Student leaders advocate for voter empowerment at ‘Tindig!’

Lasalyano Para Sa 2022: Tindig! was held last May 7 in preparation for the National and Local Elections (NLE) last May 9. 

Representatives from Samahang Lasalyano schools De La Salle University-Manila, De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute (DLSMHSI), De La Salle University-Dasmariñas, and De La Salle Araneta University (DLSAU), as well as Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas (UST), gathered to raise awareness on the NLE, nation building, and affairs of the youth through an insightful discussion. 

First-timer jitters

All representatives in the event, including DLSU University Student Government (USG) President Giorgina Escoto, acknowledged how crucial the elections are. “Real power, especially in a democracy, comes from the citizens and not from those who are seated,” DLSAU University Student Council President Nathalie Walker pointed out. 

FEU Central Student Organization President Arnold Luzon asserted that “the results of [the] coming elections will not just dictate the next six years of our lives but also the rest of our lifetimes.” DLSMSHI Institutional Student Council President Adam Palo added to this by saying that an individual vote would have a heavy impact. With the stakes of the upcoming elections being high, a combination of anxiety and excitement is brought to the discussion table. 

Natatakot ako sa darating na Halalan 2022 pero hindi para sa sarili ko kun’di sa [kapwa] kong mamamayan kasi minsan, [dahil sa disinformation at misinformation], mas naniniwala pa sila sa mga sources na hindi naman dapat pagkatiwalaan, DLSU-D University Student Council President Niña Ligan expressed.

(I am afraid of the coming elections not for myself but for others because due to disinformation and misinformation, some people believe in unreliable sources.)

A representative from UST, on the other hand, expressed excitement and a sense of responsibility for the upcoming polls. “Masaya sa pakiramdam na we get to practice our right to vote, but hindi lamang dapat natatapos sa simpleng pagboto ang ating tungkulin, they stated. 

(I am happy that we get to practice our right to vote, but our responsibility does not end there.)

Changing the game 

The student leaders agreed that the elections will spark change. Walker believes that the polls will be “the vote of our lives.” Ligan, meanwhile, stressed that there is more to the elections than just the results.

Ngayong halalan, hindi lamang ang resulta ang inaabangan ko. [Inaabangan ko rin] ang magiging reaksyon at aksyon ng bawat mamamayan ‘pag nalaman nila ang resulta,” said Ligan, further expounding that the public’s next move is equally important.

(Aside from the results, I am also waiting for how people will react and act when the results are out.)

In efforts to mobilize change, the student leaders emphasized in the discussion that it takes a lot of initiatives in order to engage with the surrounding community. Aside from organizing mock polls, the leaders highlighted that their respective student governments initiated projects focused on voter empowerment, leadership, fact checking, and more through webinars and information drives. They claim these efforts to be timely due to rampant disinformation during the campaign season.

May mga kandidatong ginawa [nang] makinarya [ang disinformation] upang maging tool to fight for their candidacy,” Palo lamented, explaining that the role and influence of social media on elections has become more significant. 

(Some candidates use disinformation as a tool to fight for their candidacy.)

Escoto furthered that social media serves as a “double-edged sword.” She said it was a good way to reach people more easily. However, this system was abused and used to proliferate false information.

Safeguarding the ballot

With regard to the polling body, Luzon believes that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is “underperforming in terms of effectively monitoring the candidates’ movements and violations” and could still vastly improve by bettering these aspects.

All leaders agreed that there is still a problem when it comes to the accessibility of voter’s education materials and the voting system itself. Worse, everyone also pointed out the presence of issues with the elections and how this is a systemic problem.

Sapat bang hinahayaan natin kahit kitang kita na [ang vote buying]? Ang kulang sa’tin ay ang mekanismo. Kung hindi [aaksyunan] ng mga nakaupo, [walang kwenta ‘yung pagiging mapagmasid ng lahat], Palo stressed, calling out Comelec’s lack of strictness in vote-buying activities.

(Would we just tolerate the evident acts of vote buying? What we lack is the mechanism. If the polling body does not move,the public’s attentiveness would mean nothing.)

Amid these issues, Walker called for the Comelec to “maintain and improve” its integrity.

Nation’s call

While most of the discussion centered on national implications, the leaders reiterated that local polls bear equal importance. “Hindi hiwalay ang laban natin sa national elections at local elections. Napakakritikal ng ating boto sa mga posisyon na ito dahil sila ang direktang tumutugon sa ating mga pangangailangan sa lungsod,” another UST representative stated.

(Our fight in the national elections and local elections is not separate. It is critical that we cast our votes for those running in these positions as they directly attend to our needs within our localities.) 

The group also urged voters to choose candidates with transparency, openness to criticism, accountability for mistakes, a clean track record, experience, a listening ear, honesty, progressiveness, readiness for action, and adaptability. Likewise, they also mentioned that they are willing to compromise some stance disagreements as long as candidates would uphold human rights and be transparent, accountable, and open to criticism for their actions.

Empowering the voters, Ligan assured everyone of their right to speak up. “Kung may mga ibang tao na shina-shutdown kayo dahil sinasabing hindi niyo kailangan [o] deserve ng boses sa bansang ito, gusto ko lang ipaalala na lahat tayo ay may karapatan na ipaglaban ang bawat isa.

(Despite people shutting you down, remember that you have the right to fight for yourself.)

Capping it off, Escoto urged everyone to vote. “We have to redeem the dignity of the Philippines. The time is now. The power is ours.”

Carl Joshua Mamuri

By Carl Joshua Mamuri

Maggy de Guzman

By Maggy de Guzman

Leave a Reply