More than 61 million Filipinos are expected to head to the polls.
Out of the 61.8 million registered voters for the 2019 elections, around 2.1 million are voting for the first time.
Fair-election advocates, speaking at a Feb. 26 Asia Society forum in Makati City, said new and veteran voters alike must prepare themselves better for the midterm polls amid the constant threat of fake news and disinformation on social media.
If you’ve never marked a voter’s ballot in your life (or even if you already know the process by heart), here are some things you should do before you cast your vote on May 13.
For starters, find out what you, your loved ones and your community need.
“You need to analyze first what issue you’d like to focus on,” said Youth Vote Philippines Program Head Richard Amazona. “And then from there, you select now the party-list group (or senator) that actually represents your issues.”
Next, study the candidates’ plans and platforms. Make sure to look past the corny song-and-dance numbers and the half-baked stand-up comedy routines.
“For many of them, the biggest thing really is to win and to stay in power and in order to do that, they will adopt the easiest route, always,” said COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez.
“They will avoid debates because, ‘Hey, I’m leading. If I say anything wrong, I might plum it, so why bother?’” he added. “They will dumb down the conversation because it’s much easier to sell a dancing girl than a well-reasoned platform. I’m gonna get more clicks if I have a scantily-clad beefcake rather than if I have a beautifully argued policy point.”
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Executive Director Maribel Buenaobra said the PPCRV offers an online voter-education course to help you decide which candidates to choose. Please visit https://ppcrv.apptitude.xyz/course/voter-s-education-2019-29/
“Technology is both a boon and a bane,” she said. “It’s a tool you can use to propagate and disseminate fake news. But it can also be a tool for you to provide content for informed decisions.”
“The 2.1 million first-time voters can actually sway the results of the election, so we’d like to capitalize on these voters,” Buenaobra added.
VERA Files President Ellen Tordesillas said everybody should help battle the massive disinformation campaigns being waged by certain political groups. “Influencing the minds of the people, social media is the battleground,” she said.
“We have to make sure that beyond making the election free and credible, it is important that people go to the polls armed with the right information about the candidates,” Tordesillas added.
On Election Day, make sure to stick to your choices and watch out for suspicious people handing out money for you to vote for their boss.
In Youth Vote’s information campaign, Amazona said they tell young people, “If a certain candidate provides P1,500 for that vote, we divide P1,500 for three years and actually explain, “That’s your value for one day.’”
In the book Strong Patronage, Weak Parties: The Case for Electoral System Redesign in the Philippines, National University political science professor Paul Hutchcroft said the lack of clear platforms among Philippine political parties has made voters easy to buy.
“As voters often struggle to detect substantive policy differences among those who are listed on the ballot, it is no surprise that their choices are instead often heavily influenced by the material resources that are doled out at election time,” he said.
Buenaobra said you should always ask if a candidate is competent enough to solve problems.
“You show your love for country by exercising your right to vote and using informed decision-making,” she said. “Are they going to make our lives better or not?”
Tordesillas enjoined voters to vote for candidates who are honest and who would not be corrupt once elected. “Look at the names in the Magic 12 in the surveys. Two of them have been charged with plunder,’ she said. Jimenez remarked, “Kasi guapo. (They are handsome).
Meanwhile, Jimenez reminded voters to fully shade the circle of the candidate or party-list that you are voting for in the ballot. Don’t forget: you can only vote for one party-list group and up to 12 senators.
And unlike what many people think, your job as a voter doesn’t stop at the polling precincts.
Hutchcroft wrote how many voters forget to hold elected officials to their promises, thus weakening the country’s democracy.
“When voters have already received material benefits from an official at election time, their capacity to follow up with that official on policy matters after the election has been diminished,” he said.