PH lessons from pandemic further highlight importance of voting in 2022 elections

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) engaged Filipino voters in an online forum for two weekends, where they discussed their crucial role in the 2022 national and local elections.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez held the open mic episodes of Radyo Comelec via Zoom call on two Saturdays – April 17 and 24 – in a bid to engage voters, especially the youth, in discussions on the 2022 elections.

Radyo Comelec provides an avenue for people to raise their election-related concerns to Comelec. During the April 17 and 24 episodes, the participants shared their sentiments and concerns on the government's response to pressing issues and how this may affect the upcoming elections.

The open mic episodes are open to all Filipinos who are willing to share their thoughts, via Zoom, with Comelec, aired live on Facebook.

'Every vote counts'

The outcome of the 2022 elections will dictate how the Philippines will survive and recover from the COVID-19 devastation.

Netizens have been openly criticizing the Duterte administration's pandemic response on social media, holding their leaders accountable for missteps in dealing with the public health crisis, and calling on fellow voters to choose the right leaders in 2022.

Junior high school student Prences Jhewen Albis stressed the importance of voting wisely since elected officials dictate how taxpayers' money is spent.

I want to make sure that the taxes I’m paying go to rightful places…. We should take some time and learn about the candidates. If I don’t vote, someone else will decide for me,” Albis said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Albis added that her own community depends on her, as a voter, to make an informed decision. 

The forum participants said that they will cast their vote even during the pandemic as the election of new leaders will allow the Philippines to "restart." 

Pia Arroyo-Magalona, the wife of the late Filipino rapper Francis Magalona, said during the forum that she continues to exercise her right to vote even if her bets did not win in past elections. 

“Kapag botohan, equalizer ‘yan. Kahit ano’ng estado mo, isa lang ang boto mo. Every vote counts) (Voting is an equalizer. Regardless of your social status, you only have one vote. Every vote counts)," she added. 

Michael Gunita, for his part, said it is important to hold officials accountable and that it’s not enough to just say this on social media without the corresponding action. "It does not translate to a vote," he said.

Kirby Borja encouraged Filipinos to vote even in a time of pandemic, saying that the people, through their votes, can help realize their ows repeated calls for responsible, transparent, and accountable officials.

Community pantries: Wake-up call or political maneuver?

Voters also contemplated on the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic by looking at the rise of community pantries. 

Teacher Deejay Arro said that the rise of community pantries is a wake-up call to the government since ordinary citizens have decided to help Filipinos left out by the government's inadequate pandemic response.

When asked whether they agree with politicians' move to organize their own community pantries, most of the forum participalnts said this is fine for as long as they don't put their names on the pantries; otherwise, this is seen as a political move.

‘’The intention [of having a community pantry] is good, makakatulong siya, pero may (it can help but there's) subtle propaganda," said Kim de Jesus.

Journalist Alma Anonas-Carpio said politicians can take advantage of community pantries to promote themselves as the elections neared. She reiterated the call for voter’s education at home and the community as part of daily discussions.

Jimenez also warned of community pantries being associated with politics, referring to a video of a woman who a village official had caught hoarding products in a community pantry in Pasig City.  The spokesperson said that there are people who think that receiving something from candidates is a part of the electoral process.

Jimenez also reminded voters not to cast their votes depending on what politicians give in exchange, but on the candidates' track record.

“Strive for some sort of balance…. (Kahit) gaano pa ‘yan katalino, kahit gaano pa kalaki ang degree niya, kung alam mo na magnanakaw siya, bakit mo iboboto (Strive for some sort of balance.... Regardless of intellect and degree, if you known the candidate is a thief, why would you vote for them)? Jimenez said. 

'Vote with a clear conscience'

Jimenez also said that voting to reelect or replace officials is ultimately a personal choice. To help especially first-time voters, he laid out some standards that they should consider when choosing candidates.

Kapag first-time voter madali tayong madala sa passions ng mga kaibigan, teacher, iniidolo. Hindi natin napapakinggan ang sarili nating paninindigan,” (First-time voters get easily swayed by the passions of friends, teachers, and idols. We can't hear our own conviction), Jimenez said. 

The spokesperson said that the first step in assessing candidates is to look at one's own principles, stance, and priorities.

Halimbawa, kung ikaw ay SOGIE advocate, siguro naman hindi ka boboto ng misogynist (For example, it you’re a SOGIE advocate, you probably won’t vote for a misogynist)," he said, explaining that voter’s core values should be firm in mind while assessing the actions of candidates. 

Jimenez said that as the country moves closer to the elections, the more idealized the presentation of aspiring candidates will be so to become an informed vote, one must look at the actions of potential candidates as early as possible to better know them. 

Jimenez also said that the Comelec is trying to reach more platforms similar to Radyo Comelec to broaden voter’s education in the hope that many Filipinos will participate and be enlightened about their crucial role as voters.

Comelec also has social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which provide updates on voter’s registration and education. It has also ventured into Tiktok,  where the step-by-step procedure of registration is shown through dance,  to encourage the public to vote.

Voter registration for the 2022 elections will end on September 30, 2021. – Rappler.com

Mover Alzel Laguardia is a former Rappler news intern. She is a second year journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas.