At nonprofit overseeing fair elections, youth isn’t wasted on young volunteers

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2019 06:10 AM

MANILA—Hundreds of excited young volunteers filled the command center of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Tuesday. 

They were mostly quiet, carefully encoding the contents of printed election returns. They cannot afford to make a mistake since the data they encode will be used to counter-check votes uploaded into the transparency server. 

Many are students but some are young professionals, eager to make a difference.

Among them is Ivan Pinto a volunteer since 2013.

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Ivan Pinto, a high-school lecturer and law student, has been volunteering for PPCRV since 2013. Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

At that time, he was a 14-year-old student who served in his parish. His first foray into volunteering for the PPCRV involved encoding election returns.

“I felt nervous because I was going to be a part of the parallel count and every minute, every hour was very important,” he said. 

“At that age, it was fun since we were a large group. We were all excited to return the next day and continue working.”

Now a first-year law student, he is among PPCRV’s senior volunteers tasked to answer their hotline and oversee the command center floor operations.

Pinto said he kept coming back, because it was a chance for him to help the country. He said it also inspired him to take up law. 

“It is better to be a lawyer because I need to defend the rights of the people,” he said as he recalled interacting with voters who complained about being disenfranchised among other problems.

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Monica Cruz and her friends spend 4 hours a day at the PPCRV command center to help encode election returns. Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Like Pinto, 15-year-old Monica Cruz is an active member of her youth ministry. It is her first time to volunteer for the PPCRV.

She and her friends arrived at the command center on Tuesday night, eager to help encode ERs, which will be crucial in checking the results posted in the transparency server.

“I am happy because I know that I can help. It feels good,” she said. 

She said she didn’t expect that the PPCRV operations would be so big and there would be a lot of computers at the command center.

Cruz said she hopes more Filipinos would care about the country.

“I hope they would be encouraged to join church ministries so they become aware and more broad-minded,” she said.

Her wish for this year’s election winners: “I hope the winners would be able to improve and develop our country to show that they deserve the votes they got.”

At the PPCRV command center, volunteers meet like-minded Catholic youth such as first-time volunteer Ivan Garong.

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Human resources staff Ivan Garong puts his skills to good use by helping recruit volunteers for the PPCRV. Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Garong, 33, who heads a human resource team of a private company, helped recruit volunteers for the PPCRV. 

Like most of the volunteers, Garong was a student leader who was active in church.

Before election day, he helped facilitate workshops, and coordinated with companies and schools to get PPCRV voters.

Because he was registered in the province, Garong needed to go home to Oriental Mindoro on Sunday. After voting on Monday at 6:10 a.m., he took a ferry and traveled back to Manila. 

“My dad was asking me, ‘Why are you doing this? Why not spend time with family?” Garong recalled. He told his father, “You taught me when I was young that giving back to community is one of the truest way of show your sense of nationalism and sense of patriotism.”

Garong said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from volunteers.

“I’m very happy because some of them have been poll watchers in the morning. In the evening they [end up going to the command center],” he said. 

Garong said young volunteers are excited to see the turn-out of votes.

His message to the newly elected officials: “The votes have been entrusted to you by the people. We expect highly of [you]. To maintain integrity. To maintain honesty . . . [To be] selfless servant leaders. That’s what we need right now, servant leaders.”