Filipinos need to actively fight disinformation and populism to be able to make enlightened choices in the May 2022 elections, according to a think tank.
In a virtual town hall discussion titled "Democracy Goes On" held on Tuesday, Oct. 26, Stratbase ADR Institute said enlightened choices would "exhibit the qualities desired by Filipinos and address gut issues hounding us during these extraordinary times."
"Filipinos want leaders who will provide jobs, keep the prices of basic commodities low, eradicate graft and corruption, increase wages and reduce poverty. We have commissioned two separate surveys at different times with a different group of respondents, and they basically told us the same thing," Stratbase President Dindo Manhit said.
According to a PULSE Asia survey, people choose leaders who "have concern for the poor," "not corrupt," and those who are "trustworthy and honest."
"But false information paralyzes people’s critical ability to choose leaders," Manhit added, noting that there should be a multi-stakeholder effort to collectively expose and denounce trolls and disinformation machineries.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James Jimenez cited the better-than-expected registration numbers as an indication that Filipinos are eager to participate in the electoral exercise.
"We are closer to 63 million registered voters when our initial projections were at 59 million. As for the extension, we were expecting 300,000 to 350,000 new registrants but now we already have 400,000," Jimenez said.
"The hits just keep on coming. This is incredible considering that this is a pandemic," he added.
The poll body is now also overseeing the refurbishment of the vote-counting machines and hardware acceptance testing.
Lawyer Ona Caritos, Executive Director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), highlighted the need to use videos in voter education, using the information that nearly all internet-using Filipinos watch videos and vlogs.
For those voters without reliable Internet access, local radio channels remain the best way to communicate.
Caritos suggested that aside from the usual voter education topics, there should also be discussions on campaign finances and governance, political dynasties, misinformation and disinformation, and voting safely despite an ongoing pandemic.
"Various groups need to conduct education activities on new protocols and guidelines so that these do not disenfranchise Filipinos," she added.
La Salle Institute of Governance Director Dr. Ador Torneo said the success of the elections will depend on the COVID-19 situation, the policies of the IATF, the vaccination progress, the adequacy of the Comelec preparation, and the stakeholders’ response to all these.
InciteGOV Chairperson Mardi Mapa-Suplido emphasized the result of the study on the negative effects of political dynasties and populist governments, and the role of the perception of family in the way Filipinos choose their leaders.
Meanwhile, University of the Philippines Professor Danilo Arao said online media will be more influential now because of the pandemic situation, and that Filipinos get their information increasingly through smartphones, and less through computers or laptops.
Kontra Daya Convenor Atty. Mildred Ople stressed the power of the youth vote as shown in the high turnout for first-time registrants: To choose deserving leaders, to prevent the election of abusive politicians, and to design the kind of government we deserve, while Stratbase ADRi Executive Director and Convenor of Democracy Watch Paco Pangalangan called on all stakeholders, civil society, the private sector, the academe, the media, who all have their different roles to play to be vigilant as we enter the election season.
“The end is near for populism, we need to stand up as a whole society to collectively ensure legitimate results. An election that is rooted with the key values and priorities at the heart of every voter," Manhit ended.