Technology

COMELEC spokesperson: Don’t just vent, register to vote

Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Spokesperson James Jimenez reminded the public to register to vote. Image credit: Vote Pilipinas
Image credit: Vote Pilipinas

Do you want change? Then don’t just vent on social media, but also register to vote. This was the reminder of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Spokesperson James Jimenez at the Vote Pilipinas virtual townhall.

“The outcome that we got [in the Palawan plebiscite] was decided by the people who actually came to vote. And a lot of people forget this. People think that they can scream, they can shout on social media, and they’ve done their part. You haven’t. All you’ve done is tap angrily at your keyboard… It doesn’t change anything. I mean sure you get some people clapping. You get famous. You get retweeted, and that makes you sikat (famous) for five minutes. But did it change the problem that you saw? It doesn’t. Change in the way things are happens when you change the people who are in charge,” the COMELEC spokesperson said in response to a question by Digital Life Asia.

Every time you show up

“So if you’re happy with the way things are, then by all means, vote to support them and keep them there. But if you’re not happy, if you’re uncomfortable with what’s going on, if you’re dissatisfied with what you’re seeing, then what you want to do is you want to change those who are in charge. And the only way you can do that is to vote them out of office. And that’s why it’s very important to remember that if you want to make change happen, you have to show up… Elections are won by the voters who show up. If you make your voice heard, then the rest of the country will hear you,” Jimenez said.

Digital Life Asia had asked Jimenez, who was one of the panelists at the Vote Pilipinas townhall, to expound on the powerful tweet he posted after the results of the Palawan plebiscite. The COMELEC spokesperson explained that he felt people were missing the point of the results, which is why he tweeted. He added that people sometimes act so defeatist on social media and think things can’t be changed, when the truth is that hope is always there.

The “No” votes won in the Palawan plebiscite, with residents rejecting the ratification of Republic Act 11259, which would have split the province into three. The plebiscite had been described as a battle between David and Goliath, according to the Rappler report.

“One Palawan was up against the provincial government, led by Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, a business magnate and prime proponent of RA 11259, which was a reincarnation of similar thwarted proposals by politicians, one dated as early as the 1960s.”

Vote Pilipinas campaign

The COMELEC spokesperson pointed out that while normally the turnout for plebiscites is between 30-40%, what was amazing about the Palawan plebiscite was that the voter turnout was 60%, or even higher. He emphasized that this should be the key takeaway from the plebiscite — that voters need to show up.

Vote Pilipinas, the official Voter Registration Information campaign partner of the COMELEC, is a non-profit and non-partisan online and offline information campaign aimed at mobilizing Filipinos to register to vote for the upcoming national and local 2022 elections. It is the brainchild of Impact Hub Manila (IHM) Co-Founder Ces Rondario.

IHM is a social impact incubator and a network of impact-driven entrepreneurs and changemakers. Rondario, who is also the Regional Lead of Impact Hub APAC, founded the first Impact Hub in the Philippines in 2015. IHM is part of the Impact Hub global network recognized by the United Nations (UN) in Geneva as a key driver in engaging communities for the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN. They designed the Vote Pilipinas campaign to ensure that the Philippines has strong institutions promoting peace and justice, which form the SDG 16.

“[Some people are saying about] the pandemic that this is the great equalizer. I feel that elections are also one of the singular things in this world where everybody gets the same say on. Everybody gets one vote. Mayaman, mahirap (rich, poor), whatever gender or orientation you belong to, whatever economic status you belong to, isa lang po ang boto nating lahat (each of us has just one vote)… And I think that is something that is something that is a privilege, that is a right that we must all exercise,” Rondario said at the townhall.

7 million more voters

After launching Vote Pilipinas in August, IHM signed a memorandum of agreement with COMELEC on Dec. 4 to cement the partnership and jointly push for voter registration.

COMELEC data analyzed in this Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report shows that in 2019, only 75.9% of registered voters turned up to cast their votes, or about one in every four registered voters did not participate in voting.

In 2022, more young people will be eligible to vote. Through Vote Pilipinas, IHM aims to encourage seven million more Filipinos to register.

The townhall showcased the upgraded Vote Pilipinas site, which now includes a Voter Registration Service Test. The new feature provides additional information users need to know to register and encourage them to vote.

The Voter Registration Service Test gives users additional information such as:

  • the nearest Office of the Election Officer to contact
  • a list of IDs to bring
  • forms to download
  • other important reminders

Vote Pilipinas and COMELEC emphasized that voter registration cannot be done online. The tools on the Vote Pilipinas site, however, make it easier for voters to understand the voter registration process and requirements.

“One of the campaign’s goals is to provide every Filipino with access to the right information so they can register and ultimately vote. We hope that through the Vote Pilipinas campaign, we can shift mindsets and make people realize that every vote counts,” Rondario said.

Want to learn more about voter registration, or want to volunteer? Visit the Vote Pilipinas site and help spread the word.

Are you ready to show up?