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First-time voters, long-time changemakers

By Maria Sophia Andrea E. Rosello Published Apr 29, 2022 5:00 am

With most of Generation Z now newly eligible voters, the youth will be a force in the coming national elections. Last March 12, the University of the Philippines Economics Society (UP EcoSoc) and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) produced a Youth-Oriented Senate Elections Forum entitled “The Rundown.”

The event was organized by students who also invited various pools of student bodies from all over the Philippines, alongside many media organizations, to hear the different views and platforms of the senatorial aspirants.

While not all candidates were able to make it to the youth-oriented forum, panelists like Atty. Tony Laviña, Dr. Cielo Magno and Dr. Louise Ignacio were introduced and invited to take the stage and ask the candidates some specific questions.

Dr. Ignacio, one of the first panelists, asked two senatorial aspirants from 2019’s Otso Diretsyo Samira Gutoc and Chel Diokno (aka Gen Z’s favorite Woke Lolo) — along with Elmer Labog, about their take on strengthening local government units.

While Diokno emphasized the barangay justice system, Gutoc focused on autonomy and decentralization. Labog noted that people outside of Metro Manila should be given more attention in terms of needed services instead of the current situation where the government favors the National Capital Region.

This part of the event was refreshing to me in the sense that it was very different for the Senate office to focus on branching out their powers to local government units rather than completely focusing on enriching the capital.

It is evident that some already have biases in terms of their chosen senatorial slate; but moving forward, I am hoping that the youth envisions that their vote could lead to the spark of change.

It offered a glimmer of hope that something new could be coming into office, and I personally look forward to that change — especially as someone who resides outside of NCR.

However, some “senatoriables” still seemed stuck in the past, especially with how they view the world right now. 

This was seen later in the event, when a “Yes or No” segment played out where the candidates were asked to agree or disagree on various national and social issues. Some candidates did not even offer an answer to some of the questions.

On issues like the legalization of abortion, mandatory military service for young Filipinos, and the effectiveness of the Philippine government’s response to the (still-ongoing) pandemic, the majority of potential senators offered up a mix of answers, with only some views similar to what the youth has been continuously voicing out. 

Honestly, as a member of Gen Z myself, I found myself shocked but also unsurprised by the majority of their given answers.

Most senatoriables like Pimentel, Lacson and Hontiveros weighed in on the negative side of the legalization of abortion. This was shocking to me, especially considering the data gathered by Guttmacher Institute, whose report “Unintended Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion” was conducted in our country back in 2013. 

Of course, the youth is well aware of this issue and have since been divided between pro-choice and pro-lifers, with a number of them identifying as the latter while those older than Generation Z and Alpha see themselves in the former camp. 

Today’s generation, especially its women, are asking for at least the right to have a choice on what they can do with their bodies. Women have also come together to speak up on this issue despite the traditional mindset of others. 

Given the times, it is not new for the younger generation and those of the older generation to butt heads and have disagreements on specific issues, but what left me upset was the thought that right now, we are merely choosing different sets of leaders to execute the same plans of leaders before them.

Today’s young people want a transparent, honest, hardworking and kind government, and I personally think that this is not too heavy of a demand.

Now, that may sound a little too pessimistic, and there will be an upside to this, but considering how underrepresented the voice of the youth is now, the most important thing we can do is to elect those leaders who understand how things have been changing and how they need to keep up with what our country demands from them.

As part of Gen Z, I have encountered many of my own older relatives and loved ones who have called out the so-called radicalism and “naivete” of myself and my peers, especially when it comes to specific candidates whom they don’t necessarily support. 

Though critics would say that our generation still has a lot to learn compared to the experiences of those who came before us, if we were to look at it clearly, Generation Z only demands the bare minimum from the government in all its different branches. Today’s young people want a transparent, honest, hardworking and kind government, and I personally think that this is not too heavy of a demand.

It is evident that some already have biases in terms of their chosen (perhaps already-listed down) senatorial slate; but moving forward, I am hoping that when it comes to actual voting day, the youth envisions that their vote could lead to the spark of change that will be for the betterment of our nation.

Now consider this while preparing for election day: a well-informed citizen is an informed and proactive one. And despite what others may say, today’s youth must remain active in times like this, as this could be what it takes to build our lives and those of future generations after us.

Today, we’re simply taking initiative in informing others, but this could spark something great for our generation if we choose to continue it. Projects like “The Rundown,” and organizations like Kids For Kids, Habilin and For the Future are what’s giving me hope that the young people of today will shape our world into a promise of a greater tomorrow.

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“The Rundown” was streamed online and can be watched on its Facebook page.