Illustration by J.C. Santos

THOSE who want to vote next year have only a month to register with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The first automated national and local elections are a history in the making, considering the dirty record of Philippine electoral system, which has always been characterized by violence and fraud.

But there is another thing that can make the polls next year an event to remember: participation of the youth. Comelec Chairman Jose Melo has called on the young people to be involved by practicing their right on suffrage and by contributing to voter education. Figures are not readily available to tell how much of the youth’s population have voted in the previous elections, but judging from the campaign the Comelec and other non-government organizations— and even the media— have been undertaking to capture the youth’s interest, there seems to be a long way to go.

We, Thomasians, are part of that campaign. Last year, it was in UST where Comelec launched its voter awareness campaign. This year, the University has tied up with media institutions advocating clean elections.

Just recently, the two giant television networks visited the University to get the support of the students on their project. ABS-CBN’s “Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo” got at least 200 Thomasian “patrollers” as “eyes” against election fraud. GMA Network’s “Tatakbo Ka Ba?,” on the other hand, made Thomasians run with 5,000 others at Taguig City calling for an honest and credible polls.

It is good that one step at a time, the youth are realizing the crucial role they will play on the elections. It is hoped though that the amount of support the television networks got on their projects will be the same for Comelec with regard to voter’s registration. More than running and watching, voting, and voting wisely will be the best contribution the youth can do to ensure the success of the polls.

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Of course, to vote wisely means to be informed first. That is why the youth, to be really the hope of the nation as Dr. Jose Rizal puts it, should not be contented merely with what they hear of a candidate. They should join candidates’ forums that would let them weigh the candidates’ agenda for the country.

Last May, the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) conducted forums in different universities that showcased interviews and open-floor questioning of prospective presidential candidates. Media as a tool to inform people have long been proven effective and far-reaching. If the Comelec is serious in getting the youth to vote, it should work from the base, and tie up with the Commission on Higher Education to reach young people in the one place where they are being honed to be better citizens of this nation: the school.

Youth participation also goes beyond merely voting.

With new technology, young people can also help in assisting those who may be struck by the voting machines the public will first use next year. There are fears that the new technology may be susceptible to fraud and hacking. If the youth can help orient voters, especially the masses, on the technology, they can secure not only their vote, but also the vote of the whole nation.

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