Despite numbers, why young Filipinos remain marginalized in political discourse

Wena Cos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2021 07:35 PM | Updated as of Jan 12 2022 02:01 PM

Youth leaders from various organizations conduct a protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati on the eve of Philippine Independence Day, Tuesday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file
Youth leaders from various organizations conduct a protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati on the eve of Philippine Independence Day, Tuesday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA—A youth empowerment advocate on Wednesday said young Filipinos could change how politics are run in the country, but their voice continued to be set aside.

Lynrose Jane Genon, an executive committee member of Young Women Leaders for Peace in the Philippines, said in a youth leaders discussion that young Filipinos have a "demographic advantage" in the electorate, because they make up 52 percent of registered voters younger than 30 years old, or 31.4 million voters.

Despite the numbers, their voice seemed to remain unheard.

The talk was part of the Summit for Democracy forum organized by the United States Department of State.

The summit's agenda is "for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action."

Genon said: "Young people's enthusiasm is often met with barriers, young people are marginalized from political processes, and largely excluded from elected political seats with dynasties still dominating in the 2022 elections." 

"While platforms for youth engagement exist, the lack of civic education for youth to prepare them for effective participation for these platforms is largely non-existent or ineffective," added Genon, a full-time faculty member at Mindanao State University—Iligan Institute of Technology

She said social norms hindered younger people, too, from active participation in political discourse.

"[In] highly patriarchal communities, stereotypes on age and gender intersect and cause young women leaders to be excluded, and their contribution to strengthen democracy become untapped and in some communities invisible," she said.

Meanwhile, internet access is a "double-edged sword," Genon added. 

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"There is also prevalent information pollution online and digital repression in the country to advance political objectives. This diminishes the quality of democracy, it saps trust from democratic institutions, it distorts electoral processes, and fosters polarization online," she said.

Genon also brought up red-tagging threats faced by the youth during the pandemic. 

"[This is] constricting further the increasingly diminishing democratic space in the Philippines where activists, human rights lawyers, and journalists, and even ordinary Filipinos on social media are under threat," she said.

Genon said government must encourage young people to become leaders, something that could rebuild their trust in it.

She was joined by fellow youth leaders Mwila Chriseddy Bwangga, founder and executive director of BeRelevant Africa; Margarita Maira, advocacy coordinator of Ahora Nos Toca Participar, and Daria Onyshko, program officer of Community of Democracies.

The Summit for Democracy will continue for another 2 days with panels discussing democracy and how it intersects with the private sector, gender issues and inclusivity, technology, and the internet.

The talk will also tackle the plight of political prisoners, besides democracy amid COVID-19 and corruption, and the protection of human rights by empowering human rights defenders and independent media. 

An hourlong youth town hall also will be held before, before US President Joe Biden closes the event.