Rock the Vote – FTV Philippines

31 01 2007

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The “First Time Voters Project“… a campaign designed to spur young Philippino’s to register to vote, is mobilizing for the upcoming election:

Different organizations from schools and communities in Metro Manila today relaunches in a music-caravan the “First Time Voters Project Registration Campaign”. Young people ages 17-21 years old, in their motorcycles and cars with loud music, hop around university areas to inform fellow first time voters of the ongoing registration and the need for young people to be active in the coming elections.

I’ve often heard that young Philippino activists are incredibly tech savvy, organizing protests via text message, for example.

It would also appear that they struggle with similarly restrictive voter registration policies as we have here in the U.S. In fact, they organized a big campaign and won some significant improvements in the registration laws, according to the group’s blog.



29 01 2007

Monday, 29 January 2007

SINCE IT was introduced in the Philippines in 1995, the Internet has been used by politicians to win elections without much success. This is true for both administration and opposition candidates, who will surely try to use the Internet again to win votes on Election Day, May 14, 2007.

Today, there are around 4.5 million Internet users in the Philippines, 4.8 percent of the population. Although small compared to users in developed countries, it is a huge leap from the 200,000 users recorded in 1997, and it is growing faster.

The digital highway is still a cheap and relatively unregulated medium. This is the experience of politicians in developed countries like the US and the United Kingdom. In these countries, candidates try to master the e-mail as the new form of direct mail campaign raising money and pushing the message. They find it a low-cost way to converse repeatedly with prospective voters.

This not yet the case in the Philippines with the relative high cost of desktop computers and laptops. And there is still a short supply of Internet rental shops. However, in this election year, an emerging group can elect public officials with the help of the Internet. These are the country’s young voters. They will soon be reinforced by roughly 8 million first-time voters aged 18 to 21, as reported in NEWSBREAK.

Among the leaders of the group is an advocacy group called First Time Voters Project, an association of tech-savvy youth groups headed by Akbayan Youth, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, First Time Voters Network, Movement for the Advancement of Student Power, and Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan.

Young Filipinos have an overwhelming dominance of the digital highway, according to an A.C. Nielsen survey. Here’s the extent of Internet usage by age bracket:

20 years old – 9 percent;

20-29 years old – 54 percent;

30-39 years old – 27 percent;

40-49 years old – 8 percent; and

50- 59 years old – 2 percent.

In terms of education, 66.9 percent of Internet users are college graduates. With these figures, young voters can create a powerful buzz on the Web. They won’t be much regarded as private space invaders since they are mainly identified with the interest of voters. Here, the extent and quality of the database, especially for e-mail, is of great importance Internet buzz via Web sites, blogs, podcasts, e-mails, linked with text-messaging, could produce some of the winners in this year’s senatorial and party-list elections.

If so, the youth’s digital shots for democracy will turn Philippine political campaigns upside down for years to come. —Frankie Llaguno

The First Time

15 01 2007

Monday, 15 January 2007

Youth voters can give candidates a big headway

ASSUMING THERE’S an election in May 2007, all new voters must have registered with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) by December 30. By then, there will be roughly 8 million Filipinos aged 18 to 21—all of them eligible to cast their first vote.

Eight million votes can make a senator. The new voters can group themselves, too, and bring solid votes for party-list representatives in Congress. (Party-list organizations need about 300,000 votes to win one seat.)

This is what a new advocacy group called First Time Voters Project (FTVP) is aiming at. “We want all the youth to be able to vote in May 2007. But to be able to do that, they must register first,” says FTVP executive director Marie Chris Cabreros, 22.

FTVP is an association of youth groups nationwide led by Akbayan Youth, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, First-Time Voters Network, Movement for the Advancement of Student Power, and Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan.

It was launched in December 2000 as a campaign to extend the registration of first-time voters. At that time, many college students joined protest groups to call for the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada. Political interest was high and the senatorial election, five months away.

To the youth’s disappointment, however, they discovered that voter registration ends every December 30 of the year prior to the election year. They collectively asked for more time to organize the youth to register so that they could vote in the 2001 elections. They remember that about five million voters were disenfranchised in the 1998 elections.

Cabreros blames COMELEC’s “poor information campaign” for the 1998 voter disenfranchisement. “They didn’t inform us about the deadline,” she says. When they renewed their campaign for voter registration in December 2000, no less than then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took notice. She went to the rallies of youth groups that gathered in COMELEC grounds and told them that she was supporting their campaign.

A special session was called in Congress to extend the registration process, but this did not prosper. This, FTVP claims, caused the disenfranchisement of two million voters in the 2001 senatorial elections.

FTVP has since worked with the COMELEC to ensure that a massive voter disenfranchisement does not occur again. They hold symposia in schools at least twice every semester per school, says Cabreros. FTVP invites the speakers and the COMELEC provides the materials. The theme for next year’s elections is “I am the future” and posters are seen nationwide.

The youth seem to have the strength in numbers. In the 1992 presidential election, candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago made the youth the backbone of her campaign; she lost by a narrow margin to Fidel Ramos. The late Raul Roco did the same in 1998, when he ran for president, and in 2004, in his second bid for the presidency.

Roco had claimed that the youth were his biggest voters. Darwin Mariano was 19 year-old when he sent an e-mail to an address listed in Roco’s campaign posters and offered his support. Roco himself answered his e-mail and instructed him to gather his friends to register and ask these friends to do the same.

“It’s like pyramiding,” Mariano says. Aksyon Kabataan, which grouped together youth volunteers for Roco, was formed with Mariano as the founding president. Now 29, Mariano remains active in the organization, which is preparing for the possible senatorial bid of the late senator’s wife, Sonia. “She has expressed her interest to run if there will be elections in May 2007,” Mariano says.

It was one of the late senator’s wishes that “the party must survive me,” says Mariano. “He’s right. We still need the youth to register and vote.”

-By Carmela Fonbuena

‘Let’s take advantage of the youth’s energy’ — FTVP Cebu

8 01 2007

By Rene H. Martel
Sun.Star Staff Reporter

Monday, January 08, 2007

THOUSANDS of first-time voters lined up outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices last Dec. 31, the deadline for registration.

Registration started in 2005 yet, but only a few applied early.

Sun.Star Network Online’s 12th Asean Summit watch

Re-launched in Cebu last September, the advocacy group First-Time Voters Project (FTVP) is not happy with how the registration went.

It accused Comelec of not doing its best to inform the first-time voters in particular, and the youth in general, of the schedule.

Because of their number, the youth is an important sector during elections. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago knew this when she banked on the youth’s vote in the 1992 presidential elections, which she lost by a narrow margin to Fidel Ramos.

The late senator Raul Roco, too, saw the youth’s potential. His wife Sonia is running this May for senator. She calls on the youth to help her.

Ernie Edralin, 21, Akbayan Youth and FTVP Cebu coordinator, talks about why the youth still believes in the electoral process and in their ability to help improve the country.

What is the First-Time Voters Project (FTVP) all about? What is its primary purpose?

We have been doing this project since 2000, when almost 4.5 million qualified voters, first-time voters, were disenfranchised because of the lack of information from Comelec.

Since then, it has been the major advocacy of Akbayan Youth together with various organizations to raise the level of consciousness of the people, from the time they register up to the day they will vote.

And we are also hoping that they will raise their level of involvement in the policy-making process of the government.

Basically, we are hopeful that there will be an increase in youth participation in governance.

Since its inception, what has it achieved, particularly in Cebu?

We formally launched this project in Cebu last 2003. Six municipalities and three barangays in Cebu City benefited. This is the second phase actually, the voters’ education campaign.

We have also gathered a lot of youth organizations, asking them to volunteer in various election watch organizations.

That is the third phase of the First-Time Voters Project, guarding elections.

For the year 2006, we re-launched this on a larger scale, not only in Cebu, but also in some other parts of the Visayas, particularly in Dumaguete City, Bacolod City, Iloilo City, and Antique and Bohol.

We have finished the first phase, which is encouraging our fellow youth to register. We will start the second phase, which is massive voters’ education from the schools to the communities, after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

By April, we will start the third phase, which is setting up networks of volunteers to guard the ballots in the elections.

In the second phase, what do you basically do? Will you do room-to-room campaigns?

That is part of the campaign. But it is mostly film showings, group discussions and forums. So we have already schedules from January to March in each school in Cebu.

Are the youth’s numbers enough to actually make a difference?

Yes, definitely. The conservative estimate is that there are eight million first-time voters for the year 2007.

And 72 percent of voters this May will be coming from the youth sector. That is 18 to 35 years old. You can just imagine how crucial the role of the youth is in the coming elections.

Are the youth turned off by politics or this is just a mere perception?Yes, we are turned off by politics. And this is one of the odds that we have to face since 2003 in Cebu. Many youths have asked: Sir, nganong mo-participate pa man mi sa election nga para ra man na pang-datu, para sa mga tigulang, ug hugaw man na siya (Why should we vote when the elections are just for the rich and grown-ups, and it is dirty)?

That is why we invested so much time in the second phase, which is voters’ education, in order for them to be convinced and to understand their roles as youth.

Where do the youth get their information to make informed political decisions?

We have been doing research and group discussions about the situation the youth are in and what their wishes are. I think, diha mi makakuha og (that’s where we can get) information.

The FTVP is also maximizing the media especially in your reports, documentaries on TVs, and many educational materials.

We are very thankful that media played a very crucial role in the first phase of the campaign in encouraging the youth to register.

How should the Comelec improve this year?This year, (it) has actually failed to utilize different opportunities in informing the first-time voters that the registration was going on and that there was a deadline.

That is the reason why on the last day of registration, Dec. 31, thousands were still lining up.

The Comelec must improve in information dissemination. As a matter of fact, when we launched this last September, the Comelec asked us to help them because they are also short on resources.

And traditional politicians take advantage by taking the role of informing the youth, to the extent of providing transport for them so they could register.

Have you found candidates worthy of the youth’s vote?

Naay mga pipila ka mga tawo nga dili perpekto. (There are some candidates who are not perfect). I think that’s the reason, or one of the reasons, of the FTVP to look for progressive individuals to vote for, especially in national positions.

We are still looking, we are still documenting, and we are still very hopeful to find candidates who will bring the voice of the marginalized.

Yes, there are young politicians.

But there is no assurance they will turn away from the traditional way of doing politics.

If no one is worthy of the youth’s vote, why encourage them to vote?

In order for the youth to understand the situation. That despite the seemingly hopeless situation, there is a very big need for us to look for persons and organizations that could bring our collective voices to the government.

And also, we are asking them to be very critical in choosing whom to vote for.

They say the young are idealistic. Do you see any idealism among those who are older?

There is a need for them to revisit their ideals and to reflect on the values that they have been advocating in their youth.

For us, we are taking advantage of the idealism, of the energy and the passion of the youth.

We are maximizing on this idealism, on what we believe is right, on what we believe is just for the society.

What do you think of those who have ceased exercising their right to vote because they no longer believe in its power to change this country?

They have to be reminded that an election is one of the fundamentals of democracy, and if a particular election is tainted with malice, anomaly and inefficiency, from registration, to voting, to counting, to the declaration of winners, there is something wrong with this democracy and our society.