At a political camp held last summer by Ped Xing, a student organization based at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, this writer was invited to talk about youth political participation in Asia. This talk with students from different schools in Metro Manila came on the heels of recent political activism across the region that included the Hong Kong protests from 2019 to 2020, a political crisis built on the people’s opposition to a controversial move that would amend their extradition bill and would infringe on their civil rights, and the Myanmar crisis of 2021, born out of the people’s opposition to Tatmadaw’s deposing democratically elected members of the ruling party.
In the Philippines, what stood out at that time as a strong form of involvement or civic engagement by young people, was the establishment of community pantries across the country. What began as one community pantry aimed at extending help to others left economically vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eventually ballooned to about 80 more scattered from Luzon to Mindanao. And while established essentially as a spontaneous and organic act of compassion that offered free food and other necessities to those who needed them, these community pantries were eventually seen by some quarters as a form of political statement in response to the difficulties and unmet needs that many Filipinos faced at the height of the pandemic.
At the heart of all these political and civic activities from Hong Kong to Myanmar to the Philippines, is the involvement of young people — from student volunteers to advocate groups and the working class alike. This is not an isolated example of the active involvement of the youth in socio-political issues around them throughout history. According to the UNDP (2013), “youth are often the driving forces behind reform movements and the youth also tend to get involved in civic, service-oriented activities, such as volunteering for a social cause.” It is not surprising then, that questions on the power of youth vote come to the fore. Is there a youth vote and can it turn the tide during elections?
This question weighs heavily on the Philippines, now just roughly two months away from the national elections in May. According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), 52% of the total number of registered voters for the May 2022 elections are aged 18-40, falling under the youth vote category (CNN, 2021). The majority of the voters will be the youth, which means the outcome of the elections would or could be determined by this group’s voter turnout. This assumption does not deviate from the voter turnout during the 2010 presidential elections. Pulse Asia exit poll data back then showed that 36% of the votes came from the youth.
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(very good read)