By MARIA CECILIA O. PAGDANGANAN
ELECTION SEASON is always a critical time for Filipinos. Catchy campaign jingles resonate through the streets as voters endure the scorching May heat and long, sweaty queues just to cast their vote. Each inky ballot holds a voter’s hopes and dreams for the next 6 years.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new challenge; the recent slew of unfortunate events has caused some Filipinos to feel pessimistic and hopeless about the 2022 elections. The looming threat of getting infected with the virus has also caused them to hesitate to leave their homes and register to vote.
Hence, an AB-borne organization has set its eyes on changing all that. Emboldened by their symbol that was aptly inspired by the Philippine flag, Boboto AKO sa 2022 has been sparking conversations with the youth on responsible voting.
In an interview with The Flame, Prof. Franz Giuseppe F. Cortez, PhD says that the organization was born out of the UST Department of Philosophy’s Online Talakayan Series last semester. Entitled “Ethics in Action”, the online course was facilitated by Cortez and Asst. Prof. Rhochie Avelino E. Matienzo, PhD. It featured speakers who discussed the ethics of good governance.
Cortez was struck by a participant who spoke on how Filipino students lack the decisive action to participate in nation-building, particularly during election season. He recalls, “Ang mga estudyante… magagaling lang daw magsalita, magagaling lang sa classroom, kritikal lang sa classroom. Pero hindi naman talaga [sila] nagpa-participate, lalo na sa elections… Kaya walang nangyayari, wala na masyadong nagbabago sa atin.”
This prompted him to meet up with Matienzo and Asst. Prof. Ian Raymond B. Pacquing, PhD, to discuss the possibility of relaunching the Online Talakayan Series and expanding its reach.
Thus, Boboto AKO sa 2022 emerged with a purpose: to encourage the youth to register and vote.
While the organization is mainly comprised of both student and faculty volunteers, it has also invited collaborators.
The pilot episode of the Online Talakayan Series featured James Jimenez, the director, and spokesperson of the Commission on Elections; Mark Averilla, widely known as “Macoy Dubs” on TikTok; and Thysz Estrada, from We the Youth Vote. By having a mix of election experts and advocates for voter education, the organization hopes to connect more to their young audience and start a more engaging conversation with them
Christian Zeus S. Suazo, a student volunteer, explains the organization’s decision, saying, “On our part, mas kinukuha din namin…‘yung mga personalities na sikat na [sa] tingin namin is vocal din pagdating sa nation building… And sabi nga ni Sir Franz (Cortez) dati na mas maganda na kami ang mag-decide ‘yung mga personalities na sikat dahil ‘yun ang tingin namin na mas papakinggan ng mga kabataan sa ngayon.”
Another student volunteer, Mariefe B. Cruz, also believes that the Online Talakayan Series strays away from the usual setup of seminars. Instead, each episode flows more casually as speakers are free to interact with each other and with their audiences. This way, they are able to resonate more with their viewers.
Cruz also notes that Boboto AKO sa 2022 promotes inclusivity through the languages used in their content. The organization currently creates content in Filipino and English, and plans to use Cebuano and Ilonggo languages.
Springing into action
Boboto AKO sa 2022’s mission, however, is not an easy one.
Mr. Aldrin Manalastas, the organization’s social media and publication materials head, says that social media plays a significant role in educating voters. However, some Filipinos passively absorb information from social media, causing them to enter the voting booth ill-informed.
He also believes that the pandemic has affected voter registration. Now, eligible voters would either feel paranoid at the prospect of leaving the safety of their homes or have no access to online registration due to connectivity issues.
“[W]hen I ask my students sa classroom kung registered ba sila, iba-iba ‘yung sagot. Karamihan dun sa [mga] reason nila is, ‘Sir, nakakatakot pa kasing pumunta [sa presinto],” he says.
However, Manalastas furthers that the pandemic serves as a “double-edged sword” that can also encourage more students to register and vote. He says, “A lot of my students… are fired up since this is happening. [They realized] more na dapat tayong bumoto.”
Matienzo emphasized that although faculty volunteers participate in Boboto AKO sa 2022’s projects, the organization still remains centered on the youth. As he teaches students critical thinking, he believes that this lesson should go beyond the four walls of a classroom. Students should now channel what they have learned and translate it into decisive action.
This is why Boboto AKO sa 2022 advocates for what Matienzo has dubbed “critechical thinking,” from the words “critical” and “ethical.” Here, voters are not just encouraged to think critically, but they must also act concretely.
He notes that while many Filipinos are vocal about social issues, their advocacy stops at the social media level. He reflects, “Woke kayo sa maraming bagay, pero hanggang social media lang. Siguro we should [walk our talk]. That is critethical thinking.”
Despite the challenges, the members of Boboto AKO sa 2022 still remain determined to fulfill their mission of empowering young voters.
Cruz says that the organization seeks to remind the youth that they are still the hope of the nation—by casting their vote, they can incite true change. “[B]oboto AKO sa 2022 is one way to remind the youth [that] they can still do something. Even if it is just a droplet, it will ripple,” she optimistically shares.
Cortez then urges eligible voters to remain critical in their decisions, adding, “[Ito] ang mensahe ko: Magrehistro, mag-isip, bumoto. In that order!”
And with that, Boboto AKO sa 2022 guides young voters in navigating the uncharted waters of the upcoming elections. F
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Vol. 56, Issue No. 3 of the Flame. View the entire issue through this link: https://issuu.com/abtheflame/docs/the_flame_vol._56_issue_no._3