RP youth group adapts Obama's viral campaign

by MARIA ALTHEA TEVES, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Mar 15 2009 05:48 AM | Updated as of Mar 15 2009 02:07 PM

Barack Obama used the Internet as a marketing tool to rally America’s youth for his 2008 presidential campaign and he's now president of the United States.

Youth Vote Philippines, an organization dedicated to voters’ education and empowerment, wants to see a similar outcome in the Philippines.

But would voters’ education and youth empowerment through the Internet be effective in the Philippines?

According to a study done by the Universal McCann, the Internet penetrates only 15.4% of the Philippine population.  Majority of voters in the Philippines are poor, which limits their access to and use of new technologies.

Take the case of Ria Castillo. This 15-year-old from Muntinlupa City said she would rather spend her P15 on food for the family than for Internet usage.

In Iloilo, 24-year-old teacher Jennifer Fajardo said using her money for Internet does not even enter her mind. She would rather use her money to buy a headband after salary day.

Community-based

How then should the youth in the Philippines be mobilized?
 
“The easiest way is community-based,” said Jaime Garchitorena of Youth Public Servants in an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak during a general assembly of youth groups Saturday at the UP Diliman in Quezon City.

“People who know about Youth Vote Philippines, or any information about candidates, have the responsibility to inform their co-youth about it,” he explained.

Garchitorena said information dissemination need not be in a formal setting since it can be done through casual conversations with friends.

Role of church, text

But a word of mouth campaign may not be sufficient to develop youth power.  Youth Vote Philippines would not be able to tap every single youth through this strategy.

Thus, it is teaming up with Church groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) to reach out to to school youth and youth on the streets.

 “One way or another, these people go to church,” Gartchitorena said.

The Catholic church has been an advocate of clean and honest elections, and in previous elections, it has used the pulpit to guide voters and empower them with information.

Another way of tapping the youth would be through text brigade. Young voters from poor communities may not have access to the Internet, but many of them have mobile phones.

But this is easier said than done.

Garchitorena said that “before the text could be enthusiastically passed on by the texter, it has to bear a very compelling message."

"Laugh, dance, vote"

One of the messages of Youth Vote Philippines is "laugh, dance, vote."

Achaea Sanchez, 13, a freshman at Maligaya High School in Quezon City asked Garchitorena during the assembly, “What is the connection between the words laugh, dance and vote?”

Garchitorena said laughing and dancing are crucial to youth experiences. “What a pity it is for a child to not laugh and dance."  

“Laugh when you have to laugh, dance when it is time to dance, and come May 2010, vote when you have to vote,” he said.

He believes this message, which will be promoted through the Internet, on tarpaulins and shirts, would encourage the youth to be more proactive in the May 2010 elections.

Garchitorena said they consulted a Danish NGO on how best to target the youth, and “they advised us to make our message visible. For the youth to recognize a message, they have to see it seven times.”

But recognizing is not the same as understanding.  For the youth to be able to understand a message, he said “they have to feel like they are part of [the campaign] ‘Laugh, Dance, Vote."

He added that the youth are idealistic, and one way of expressing their idealism is through the ballot.