First-time voters ‘excited, confused’ during 2018 barangay, SK elections

Camille Elemia
First-time voters ‘excited, confused’ during 2018 barangay, SK elections
Voters as young as 15 years are able to vote in the Sangguniang Kabataan elections, the first youth polls held in 8 years

MANILA, Philippines – To some, the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections mark the first time they would cast their vote.

Filipinos as young as 15 years old (and up to 24) could vote for their SK officials, while those at least 18 would be voting in the barangay polls

Jorenz Denosta, 18, is one of the first-time voters in Barangay Pinagbuhatan in Pasig City, the 4th most populous village in the Philippines. Rappler saw him walking along the hallways of Nagpayong Elementary School, trying to look for his precinct.

Ang gulo po eh, ‘di ko mahanap ‘yung room,” Denosta said. (It’s confusing, I cannot find my room.)

He said he wanted to vote so deserving people would be elected to office.

April Joy Castro, 21, was also confused. “Opo magulo… actually lahat, sa paghahanap ng presinto,” Castro said. (Yes, everything’s confusing, especially finding for your precinct.)

She said she was both excited and nervous for her first ever voting experience. She was already eligible to vote in 2016, but she failed to register. Now, she said she wanted to exercise her right.

“Ang sarap din sa pakiramdam ‘pag nakaboto ka na,” Castro said. (It also feels good to finally be able to vote.)

“[Bumoto ako] para dito sa barangay, sa komunidad, ‘yung mga itutulong nila. Sana maging maayos lang po. Magkasundo lang ho lahat ng tao, walang gulo. ‘Yung bayanihan,” she said. (I voted because I want our community, barangay, to improve. I hope they help do something. I want everything to be in order, peaceful relations between people, helping each other.)

Friends Julieto Lamoste, 20, and Jiether Lumitao, 19, went to the polling center together.

Lamoste said he was ecstatic to finally have the chance to vote. He said he initially decided to do so because of the city’s scholarship requirements. But eventually he had a deeper motivation.

“Of course, I’m very happy because it’s my first time to vote. I need this for my scholarship. They need us to see our names, that we actually voted. If not, we will be removed from the scholarship program,” he said in Filipino.

“Bumoto rin ako kasi para malaman ko, masubok ko kung ‘yung binoto ko ay totoong magsisislbi rito. ‘Yung iba kasing ibinoto natin hanggang salita lang. Dito masusubok kung talagang ‘yung binoto ko first time ay talagang gagawa ng maganda sa bayan,” he said.

(I also voted because I want to know for myself if the people I vote for would actually serve the people. Others who were elected in the past were all talk. Now we’ll know if thosoe I voted this first time will do good for the public.)

As for the youth council, he was ambivalent. After all, he said most of the SK’s promised projects remained unfulfilled. 

Lumitao, for his part, said he voted because he wanted to show he cares about society. Like other first-time voters, he said he felt nervous, confused, and happy all at the same time.

“I think I voted because this is the only way for me to show that I care for the country,” he said in Filipino.

While some young people succeeded, others did not. In Caloocan, Mary Mae Alvarado left Bagong Silang Elementary School dismayed because her name was not on the voters’ list.

Gusto ko sana bumoto, pero wala ‘yung pangalan ko [sa listahan]. Napagod lang ako pumila noon para magpa-rehistro, tapos napagod lang din ako pumila ngayon,” Alvarado said. (I wanted to vote but my name is not on the list. I just got tired lining up then during the registration period, and got tired again for lining up today.)

The Commission on Elections said on Monday, May 14, that unqualified barangay and SK officials would not be allowed to assume office if they win.

There are some instances, Comelec said, where SK bets were over the age of 24, or where barangay candidates were not registered in the village where they ran.

This year was the first in 8 years for an SK election to be held, after several laws were passed postponing the polls. This has rendered youth posts vacant since 2013. 

Some provinces had reported that a number of barangays didn’t have SK candidates. The Department of the Interior and Local Government is finalizing rules on how to fill the positions. – with reports from Ralf Rivas / Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com