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Jesuit group holds voter, political engagement training

Gerard Lim

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Jesuit group holds voter, political engagement training
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan trained facilitators for Kuwentuhang Bayan, a voter and political education seminar to be held across the country

MANILA, Philippines – In preparation for the 2016 polls, the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) held a political education training of facilitators Saturday, July 18, at the Ateneo de Manila University.

The training is part of the first phase in SLB’s Kuwentuhang Bayan project where they intend to empower citizens by providing them critical frameworks and providing venues for discussion.

The session began with identifying what problems and issues the participants have in their communities. There was also a presentation of statistical data on economic growth and poverty incidence around the country.

The second module was a discussion about the nature of politics and relations of power, the elements of the state, and the aspects of democracy. This included showing a video by TED Education. 

Participants were then grouped according to the issues they wanted to see addressed in their communities. They were then asked to report on the causes and effects of said issues.

Afterwards, participants were asked to craft action plans identifying, The action plans are ideally to help think of policies and programs that the government should be implementing to solve the problems identified.

Engagement before and beyond

The participants were members of SLB’s partner institutions who will conduct their own political education sessions across the country. The expected output of these sessions are agenda and action plans crafted by the communities to be presented to the candidates come campaign season.

A candidate who agrees with the agenda and action plan of the community can sign a memorandum of agreement as a promise to the community to fulfill if elected. These agenda and action points can then be used in SLB’s Bantay Pangako program where citizens can monitor and pressure the candidates they elected to make good on their promises.

In an interview, SLB executive director Fr. Xavier “Javy” Alpasa SJ said this year, the SLB wants to address inadequacy of the usual method of voter’s education programs. Instead of only making citizens engage during election season the program hopes to engage the government before and after the elections.

POLITICAL EDUCATION. Fr Javy Alpasa explains SLB's Kuwentuhang Bayan manual. Photo by Gerard Lim/Rappler

“We want to reverse the typical voter-politician dynamics. Instead of voters just listening to the speeches and promises of politicians, we want the voter to be able to craft the agenda of our candidates,” SLB good governance analyst Enrico La Viña told Rappler in an interview.

SLB good governance program officer Karlo Abadines also said he hopes these efforts would help move political discussions from “personality-driven discussions to issues-driven discourse.”

Alpasa says SLB hopes to escalate and consolidate action-plans formed on the local level to the regional, and eventually to the national level. They also hope to have a national forum with the presidential candidates by March or April.

“We hope to create a portal sometime in November where people can find the different agenda and action plans around,” Alpasa added.

The attendees were mostly members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action, students from universities and colleges, and of volunteers from parishes.

Other opportunities

SLB has been conducting trainings in different parts of the country since March. “We are open to any invitation anywhere to have a Kuwentuhang Bayan session. We really want to stimulate the national conversation,” Alpasa said.

SLB is also accepting interns and volunteers throughout the year. Aside from Kuwentuhang Bayan, SLB also has the National Situationer, the Kasiguruhan sa Casiguran Campaign, Task Force Anti-APECO, and the Citizenship by Good Example Radio Program as part of its Good Governance Program. (READ: APECO in Aurora: Chaos and paradise)

They also have Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) rehabilitation projects such as rebuilding of infrastructures, comprehensive livelihood, and people-oriented development programs and Community-based DRRM training.

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