Unity among voting youth can counter vote-buying, says lawyer

The youth are encouraged to exercise their right to vote in the coming barangay elections and if they are united, their numbers can overcome the number of persons whose votes were bought, said a lawyer.
“The youth comprises 49 percent of the voting population. If you unite, even if they (candidates) buy the votes of the poor, you can still overcome that,” said Atty. Pearl Gauzon of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) during a voters’ education activity at the Western Visayas College of Science and Technology attended by students yesterday.
Gauzon said this as a reaction to one student’s query as to why irresponsible candidates are still allowed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to run.
“If the Comelec has erred in allowing these candidates, then the voters should be alert. Our mission is to level the playing field. There should be no qualification that you can only run if you have money as this results to vote buying and political patronage,” she said.
“There are many people who are qualified, but they don’t have money,” she added.
Meanwhile, social science professor of WVCST Ronnie Bautista, said that due to political patronage, the free will of a voter has been corrupted.
“Free will in voting should be an informed choice. A vote needs mental processes. You weigh your alternatives,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gauzon said Pinoy youths should emulate students in the United States who are not afraid to ask their government officials hard-hitting questions.
“I suggest, write to senators and congressmen,” she said.
She narrated that a youth leader told her, “But, they don’t read those, only their assistants do.”
“But this is not the right attitude. You exercise your right. If they will not answer, that is their problem. Don’t make it an obstruction to your rights,” Gauzon said.
She shared that for 16 years, there’s a Freedom of Information Bill that has not been passed but after the P10-billion pork barrel scam involving businesswoman Janet Napoles, fake non-government organizations and lawmakers, Senator Grace Poe has again pushed for the bill.
“For example, what will your congressman do with the money he gets in order to help the people? If there’s an FOI law, we can ask him that,” Gauzon said.
“Students, I urge you to write Senator Grace Poe and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to support the FOI Bill so that it can be enacted into law. Our government is now listening to us, let us take this opportunity,” she said.
“You are still young. I hope that by the time you reach my age, your experience on civic rights has been perfected. So that our democracy will be sustained,” she said.
Meanwhile, the audience was abuzz when Gauzon informed them that last September 24, the Senate and Congress amended Republic Act 9340, postponing the SK elections from October 28 this year to October of 2016.
She said there is no holdover, meaning, the SK positions will remain vacant until new officials have been elected.
 “It can’t be denied that our SK don’t think much about their responsibilities and duties. Most of them are relatives of the barangay captains. So, instead of exercising their right in terms of true leadership, they are being used,” she concluded.*

Atty. Pearl Gauzon (extreme left) of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) with  Susan Marie dela Cruz, director, Office of Student Affairs; Ronnie Bautista, social studies professor; Bernadette Dela Cruz, Social Science chief adviser and Brandon Rivera, president of the Student Republic during the voters education activity at Western Visayas College of Science and Technology. 

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