March 3, 2016
Last Monday, ABS-CBN’s Bayan Mo iPatrol Mo (BMPM) officially launched me as their Youth Ambassador for #Halalan2016. Now for the past weeks, I’ve been trying to come up with a blog to start off with and describe my journey as a voter, but I haven’t been satisfied with anything I’ve written down. While reflecting on it though, several questions popped up in my mind. For one, who am I to speak about the elections and the intricate world of Philippine politics? Who will listen to a 25 year-old neophyte broadcaster? Why did they pick me out of everyone to represent the youth? These questions crept up on me as I read a sarcastic tweet after the BMPM launch saying, “She’s a hot volleyball player who has probably voted only once in her life, and she has all the credibility in the world.”
Of course I was infuriated by that and I wanted to show him my college degrees to justify my picking, but then I realized, he was actually right. I have only voted once in my life, I never took up any special classes in law (except for PolSci101) and I’m just about 5 months into doing news, sports and entertainment news at that. However, after thinking about it over a few runs, I also realized that there are probably millions of young voters out there who are just like me. There are probably millions out there who want to make a good vote but don’t know where to start. There are probably millions out there who don’t know much about how our political system works. I don’t even think it’s a function of age. No matter how old or young you are, Philippine politics will always be confusing.
I accepted the role of BMPM ambassador not because I’m any expert on the topic of elections, but because I felt bound by my love for public service. I may not be so well-versed with the law, I may not be as experienced as those who have worked in government, but I believe I have a good heart as well as good dreams for the country. I am so proud to be Filipino. I think most of the youth echo this desire to see a brighter Philippines. My role here is to take the election journey with you, so that we can all make a good decision come #Halalan2016.
If we dream dreams for our country, then I believe we must start by respecting the sanctity of our votes. Read, analyze, answer, question again and again, before finally passing the paper. Put more effort into the thought process rather than just basing your decision on popular opinion. If millions died just to give us the right to vote, the best way we can honor them is by taking the voting process seriously. Now I’m not going to act all saintly and say that I did all these the first time I voted. To be honest, back in 2010, I just asked my lawyer brother whom he thought was the best choice for President. That’s why this time around, I want to make my vote more reflective of my own personal voice.
To begin my election journey, I had to suspend all my judgment on the candidates. Admittedly, I had my own perceptions of them already as formed by everything I’ve seen and heard on the news. But I didn’t want the battle to end even before it started, so I gave everyone a fighting chance in my head by letting them start off with a clean slate.
The next thing that I did was to research on the different issues hounding the candidates. What were Grace Poe’s citizenship and residency issues all about? What human rights violations are being accused upon Rodrigo Duterte? What were Mar Roxas’ failings as DILG and DOTC secretary? What are the corruption allegations against Jejomar Binay? Why are people saying that Miriam Santiago isn’t healthy and fit enough to do the work of a President? It is important to study these issues to figure out where the rumors and judgments are coming from.
After reading up on these issues, I’ve been following the candidates on a daily basis. I’ve read up on their platforms, stayed in tune to how they were answering different questions, observed the mudslinging action, and even took note of how they were advertising themselves on TV. Everyday I’m getting to know each candidate better by the way he/she handles his/her campaign. It is crucial to be able to assess personality because ultimately, leadership is defined by that. I’ve listened to the most recent Presidential debate in Mindanao and will definitely be keeping tabs on the next ones happening in Visayas on March 20 and Luzon on April 24. Each leg will be throwing in different questions at the candidates relative to the issues of the regions involved. There will also be a Vice Presidential debate happening on April 10 in Metro Manila. These are organised by the COMELEC so we can see for ourselves how our candidates think, speak, and act under pressure.
I’ve also begun conversing with different people to get a feel of how they arrive at their decisions and know what convinces them to vote for a certain candidate. From news anchors to businessmen to artists to politicians to students to drivers to ordinary citizens, you’d be surprised at how varied people’s opinions are and how they process information. It’s eye-opening to see different points-of-view.
I know there’s a lot of data to absorb, so I’ve created a criteria table that you can use to direct your research and help you in laying down all the details. This is just a sample of what you can look into, but ultimately, it is you who will decide what goes into your set of criteria.
After several months of doing all these things, I feel like my mindset has changed drastically. It’s not really about finding the “cleanest” candidate for me anymore, because Philippine politics is never black and white. Most of the time we will never figure out the complete truth and we can only rely on the information that is put out there. Our candidates will have their own flaws, they will be making mistakes, they will say the craziest things and they will be highly criticized for all these. It’s also not about choosing the “lesser evil” because that will just mean voting in fear. More than anything, I’ve realized how important vision is in the whole discussion. Imagine a very progressive Philippines, how would that look like for you? What is your big dream for the country? Where do you want to see us in the next 6, 12, 18 years? How do you think can we get there? What problems do we need to address? What are the candidates saying about these issues? What kind of leader do we need to achieve this vision? Vision is important because it sets direction for action.
I’ve already begun with my election journey and I hope you have too. You may already have some idea of who you want to vote for but let me invite you to start with a blank piece of paper and open your mind to our candidates. Let them prove you wrong. Let them convince you. At the end of the day, if they still don’t, then you would have only strengthened your conviction for or against a certain candidate. We only have less than 70 days until the elections and still a lot of work to be done. By May 9, when the COMELEC finally says “pass your paper”, I hope you have read, analyzed, and questioned your answers again and again. I hope that you are confident enough with your decision. Yes, we may be young and inexperienced when it comes to politics, but if we’ve done everything that we can to make sure that we have a good vote, then that is enough. May your vote be your voice, and may your voice speak of your dreams for the country.