MANILA - Aside from being a basic right for those of age, exercising the right to vote is one way to show one’s love for his or her country, according to Maribel Buenaobra, executive director of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPRCV).
In a recent forum on responsible voting, Buenaobra said choosing a candidate to vote for is like choosing a suitor whom you will spend the rest of your life with.
Her statement elicited laughs from the audience who attended the "Asia Society Conversations: What Voters Need to Know forum," where other experts also shared their insights on responsible voting and other election issues.
“You have to be discerning about it. You have to check the candidate’s track record, how honest he or she is, and what his or her capabilities are,” she said.
Buenaobra also likened the candidates running for office to people applying for new jobs.
“When you apply for a job, a lot of things are asked of you--your curriculum vitae, biodata, and your employment history. We should ask the same of your candidates. They are actually applying for a post as a senator, as a congress person, as a mayor, as a party list,” she said.
'Guard vs fake news'
With 62 senatorial bets and 134 party-list groups running for office, choosing the right candidate may be daunting to new voters.
That is why first-time voters are highly encouraged to guard themselves against fake news, according to Ellen Tordesillas, president and co-founder of fact-checking website VERA Files Fact Check (VERA Files).
With the convenience and accessibility of social media, young voters should be discerning of fake news and propaganda, the veteran reporter added.
“The online disinformation campaign in the Philippines is overwhelming political,” Tordesillas said, presenting a report about how much fake news VERA Files has debunked over the past year.
“Makers of online disinformation rely on three techniques: faking or inventing information; misleading readers by subtle manipulation of facts; and making false claims using real events,” the report said.
“As a citizen and journalist, I want to go beyond making sure that the elections are free and credible. I want to make sure that people go to the polls armed with the right information. That is where the battle is right now," Tordesillas said.
With the rise of social media, anyone can create their own content and manipulate the facts to produce fake news. Because of this, Buenaobra highlighted the dual nature of social media--that it can be both a force for good and bad.
“The youth are engaged with social media, which can be a boon and a bane. It [social media] is a tool you can use to propagate and disseminate fake news, but it can also be a tool for you to provide content, informed decisions,” she said.
‘Never underestimate the youth’
“Adults always tell us that we’re too demanding and that we’re not going to elections. But, it's actually the young people who are really more aggressive in informing the voters that it is their right to go out and vote,” Richard Amazona, program director of YouthVote Philippines, said.
Amazona talked about his experience in Tawi Tawi, Basilan and Sulu, where young people were conducting voters’ education seminars.
He believes that by 2022, it will be the young people who can "make or break the elections."
“In 2016, there were a lot of young people who voted. [We’re] not apathetic,” Amazona said, referring to the misconception that the youth were apathetic.
Last year, a published study titled, “Do Gen-Z’s Care?” made rounds on social media and in the news.
The study showed that only one-fourth of the interviewees cared about political affairs, or chose to be "change agents."
The study was published by the Public Policy Institute of the Far Eastern University.
“We are actually more aggressive because we always believe that the policies and programs to be implemented by the leaders are affecting us,” Amazona said.
Asked about his advice for first-time voters, Amazona emphasized that they should: analyse what issue they are more connected with, find out which candidates are champions for that platform, and ask how these candidates are going to fulfill their promises for that issue.
“If you come from a province that lacks healthcare or education, you [should] focus on that. After that, you need to know who are the candidates who advocate solutions for those issues. If there are 10 candidates fighting for that platform, pick the one who has the most organized platform and detailed steps on how to solve the issue,” Amazona said.