Youth increasingly key to putting policy makers in place, but not a ‘solid’ vote

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ABOUT 61 million voters, with the youth forming a considerable segment of this electorate, are expected to vote in today’s mid-term elections, the outcome of which will influence policy making in the remaining three years of the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

A voters profile released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in February 2016 shows the 18-24 age group back then totaling 11,026,578 voters, the 25-29 group totaling 7,370,037 voters and the 30-34 group totaling 6,333,398. Altogether, these groups form a total of 24,730,013 million voters, or almost half that year’s registered body of 54,363,844 million then. “This is compared to the senior vote of 6.69 million: 60-64 years old — 2,596,255; and 65 years old and above — 4,098,996,” BusinessWorld reported at that time.

The 2016 voters profile remains posted on the Comelec’s Web site, whereas its updated profile now has 61,843,750 registered voters (or an increase of 7,479,906 voters), but that latest total has no demographic breakdown.

Data from Comelec’s web site also show that voter turnout from 2016’s registered electorate was 81.9% or 44,549,848 voters — of whom an estimated 16 million voted for Mr. Duterte as president.

Three years into his administration, the electorate is again under scrutiny because of its predominantly young composition.

But analysts interviewed in 2016 and in this election season agree that the youth vote is not monolithic. In 2016, analyst Ramon C. Casiple noted that “their votes are significant but it is not decisive because they are not solid. This means all candidates will have a share in this age group and it remains to be seen how solid they will be.”

Sought for comment over the weekend, sociology professor Louie C. Montemar of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines said via e-mail, “Walang bloc vote mula sa sektor ng kabataan. Hindi ito maituturing na gaya ng boto mula halimbawa sa INC. Hindi solido ang boto ng kabataang Pinoy.” (There is no bloc vote from the youth sector. This cannot be regarded as a vote like the INC [Iglesia ni Cristo]. The vote of the Filipino youth is not solid.)

Mr. Montemar explained: “Una, ang tingin ng iba, malaking bilang ng botante ang kabataang nasa 18 hanggang 30 taong gulang… Sa iba naman, ang youth vote ay iyong tendensiya o potensiyal ng kabataan na bumoto gamit ang mas kritikal na pag-iisip… Dahil dito, mas malawak ang kanilang paningin at sila ay bukas ang pag-iisip na iboto ang mga alternatibong politiko at hindi ang mga tradisyunal na politiko o ang mga tinatawag na trapo. (First, some think that voters aged 18-30 years old constitute a large chunk of the electorate. For others, the youth vote refers to the tendency or potential of the youth to be critical in their thinking… which makes them broad-minded and open to alternative and not traditional politicians.)

Nagkakaroon ng kaguluhan at kalabuan sa ikalawang pag-unawa sapagkat pinapalagay ng iba na ang lahat o karamihan ng kabataan ay ganito nga mag-isip — na sila ay lubos na kritikal at nakataya na nga laban sa mga trapo. Maling pagpapalagay ito. Sa ganitong pagtingin, pinapalagay na isang bloc vote ang kabataan.” (There is confusion about the youth because others presume that most if not all young voters think this way… This is a wrong assumption — regarding the youth as a voting bloc.)

Mr. Montemar cited such factors behind the youth vote as quality of education (“Ang kalidad ng edukasyon na nakukuha nila ay hindi pare-pareho”) and unequal exposure to mass media (“Hindi rin pantay-pantay ang exposure nila sa impormasyon at mass media”).

Pansining sa mga lumabas na mock elections… May mga paaralang mas malakas pa rin ang isang kampo habang sa iba nama’y mas malakas pa rin ang kabilang kampong electoral. May mga paaralang mas bukas sa mga alternatibong ideya at pagkilos.” (Notice the mock elections. There are schools where one political camp has a strong showing, while another camp has a stronger showing in the other campuses. And there are schools that are open to alternative ideas and movements.)

Mr. Montemar also cited the strong war machinery of so-called traditional politicians, or trapo (a play on the Filipino word for rag): “Malakas ang makinarya ng mga trapo at sa salaping gamit nila para makalikom ng suporta,” noting that “malaking bahagi ng kabataan ang nahihila nila at naeempleyo pansamantala para sa halalan” (A considerable segment of the youth is persuaded toward that side and employed for the meantime during the campaign.)

At the same time, advocacy groups promoting the cause of the youth had been active in the election campaign that ended Friday, alongside cause-oriented groups representing women, labor, the urban poor and other sectors.

UP political science professor Maria Ela L. Atienza agrees there is “loose organizing and mobilizing” among the said groups. “However, there is no united front…” she said. “There is still no solid women’s vote, youth vote, etc.” — Ricky S. Torre with Arjay L. Balinbin, Gillian M. Cortez and Charmaine A. Tadalan