"Will young Filipino voters settle for how things are, or will they choose to steer this nation’s present toward a better future?"
Now, more than ever, the country’s youth is set to play a crucial role in the upcoming polls. The Philippines today has the largest generation of young people in its history, with more than 40 million Filipinos from ages 18 to 39 eligible to vote in the 2022 elections. In fact, in the 2019 elections, the youth voter turnout reached 22 million, or 35 percent of the total number of actual voters.
Putting these numbers into context, in the 2016 presidential elections, President Rodrigo Duterte won by 16 million votes, while Vice President Leni Robredo garnered 14 million votes. In the last 2019 midterm elections, the last three Senate seats were clinched by only 14 million votes.
These statistics prove that 22 million young Filipinos can effectively direct the course of this nation’s politics.
However, the more important question to ask is: “Will they?”
It has long been said that the youth is the future of the country. But this familiar adage is no longer true. By their numbers alone, it can be said that the young generation is already our nation’s present.
Thus, it is very important for the youth to realize how crucial their participation in politics and civic life is. They must learn to value their right to choose their political leaders, and to uphold their responsibility in helping build this nation. They must understand that for us to be a democracy in the truest sense of the word, a third of our population cannot be apathetic or left unheard.
Therefore, it is disconcerting to know that many of our young voters miss exercising their right to vote. Worse, although today’s youth are willing to voice out their thoughts more actively on many issues and concerns – many have disengaged themselves from politics.
Twenty-two million strong can change a nation, whether for better or for worse. In time, the 22 million will replace the leaders and workers in government, business and in the economy. Before they even realize it, they would be the ones running the schools, farms, and factories. The kind of leaders they choose will dictate the course of our national policies in agriculture and trade and ensure the delivery of basic services such as education, healthcare, and livelihood.
Will the 22 million young voters settle for how things are, or will they choose to steer this nation’s present toward a better future?
Will they consign their fate, and that of their future families to those who have the opportunity and propensity to exploit their power, until it is simply too late before they decide to have a say in the workings of government?
Many of our Filipinos complain about the state of things in our country, and many of these ills have long been rooted in our society. The simple truth is that during their days, their generation never had the voice nor the number to shape the course of their future.
Today’s generation of young Filipinos cannot claim the same. In 2016, 16 million votes made a president. In 2019, 14 million votes propelled three senators to office.
Think about what 22 million can do.
The 22 million strong young Filipinos have the power to make decisions that could change our country. If you believe our country deserves better—but you choose not to vote in the elections, or make your opinions heard, then you—not the government is at fault.
JCI Philippines has recently launched the #AmbagKo campaign which underscores the power and key role that every Filipino youth plays in bringing about change to the country. With the upcoming 2022 national elections, the Philippines is at a crossroads and the power to effect positive change is in hands of Filipino voters. The campaign aims to educate and empower eligible voters with the knowledge that voting is a valuable “ambag” or contribution to nation-building and securing a better future for the Philippines.
It is important for our young generation to realize that voting is as much a responsibility as it is a right.
While voting in the elections is our right, choosing the right kind of leaders is our responsibility. While we are entitled by right to a ballot, it is our duty to know more about the candidates and know who can deliver the best service to the people—without being persuaded or dissuaded by fame, fear, or favor.
There is one more thing that each of the 22 million must remember—that their individual political choices will affect the lives of 110 million Filipinos.
Simply put, in deciding to participate or not, our young voters must stop thinking about what is in it for them. Rather, they should think about what is in it for the Filipino nation as a whole.
True, the young generation has a myriad of concerns that one could say is unique to their time—such as education, nutrition, and recreation. But it is important for them to realize, these concerns alone do not completely define our present situation – the state of our economy, public order and safety, the environment and delivery of social services.
Finally, the youth must understand that voting comes with its own obvious benefits – or sad consequences. In failing to choose a good leader, or choosing not to vote at all, allows the bad, the ineffective and the corrupt to be elected to office.
In the end, if we are not part of the solution, then we become part of the problem.
Generations of Filipinos have known exactly what to do, what they wanted and what they deserved. In the past, many fought hard and gave up their lives to earn the freedom and democracy that we enjoy today. But too often than not, we easily forgot, or decided to take lightly what has been paid by the blood of lost heroes – and blindly fell prey to the abuses of those in power, and those with privilege.
As a result, we keep on missing a good opportunity—and resigning our fate to people, who have no deep grasp or appreciation of the quandaries, predicaments, and plight of the ordinary Filipino.
We cannot keep on beating our chests and flagellating our backs by electing the same old politicians—and expect a time of redemption to come.
Twenty-two million Filipinos have the power to change the future for the better.
If they choose to make it happen.
To know more information about our #AmbagKo campaign or support our voter education initiatives, please visit our website https://ambagko.ph.