PANGASINAN, Philippines – The streets of Dagupan are festooned with signs saying “Pick me, pick me.” It is campaign season and the candidates all clamor to be heard.
But at the #PHVote Challenge: Pangasinan’s #TheLeaderIWant forum on Tuesday, April 12, held at the University of Pangasinan, students wanted candidates to listen to them instead.
Their demand: address inequality by reforming government, solving poverty, and improving education. They also shared their desired solutions.
In May 2015, Rappler launched #PHVote: The Leader I Want forum series that seeks to guide voters along the journey of choosing the leaders they want, helping them make informed decisions.
Stories and solutions
Jhuliano Nazareno, the incoming student council president, told several stories of his experience of crime in Dagupan.
In one story, he and his friends were in a mall when one of them had their phones stolen. In another, a robber threatened his friend with a balisong (switchblade), so his friend surrendered. In both cases, they never recovered the phones.
These experiences prompted Nazareno to muse on the nature of crime. He concluded that it all boiled down to poverty. “It’s all because of poverty. Kasi wala kami,” he said. (Because we have nothing.)
“The main cause of criminality is actually poverty,” he told the audience.
Student leader Frankie Cortez, meanwhile, detailed the plight of laborers in the country. He lamented about the job mismatch, sayin`g many people were forced to find jobs they did not study for or had no interest in to eke out a living.
He also railed about child labor, and said children had to work because their parents could not find any.
This prompted him to muse on the centralization of opportunities: most jobs, good schools, and government services were located in the provincial and even national centers, leaving the less privileged unable to take part.
He cited his own experience as a student leader who wanted to join conferences and meetings, but could not afford to travel to Lingayen, Pangasinan’s capital.
Education and scholarship
Melody Zarate, a Pangasinan Mover, focused on opening government scholarship opportunities to more people by disseminating information to the grassroots.
“Bakit ang nakikinabang yung mga taong meron naman?” she asked. (Why are the people benefiting from the scholarships the people who have the means anyway?)
She urged government to share information to poor students so that they would know about it as well.
These are the problems of the youth in Pangasinan. Together Pangasinense voters aged 17 to 34 comprise 749,041 voters or 43.93% of the total registered voters.
Pangasinan is the third most vote-rich province in the country at 1,705,260. It is behind only Cebu and Cavite as the province with largest voter base. (READ: What you need to know about Pangasinan and #PHVote)
With the next presidential debate to be held right at the University of Pangasinan on April 24, will their voices be heard then or will they fall by the wayside again? – Rappler.com