CEBU, Philippines – On Wednesday night, March 17, young Cebuanos – mostly students – gathered at a busy fastfood chain. In the middle of the noisy crowd, they talked about their common interests.
Unlike many people their age, they were not discussing the latest trending issue on Twitter nor the popular videos on Snapchat. Instead, they were tossing around their ideas on local politics.
Happening at the Little Theater Events Hall, the "Panaghimamat 2016: The First Cebuano Local Candidates Forum" is organized by no less than the Cebuano millennials who were meeting that night.
Organic and optimistic
The people behind the local candidates’ forum come from 8 different youth groups in Cebu. According to lead convenor Jumjum Ouano, they only have two things in common: their interest in politics and being in the same age bracket.
“The Cebuano youth are politically aware and they are concerned [about] the upcoming elections,” Ouano said, adding that these reasons primarily fueled their desire to make the event a reality.
But what sets this particular forum apart?
Unlike other candidates’ forum, Ouano said the Panaghimamat 2016 will give equal importance to the youth agenda.
“We all know this kind of events is usually organized by NGOs and CSOs and youth agenda is often left out,” he observed.
Comprising 37% of the total electorate, voters aged 18 to 30 are challenged to make their voice heard in the upcoming elections. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has repeatedly emphasized the power of the youth vote in making or breaking a candidacy, come May 2016.
Cebu is the most vote-rich province in the country with 2,722,288 registered voters for the 2016 polls. Of this figure, 1,248,208 come from the Cebuano youth sector.
In the Cebu city mayoral race, reelectionist Mayor Mike Rama of UNA is being challenged by former mayor Tommy Osmeña, the LP bet, while reelectionist Vice Mayor Edgard Labella of UNA is up against LP's Nestor Archival.
About the forum
The youth organizers identified 8 topics for the local candidates’ forum, the following 4 falling under the youth agenda:
According to the organizers, the local candidates usually dodged Cebu debates and forums. “They usually have this conflict when it comes to invitations. When the other candidate attends, the other will [decline] the invitation,” Ouano said in mix Filipino and English.
The challenge, then, is to prove that the youth can organize an activity and compel the candidates to present their platforms before the Cebu community.
Notwithstanding the great challenge that awaited them, Ouano and the rest of the young Cebuanos behind the forum pursued and engaged with the local candidates.
“Hindi lang sa pamimigay ng candy o flyers sa lansagan dapat makita ang mga kandidato. Kung hindi, kailangan may interaksyon para makita ang sinseridad nila sa dinadala nilang plataporma,” Ouano stressed.
(Candidates should not only appear in the streets, handing out flyers and candies. They should also interact with the community to show their sincerity in carrying out the platforms they have been presenting to the electorate.)
The Cebuano youth have set the bar for youth engagement in the upcoming elections. It is time that the rest of the Filipino youth follow suit, Ouano said.
“Sana sa ibang panig ng Pilpinas, ganun din na subukan ng mga kabataan na mag-organize at mag-conduct ng political events kasi ang pulitika ay hindi lang para sa mga matatanda. ito rin ay para sa mga kabataan," he said.
(I hope Filipino youth across the country will also try to organize political events because politics is not just for adults – it is also for the youth too.) – Rappler.com
Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.