Five million new voters are among 67 million who will elect the Philippines' next president and leaders who have the task of lifting the country from the pandemic and the resulting economic recession.
It will also be a youth vote as 37 million or half of the total number of voters are aged 18 to 41. With the country's recovery at stake, the electorate needs to make an informed decision,
"Lagi natin sinasabi 'yung problema ng bayan natin wala naman nababago, pare-parehas lang naman sila but really the very first step to changing that is really from your end, it starts with you," YouthLed Development Specialist Emil Tapnio told reportr.
"You cannot just vote just because you like it. You have to think of how it will affect other people. Every individual's political choices and decisions made by the citizen voters will determine the kind of government that will serve us in the next six years nationally and three years locally," he said.
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What to look for in a candidate
Tapnio said finding a good candidate is like looking for a partner. The choice reflects the voter's values as well as their aspirationsand needs.
Part of the decision-making process is knowing what they value the most: Do they want a servant-leader? Consultative? Dictator-like? Tapnio said voters should check candidates on three things:
The candidate must have a strong and realizable vision for the country to see where the Philippines could go under their leadership.
"Gusto ko malaman kung ano ang konkretong puwede ko i-expect sa kanya 'pag siya ang nahalal na pangulo. I don't want abstract things like world peace, unity. How do you concretize that?"
While their vision is for the future, it must be hinged on actions in the present and supported by their past actions, said Tapnio. "The expectation is how would this person lead his or her Cabinet kung ano ang kanyang magiging focus na proyekto."
Will children look up to this candidate or will adults warn kids not to emulate this candidate? Remember that elected leaders also serve as role models, he said. "For candidates, gusto natin na someone na walang kuwestiyon, corrupt-free, compliant sa laws."
Candidates are like job applicants, Tapnio said. To make it easier to choose, remember these 4Es: Education assures voters that the candidate has the skills required for the position. Expertise speaks of their knowledge on issues from foreign policies to LGBTQIA+ rights. This will show their priorities once they're seated in power, said Tapnio.
Experience means checking their track record and accomplishments. This will show voters how they decided as leaders and how they confronted issues, which would determine how they would act in the future, he said. Empathy will allow voters to sense the candidates' feelings, thoughts and experiences and their grasp of the country's needs. A candidate who has a strong grasp on women empowerment will have a more gender-informed choices on issues, Tapnio said.
How to do your own background check
It's tedious, but Tapnio advises voters to do research on candidates before making their choice.
Check public records
Google your candidate and check if the source is reliable. For example, your search showed candidate A is pro-poor. In case you can't determine whether the outcome of your research is true or not, do the next step.
Check their lifestyle
"Sabi ni candidate A, laki ako sa hirap, alam ko sinasabi ng mga mahihirap, pero if you look at their lifestyles, if you check their Instagram, they're not really reflective of the kahirapan. Mga damit nila branded, they live in Forbes, telltale signs ito na misaligned ang narrative na sinasabi nila sa tao sa sinasabuhay nila," said Tapnio.
Check if they follow the laws
Aim for those with no corruption record because leaders are role models which people will follow, he said.
Check their platform
How do they plan to address the pandemic? Are their plans concrete and realizable in the next six years, or three for those running for local office?
Check for distortion tactics
Is the person overpromising to distract voters from issues? "'Pag makikinig ka, alam mo na kung binobola ka na, kung chinichika ka lang ng person na ito. You have to be cognizant of that."
Check how other people see them
Biases can be blinding, that's why it's better to crosscheck it with your peers, he said.
Check their endorsers and campaign contributors
"If the testimonies of these people na maganda ang integrity, unimpeachable 'yung character, it means reflective 'yun sa ineendorso nila. Kung halimbawa ang nag-eendorse ay mga kawatan din, mga convicted din, plunderers din then it speaks about their character din," said Tapnio.
Your one vote matters
One vote may seem inconsequential "pero collectively, if you put that together, if you vote the right people, it will have a big dent, Tapnio said. An informed vote is like taking the cudgels for those who can't participate in the elections, like children.
"When you start dreaming again and you collectively band together with people who have the same aspirations, it really changes something and doon babalik 'yung paniniwala mo sa political process sa Philippines.
"Mangarap ulit tayo para sa mas magandang bukas para sa atin."
Emil Tapnio is part of Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed), a project of The Asia Foundation and USAID to encourage the youth to take part in democratic governance. Visit this page to know more.