First time voters: Who and what they really want

By: Sir Lawrence Agustin and Paul John Garcia        

Less than two months before the May senatorial elections, different campaign advertisements and publicity materials boasting different achievements, broadcasting successful projects, and some telling platforms and plans for the country have already appeared almost everywhere. If a person is new to these things, he or she may be confused. It is interesting to know what first time voters think despite being bombarded with the faces, plans, and even songs of the candidates on almost all platforms of media.

In order to know what the thoughts of the first time voters are, Journalism students from UP Diliman conducted an interview to 12 respondents* from different parts of the country. 

On selecting who to vote

There are 33 official senatorial candidates for this year’s elections. Each of them has specific platforms, different qualities and characteristics, and unique ways of selling themselves to the public. But these do not guarantee them a sure spot on the positions they are running for. Each voter still has qualifications in choosing who to vote for, and here are what first time voters have in mind.

Majority of the respondents agreed that they would vote for candidates who have firm stands on issues such as the arguments regarding the Divorce bill, Freedom of Information bill, on education, and good governance, among many others. It is also a plus point if these stands are inclined with the respondents’ own views and opinions.

Good educational background is also deemed important by the respondents. The candidates should at least attain college degrees.

“For me, once a person reaches college, his view of the world broadens, and this, in turn, makes him sensitive to relevant social issues,” said Patrick Pineda from Las Pinas. A candidate should also be “knowledgeable of the law,” according to Camille Hernandez of Oriental Mindoro. Other respondents concurred that having knowledge in current politics, law, current events as well as international affairs make a candidate “competent” and “deserving” of the position.

Respondents from Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Oriental Mindoro and Cagayan de Oro agreed that those candidates who have previously been elected should have performed well while they are in office. They also emphasized the importance of passing quality laws, which can also be a factor for them to vote for these public servants.

Moreover, clean political record is also a qualification the respondents look for in choosing who to vote. “[titignan natin] kung ano ba yung mga ginawa nila sa lugar na pinamamahalaan nila,” said Rachel Capili of Cavite.

Meanwhile, the issue of political dynasty comes in since it is election season again. This is another thing that majority of the respondents look at.

Marianne dela Cruz of Cagayan de Oro said, “it would be better if he/she is not part of a political dynasty. It would spare our country from complications in the future.”

Christian dela Cruz, a respondent from Ilocos Norte, also pointed out that he does not want “Epaliticians” or those who always put their names and faces on streamers or tarpaulins which broadcast projects and congratulatory messages. “Although that’s rare,” he said.

Almost all of the interviewed first time voters agreed that the candidates they will vote for should be “maka-masa.” According to them, they will choose candidates who have platforms catered for the masses, those who are passionate and sincere in serving the people and those who will prioritize the public above anyone else.

 “The last thing the county need is a trapo/pseudo public servant,” said dela Cruz of CDO.

The respondents also expect the candidates to be God-fearing, honest, humble and true to their intentions to serve the people.

On laws they want the candidates to pass

The first time voters do not only have criteria in mind for choosing a candidate, they also have some laws in mind that they wanted to be passed by the elected public officials. One of which is the Freedom of Information bill.

FOI is a bill that will guarantee the public access on documents, records and other government-related transactions and dealings. Transparency and accountability will be promoted through this, which, according to its authors, can lead to good governance.

But, unfortunately, according to an article of the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated February 6, it was not able to pass on the 15th congress due to “lack of quorum” and lack of “Malacanang support.” (See full article here

With this recent predicament, some respondents find it necessary to pass this bill immediately because it is really beneficial for the public.

“We need to exercise our right to be informed. It helps us check who should and should not be in public office. Once we have the FOI bill, we can check kung sino ang loko among government officials. Of particular concern here is how our senators and representatives use their Priority Development Assistance Fund(PDAF), or pork barrel,” believed Pineda of Las Pinas.

Furthermore, other “laws on transparency” should be passed said Hernandez of Oriental Mindoro.

Matters on education is also a problem which the respondents wanted to be addressed through the passage of a law. Maureen Rabut of Pangasinan said “studying on state universities must be free. No tuition fees.”

Moreover, Increase in budget would also be of great help according to Aguila of Camarines Norte while Pineda of Las Pinas said that Magna Carta for students would be a good law to be passed.

Meanwhile, Shaira Estrella of Laguna said it would be interesting if there were laws that forbid political dynasties. With the current issues concerning candidates running from the same families that have already served or are still serving the country, there should at least be something that would stop this kind of thing, according to Estrella.

Not only do national issues matter, local concerns, too. Trizia Garcia from Leyte wanted the candidates to pass a law that prioritizes local businessmen to operate more than foreigners.

“I want a law that limits accepting or approving applications of business permits of the Taiwanese, Japanese or Chinese people in our town. I suggest this kind of law because I can see that in our place, it is like we are already conquered with these kinds of people who put up businesses instead of Filipinos,” she said. 

Others, which perhaps gained clamor due to recent debates and arguments, that the respondents wanted to be passed are the divorce bill, genuine agrarian reform, laws on political parties, laws on increasing the minimum wage of workers and the revision of the anti-cybercrime law.

*Respondents are picked through self-selection sampling (volunteer respondents) via Twitter and Facebook. The interviewees do not necessarily represent all the first time voters in the country.


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