Why should I vote?

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Why should I vote?
Screenshot of the forum. The author (top left) with Janina Vela , Alyssa Valdez, Chris Tiu, and Ria Atayde

The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), together with the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), the Makati Business Club (MBC), and the Eleksyon 2022 Koalisyon, recently hosted a two-part series of voters’ forums aptly titled “Why Should I Vote?”

According to Dr. Mildred Vitangcol, Junior FINEX Committee chairman, who gave a brief introduction on the event, the main objective was to inspire the young voters to register for the May 2022 elections, on or before the deadline.

Why is it important for Filipinos to register and to vote in the May 2022 elections? That was the crucial question for which we sought an answer.

Not only that, but the forums also served as a venue for the youth, most of whom will be first-time voters, to know the processes of registration as well as what to expect during the campaign period and on election day.

In Part One of the series, the distinguished guest of honor was Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon; followed by former COMELEC Commissioner and co-founder of the Democratic Insights Group, attorney Luie Tito Guia, as resource speaker; and AKTOR League of Filipino Actors president and CEO Agot Isidro, NLEX Road Warriors player Keifer Ravena, and social media personality and content creator Janina Vela as guest speakers. The moderator was Rey Lugtu, chairman of the FINEX ICT Committee and vice-chairman of the MAP ICT Committee.

The overwhelming success of the first part of the series gave birth to a Part Two, still geared towards the youth. Most attendees were students from the various colleges and universities all over the country.

The welcome remarks were given by FINEX president and attorney Francis Ed Lim, MAP vice president and attorney Emmanuel Bonoan, MBC chairman Edgar Chua, and Eleksyon 2022 Koalisyon lead convenor and attorney Christian Monsod.

Former COMELEC Commissioner Luie Guia was also the resource speaker in Part Two, and Janina Vela was still one of the guest speakers, but this time joined by actress Ria Atayde, former professional basketball player and now TV presenter Chris Tiu, and professional volleyball player Alyssa Valdez.

I had the honor of being the moderator in Part Two.

Our Philippine Constitution guarantees and protects suffrage, or the right to vote in a political exercise. Section 1 of Article V provides that “Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election” and that “no literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.”

This right is not just in our Constitution, but also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This topic, thus, was very timely, very relevant, and very apropos. What we need is an enlightened citizenry, an enlightened participation, an informed conscience to be able to vote wisely and properly.

But to be able to vote, of course, one must be registered first, which is why it was very important — and this could not be emphasized enough — that one registered (if not registered yet) or reactivated their registration before the deadline; otherwise, the right to vote is lost.

The right to vote is a form of power, of strength; thus, the necessity to use this power responsibly.

The title chosen by the organizers was very simple yet very strong. The right to vote must be exercised and not be taken for granted.

Moderating the forum gave me great pleasure. The distinguished young speakers eloquently talked and explained why it was important to register and vote — what was at stake, what was needed, what must be done. Their involvement in the forum came from the heart, which merely affirmed what Dr. Jose Rizal had said about our youth as the hope of the nation.

Would these young influencers and leaders consider pursuing a political career, given all the discussion about getting involved, knowing all the issues? Would they use suffrage as a power, not become indifferent, and become part of the change?

That was the first question that I posed to them: were they willing to change the system from within, bringing their zeal, their enthusiasm, their intelligence, their integrity and honesty into the public sphere?

The consensus was that they were not considering public service for now, but perhaps in the future, and that they would rather be able to be part of bringing awareness to the youth.

Several relevant questions also came from the participants themselves. They asked about the importance of the youth in the upcoming elections and what first-time voters should look for in those running for public office. They also asked about what those who were not yet eligible to vote can do to assist in the effort of voter registration and awareness.

It was very refreshing to listen to the youth speak with passion and conviction.

My heartfelt thanks and congratulations to FINEX, MAP, MBC, and E-2022 Koalisyon for organizing this timely series and for allowing me to be a part of it.

I just hope that the youth who participated in this effort will now go all-out in registering before the deadline.

So, why should I vote? Well, why shouldn’t I? *

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