Register. Vote. Transform.

12 04 2009
First Time Voters' Network Poster

First Time Voters' Network Poster


CHR chair bats for reforms vs voter disenfranchisement

18 09 2008

Written by Purple Romero

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila De Lima has called for a rights-based approach to voting in the 2010 elections to prevent vulnerable, marginalized sectors and first-time voters from being disenfranchised.

De Lima said 73 percent or 32 million of the 45 million registered voters participated in the 2007 local elections. Many of the 27% or 12 million who didn’t vote include first-time voters plus those from marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society.

De Lima said first-time voters may be shut out from the elections due to inadequate mechanisms that secure efficient compliance with voter registration.

She cited the case of Akbayan-Youth vs. Comelec in 2001, where the Supreme Court denied Akbayan-Youth’s petition for the extension of voter registration due to the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) procedural limitations.

In its petition, Akbayan-Youth asked for a special two-day registration in February 2001 after around four million young Filipinos failed to meet the December 2000 deadline for voter registration.

The COMELEC junked the request, citing its rule against the holding of registration 120 days before regular elections are to be conducted.

Untapped votes

Aside from the first-time voters, De Lima identified the following as vulnerable voter groups:

  • internally displaced;
  • indigenous communities;
  • detainees;
  • differently-abled; and,
  • elderly.

The internally-displaced are often victims of hostilities between government forces and rebel groups in Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

She stated that in these areas, only around 67 percent of the registered voters were able to participate in the elections.

Indigenous communities also comprise a huge base of untapped voters.

Figures from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples showed that Filipinos from tribal communities number from 6 million-12 million, or about 10-15 percent of the national population. De Lima did not give an estimate how many of these indigenous peoples are entitled to vote.

The same goes for the elderly. De Lima said that the senior population, or those aged 60 and above, totals 4.6 million. While around 7 percent of them suffer from disabilities such as poor vision and even blindness, more than 57 percent are still actively part of the workforce.

She said that slow justice also hampers a citizen’s right to vote, as 95 percent of those in prison have not been sentenced. If found innocent, detainees could be immediately freed and accorded the opportunity to register and participate again in the elections.

In the case of the handicapped, De Lima slammed the lack of facilities that could help them cast their vote. She said that the disabled are even assigned to third-floor precincts. She said that policy failure has prevented the establishment of convenient areas for handicapped voters.

Rights-centered strategy

De Lima said that a rights-based approach could give vulnerable groups access to the elections.

She stressed that a rights-based approach encourages “heightened accountability in the identification of claimholders, or the public, and their entitlements, and duty-holders or the government officials, and their obligations.”

It also empowers voters and supports a paradigm-shift in election participation.

De Lima said that public officials and election authorities should strive for a more “free and meaningful participation, not mere formal or ceremonial contacts with beneficiaries.”  (

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