The clock is ticking for Filipinos who need to register or reactivate their voter registration to be able to vote in the 2022 elections. Less than a hundred days are left before the registration period ends on Sept. 30, and the Comelec said the deadline won’t be extended.
Citing data obtained during the first week of June, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said that of the 7 million voters deleted from the Comelec list due to failure to vote in the last two elections, only about 300,000 have re-registered. And of the 4 million Filipinos turning 18 on or before the May 9, 2022 elections and therefore qualified to vote, only about 2 million have registered so far.
But as many as 15 million Filipinos are believed to be unregistered. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority pegs at 73 million the number of those qualified to vote, but the Comelec said in a Senate hearing last February that only around 58 million have registered for next year’s elections.
The low registration turnout is primarily attributed to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which led to varied restrictions and widespread fear of contracting the virus, prompting potential registrants to stay home.
Another factor that discourages people from going to Comelec offices to register is the lack of easy access to information on how to undergo the registration process, according to Ces Rondario, founder of Vote Pilipinas, a group that the Comelec officially partnered with to disseminate pertinent information on voter registration.
And there is also the usual cynicism among those hesitant to register who feel that their vote “would not matter, so why bother?” which is being spread especially in social media.
Yet amid all negative aspects that might discourage people from registering or voting at all, there is no dispute that the right of suffrage is essential in a democracy. So essential indeed, just like the need to go out and get food to survive, that it ought to transcend the fear of the pandemic if the Philippines is to survive as a democratic nation.
To be empowered to shape a better future and positively transform our country ought to be a driving force of every patriotic Filipino who view participating in elections as more than a civic duty.
And among all the various sectors of Philippine society, it is the Filipino youth that can mostly be relied upon in our country’s transformation. Jose Rizal himself believed in their potential for nation-building as he expressed his love and admiration for the youth whom he called “bella esperanza de la patria (fair hope of the fatherland) in his poem, “A la Juventud Filipina (To the Filipino Youth).”
“Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land?” Rizal also asked in his novel El Filibusterismo.
The youth is the largest sector of our society, with hardly any vested interests to protect, with time on their side, and with talent to develop and grow. When fully enlightened, mobilized, motivated, and inspired, the youth sector is the biggest single block of citizens that can change Philippine society.
The Filipino youth can indeed change the quality of life in our country. They can establish an effective, efficient and honest government. They can choose God-fearing, competent and compassionate leaders who will pursue inclusive growth, create jobs and livelihood for the people and bail out the country from poverty, underdevelopment, injustice, breakdown in peace and order, inequality, and many other ills plaguing the nation.
Youth empowerment is a must for every generation of history. Our fathers and those before them acted in their youth to harness the resources of their time to become empowered and make a difference in the life of the nation.
History is replete with examples of youth power. Rizal, along with Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto, Gregorio del Pilar, and many others heroically stood out during the Spanish era. Macario Sakay and Miguel Malvar defied American occupation. Countless young Filipinos fought Japanese invaders during World War II.
And my generation, the youth of the 70s and the 80s, set aside their comfort and safety to resist the martial law regime. I was just 17 when I started as a student activist with all the idealism of youth to fuel the desire to help bring about social justice, equality, and all other aspirations in the pursuit of nation-building.
Millennials and those belonging to Gen Z now have the chance to be empowered and shape the future of our country by exercising their right to vote next year. But before they can do so, they need to register first and they have until September 30 to get empowered.
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