “something that can equip me [to] know [more], and it drives me forward because I do want to learn more and help as much as I can,” stressing that everyone has a part to play in bringing about change. 

“Make a messenger group, talk about stuff that frustrates you today, frustrates you tomorrow, educate one another, learn from each other, [and] share resources,” she told the audience.

A registered voter herself, Pangilinan asserted that unregistered youth voters must take part in the coming 2022 elections, while those eligible to vote must encourage others to register as well. 

By Jan Emmanuel Alonzo

By John Robert Lee

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