Filipinos need to actively fight disinformation and populism so they could make enlightened choices in next year’s high-stakes elections, international research firm Stratbase ADR Institute said.
These enlightened choices would exhibit the qualities desired by Filipinos and address gut issues hounding us during this extraordinary time, the research firm also said, in a recently-held virtual town hall meeting where government and private sector representatives were invited.
“Filipinos want leaders who will provide jobs, keep the prices of basic commodities low, eradicate graft and corruption, increase wages and reduce poverty,” said Professor Dindo Manhit, Stratbase ADR president, said. “We have commissioned two separate surveys at different times with a different group of respondents, and they basically told us the same thing.”
Stratbase ADR quoted a Pulse Asia survey which said the top three qualities people want in their leaders are “concern for the poor,” “not corrupt,” and “trustworthy and honest.”
“But false information paralyzes people’s critical ability to choose leaders,” Manhit said, adding that there should be a multistakeholder effort to collectively expose and denounce trolls and disinformation machineries.
“The end is near for populism,” said Manhit., adding that “We need to stand up as a whole society to collectively ensure legitimate results. An election that is rooted with the key values and priorities at the heart of every voter.”
Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez, who was one of the speakers of the virtual town hall meeting, meanwhile cited the better-than-expected registration numbers as an indication that Filipinos are eager to participate in the electoral exercise.
“We are closer to 63 million registered voters when our initial projections were at 59 million. As for the extension, we were expecting 300,000 to 350,000 new registrants but now we already have 400,000,” he said. “The hits just keep on coming. This is incredible considering that this is a pandemic.”
The poll body is now also overseeing the refurbishment of the vote-counting machines (VCMs) and hardware acceptance testing.
Henry Aguda, another quest in the virtual meeting and a trustee of the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting, spoke about how the VCMs worked, what the public should expect while using them, and even what to do when the machines malfunction on election day.
Lawyer Ona Caritos, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections, highlighted the need to use videos in voter education, using the information that nearly all internet-using Filipinos watch videos and vlogs.
For those voters without reliable internet access, local radio channels remain the best way to communicate.
Caritos suggested that aside from the usual voter education topics, there should also be discussions on campaign finances and governance, political dynasties, misinformation and disinformation, and voting safely despite an ongoing pandemic.
“Various groups need to conduct education activities on new protocols and guidelines so that these do not disenfranchise Filipinos,” she said.
Dr. Ador Torneo, director of the La Salle Institute of Governance and Full Professor of Political Science and Development Studies at DLSU, said the success of the elections will depend on the COVID-19 situation, the policies of the IATF, the vaccination progress, the adequacy of the COMELEC preparations – and the stakeholders’ response to all these.
Other speakers in the virtual discussion called Democracy Goes On include Mardi Mapa-Suplido, chairperson of InciteGOV, University of the Philippines Professor Danilo Arao, convenor of Kontra Daya, Atty. Mildred Ople, Program Officer for Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed), and Paco Pangalangan Stratbase ADRi executive director and Convenor of Democracy Watch.