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Philippines

Volunteer spirit very much alive among young Filipinos

Majority of church group's election monitors at midterm polls were young people

Bong Sarmiento and Marielle Lucenio, Manila

Bong Sarmiento and Marielle Lucenio, Manila

Updated: May 16, 2019 05:00 AM GMT
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Volunteer spirit very much alive among young Filipinos

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting volunteers assist voters during the May 13 Philippine midterm elections at a polling center in Quezon City. (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

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They used their own laptop computers and their own mobile phones to assist voters during this year's midterm elections in the Philippines.

They were not required to do so. It was not even their job. It was something they did to try to ensure "honest and clean elections" across the country.

Most of the 300,000 volunteers of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), a church-based poll watchdog, are young people.

The Commission on Elections accredits the election monitor, which was set up by the Council of the Laity of the Philippines in 1991.

Its members are volunteers who educate voters between elections, assist them on polling days and monitor proceedings at polling stations during voting to ensure honest and orderly polls.

One of these volunteers, Myklo del Rosario, 22, said his interest in working with the PPCRV began as a result of reports of unaccounted votes in past elections.

"I feel that it’s a rotten system," he said. "There’s no checks and balances, there’s no accountability, there’s nothing," the young man said.

He said he wanted to do his part as a Filipino to help "because I can actually do something."

"There are so many people out there who want to help and a make a difference, but can’t," he said, adding that he is fortunate to be able to serve. "Because we can make a difference, we should do all that we can do to actualize it." 

He said young people should "get more involved because it’s about our future."

"If we don’t care now, how are we supposed to establish a foundation when it’s our turn to run, when it’s our turn at the helm?"

According to Father Ariel Destora, director of the Social Action Center in Marbel Diocese in the southern Philippines, the "spirit of volunteerism" among young people" these days shows their "growing social awareness."

In his diocese alone, more than 2,000 individuals from 28 parishes signed up as volunteers this year.

Aside from assisting and guiding voters to polling stations, volunteers also provided voter education programs before the elections and monitored and reported poll violations on election day.

Before they are deployed, volunteers undergo training workshops that last up to 15 days. Among their crucial tasks is to encode election results on copies of election returns provided by authorities as part of the unofficial count of votes.

Agnes Gervacio, PPCRV's media director, said that although the organization welcomes anyone to become volunteers, it is the youth who easily open themselves up to the idea of volunteerism. 

"It sounds like a cliché but youths really are the hope of the motherland," Gervacio told ucanews.com. 

She noted the significance of the participation of young people in the political exercise, especially as the Philippine Church is currently celebrating the Year of the Youth. 

Not everyone might agree with the results of the elections, but one thing is sure among the Filipino youth: They are ready to take charge and to be accountable.

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