Leilani Chavez, abs-cbnNEWS.com | 01/05/2009 3:09 PM
If a member of the student council calls you on your cell phone, informs you of a voters’ registration in the college campus and encourages you to participate, would you go?
The answer is simple for Angelica Fabian: Yes, of course.
Fabian, an 18-year-old second year advertising student, told abs-cbnnews.com that she felt important when she was invited to participate in the voters’ registration organized at the University of Santo Tomas in December.
The voters’ registration is part of the BidaBe the Change Botanteng Pilipino program spearheaded by the Commission on Elections to encourage first-time voters, particularly students, to register early in preparation for the 2010 national elections.
The campus registration, which started at the University of Santo Tomas last December 2, 2008, will push through until November 2009 nationwide.
COMELEC is targeting registrations in the provinces of Pangasinan, Bulacan, Cavite, Iloilo, Leyte, Lanao del Sur, and Cagayan de Oro before the closing of classes in March 2008.
According to James Jimenez, Comelec education and information department director, they are planning to conduct a drive to cleanse the voters’ list during the summer break.
Language of the youth
Tanya Hamada, core member for YVote! and Young Public Servants, told abs-cbnnews.com that they are planning to extensively push for voters’ education in 2009. COMELEC and YVote have previously stated that first-time voters totaled to around 10 million, considered a critical base number for those running for office.
Aside from the workshops before the registration, Hamada said that they are also planning to stage plays and put up a youth portal on the importance of youth registration.
The play, a light comedy from the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (Peta), will tackle the registration process and the implications of voting. The play will be staged in different schools in Manila on February and will hopefully be filmed live and shown to schools outside Manila.
YVote is also taking advantage of the youth access to the Internet to disseminate information. The online portal will collate each candidate’s stand on issues and the readers can give their comments on the topic. “There will be widgets on social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster that directly link to the portal,” Hamada said.
“We wanted to reach the youth in their language, and that is television and the Internet,” she added.
The idea of personally calling up students was initiated by the Student Council. Inviting the students was not easy, said Angelo Cachero, SC President. Cachero told abs-cbnnews.com that the initial reaction they got from students was apathy.
“Many questioned if they need it and there’s a notion that the current system is rotten so why bother to participate,” he said.
Cachero said that they thoroughly publicized the event by putting up posters and asking faculty members to discuss it with their classes. They also went as far as to call up students and invite them. Together with Comelec, they organized a pre-orientation session a week before the registration to address students’ concerns and to explain the importance of their votes.
Prior to the pre-orientation, survey forms were released. Results, according to Cachero, showed that majority of young voters “don’t like politics.”
“We shared with them that it’s not about politics but social responsibility. Voting is technically not politics,” Cachero said.
The registration in UST is the first in a series of registration in various schools and universities in the country for the BidaBe the Change program. Registration only lasts for a day.
According to Cristina Cabral, assistant director for student affairs in UST, about 200 Thomasians, all living within the 4th district of Manila and of legal age, registered. Aside from that, disabled voters also registered.
Less than 30 minutes
Fabian fell in line a little past eleven, carrying nothing but her trusty pen. The first stop was the interviewer’s desk where she was asked to fill up the registration form.
The officials then asked for her address and looked through the map of the fourth district of Manila to determine which precinct she should go come election time. After placing her thumb mark in the form, Fabian then headed to the verification desk.
The verification desk is where the registrants’ names are checked to make sure that they never registered before. This is also where voters go to transfer voting precincts.
The next step is the oath desk where students are asked for validation and pledge to vote responsibly. After this, they are ushered to the data capturing or biometrics desk where photos for the voter’s ID, fingerprints, and signatures are taken. Afterwards, Fabian and the rest of the registrants had to return to the oath desk to be given their precinct numbers.
In less than 30 minutes—27, to be exact—Fabian registered for the elections, got her free lunch, and still attended class in the afternoon. “It was fast. I probably took the longest time only at the first desk!” Fabian said.
Changing the world with one vote
Jed Umali, a second year HRM student and another registrant, told abs-cbnnews.com he patiently waited in line because, “It’s my right, a way of expressing myself. I now have the chance to change the country, not just for me but for every Filipino citizen. I can help by casting my vote.”
Other students have expressed the same concern and pride. For friends Kayla Ayson and Janel Reyes, second year commerce and business administration students, registering is their way of “making a change for the betterment of our country” and “to choose the right leader.”
Umali also added that, “when I reached 18, my main concern is that I can be charged and jailed. On top of that, I can vote. I used to accompany my parents during elections and just watch them. Now, I feel elated knowing that when I come with them, I can vote as well.”
as of 01/05/2009 3:10 PM