Significance of The Youth Vote

MANILA, Philippines --- Of the 50 million or so registered voters, about half belong to the youth bloc - those aged 18 to 33 years old. Clearly, this is a formidable bloc - certainly one that candidates would want to tap.

But how much importance do young people themselves put on their voting power?

Jerom Yamat, a first-time voter, is a junior nursing student at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. He believes he can make a difference, and expects his peers to also take the opportunity to choose their own leaders.

Jerom Yamat, college student

"I expect more youth to be seen, I expect them to be participating, I expect them to be really getting involved and getting engaged because I want the Filipino youth to be empowered," Yamat says.

He draws inspiration from the First Time Voters Network (FTVN), which was organized to encourage young people to gain political power by voting.

FTVN coordinator Jordan Gutierrez believes public participation in governance is the only guarantee issues affecting them will get the government's attention.

The youth, he says, must take on their civic duties starting with the selection of right leaders.

He adds that more needs to be done to reverse the culture of political indifference among the youth.

"Alam natin na yung kultura ng youth ngayon may apathy, may culture of fear and silence," Gutierrez says. "Ang usual na feedback nila ay: 'Bakit pa kami boboto? Para saan pa? Ilang eleksyon na pinagdaanan pero pare-parehong tao ang nai-elect.' So ito yung pilit na linalabanan ng FTV, kaya siya nagpapatuloy."

Tina Parina, a young English professor at the De La Salle University, admits she has no plans of voting in May because she's too busy with work. So she never even bothered to register.

But it's not just the lack of time that's stopping Parina from voting.

She relates how she lost her faith in the country's electoral system after the candidate she strongly supported in the 2010 presidential election lost.

"I don't think in this election there's somebody I am passionate about as the last elections," she said. "So that's also why I don't think it's going to be as important for me to vote."

The Commission on Elections is aware there are many young people who don't value their right to vote.

"This is why the poll body has teamed up with universities and media institutions to help entice more youth to vote," Director James Jimenez, spokesman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) says.

"They are the ones who are very vocal about their sentiments on things going on in society," Jimenez added. "So instead of just complaining or making observations, they should take a more active role in making sure that what they want, the vision that they have should be made real and since they have a vision, it only makes sense that they take a big part in building that vision."