Student Vox


/ 30 May 2021

It is interesting how, in one day, I got to have a conversation with more than one individual about why voting matters. A certain person stated that voting was merely an obligation, a hassle, even. Simply put, this said person perceives voting as a bother, especially when the COVID-19 virus still serves as a threat. Rather than chastising, I explained that voting is a right that we can exercise to make a change in this country, with every issue going on. It is a right that gives us, the youth, an opportunity to partake in democracy and to let our voices be heard in the midst of chaos.

The latter then engaged in a conversation with me and as I attempted to give a new perspective, he, an incoming accountancy student that he is, then thought of a way to understand voting better. He said that one vote could be compared to one peso, that it had value. By continuing that analogy, I replied, “but the sad fact is that one peso would have a less perceived value for someone privileged than for someone less fortunate.”

This is the reality that we are currently facing. Voting, for a fact, matters. But the degree of importance differs for people because of the differing perceptions. Voting, like money, has value. But some may see it as an insignificant one, while others find importance in it.

The difference in results also comes into play. The consequences and repercussions of our decisions while voting may not hurt the privileged as much as others. It may only be a tremendous hit and miss for the former, but for the latter? It may just as well be a life-changing situation.

A relevant example of this is when a fisherman in Infanta, Pangasinan named Carlo Montehermozo asked President Rodrigo Duterte about the West Philippine Sea in the 2016 presidential debate. When asked about how he could aid the fishermen to freely fish in the country’s territorial waters, Duterte vowed to ride a jet ski to the West Philippine Sea and protect it against Chinese vessels. As a result, Montehermozo was among the 16 million people who voted for Duterte during the elections.

Recently, however, Duterte stated that his promise was purely a campaign joke and a show of bravado. He then asserted that those who believed his 2016 statement is stupid.

Despite yet another negative backlash, this would unlikely provide adverse effects on his term. But for the fishermen such as Montehermozo, this affects them greatly, particularly their hopes for their livelihood. That promise, that joke, was one of the reasons for Montehermozo’s decision to vote for Duterte.

In an interview with ABS-CBN, Montehermozo calls for Filipinos to choose leaders wisely. He said that voters must think about what is best for our fellow countrymen.

The late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago once pointed out one of Plato’s quotes by reiterating that “the price of apathy toward public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” In the same way, being nonchalant by perceiving voting as a hassle or selling your votes will give these said corrupt politicians the power to exploit their positions freely. The harsh reality is: voting repercussions such as these would affect some more than others. Rather than being indifferent to our right to vote, the privileged must instead see it as an opportunity to bring change to society, a change that would help every single Filipino like Montehermozo.

We are part of a society that is bigger than ourselves, and for the 2022 elections, I hope that we think about every person, every fisherman, every Filipino. Because if we only see voting as a forced obligation that is shoved on us, what will the youth look like tomorrow?

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) aims to have 7 million new registered voters nationwide for the upcoming 2022 elections. Unfortunately, the number of new registrants is only reported at 2.8 million as of April 30.

Hopefully, the youth will see this as an urgent call for unity. Let your voices be heard. Let it echo to the very depths and corners of our country as well as our humanity until it touches every single Filipino. The world may be seen as apathetic and fickle. During the pandemic, we have seen unimaginable suffering and loss. But if we speak in the same voice and for the same purpose, we can one day bring change, no matter how small it may be. Every vote counts. But if there are no voters, there would be no votes to count.

The deadline for voters’ registration is at September 30. Let us vote smarter and never get tired of clinging to the collective dream of a better country.