Civil society urged to participate in politics starting with voting

Civil society, which comprises you and me, are urged to participate in politics and governance in order to propel the community and the country to progress.
One way of participating is to exercise one’s right to vote. Another way is to support the government’s projects and laws. Third is to help stop the cycle of corruption by refraining from becoming a recipient of vote-buying.
These are the important points highlighted during the candidates’ forum and voters’ education activity held by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Mission-Pagdihon, Inc. and Searching Souls Society in Brgy. Libongcogon, Zarraga, Iloilo last October 26, 2013.

The initiative was in preparation for the October 28 barangay elections.

Upper photos: Gemma Sumague and Aurora Hugo.
Main photo: The candidates for barangay captain and kagawads of Brgy. Libongcogon, Zarraga, Iloilo.
Lower photos: List of candidates and some residents.

“We have the moral and social obligation to know our candidates and to vote with our conscience. It’s not enough that we vote because somebody said this and that. We have to do our part in knowing our candidates,” Gemma Sumague, volunteer of PPCRV-Zarraga and Mission-Pagdihon, Inc. told the residents of Brgy. Libongcogon.
She said that the forum aims to inform the public of their rights so that they will know the important role that they play in the process.
“There is a need for residents to participate if we want to progress,” Sumague said.
Seeing the potential of the community amid the poverty, Sumague enjoined the residents to start believing in their power and to unite.
“Based on the local government code, the barangay election is the most important among all the elections. The barangay is the primary implementor of national laws and programs. So, if those in the grassroots don’ t unite, what will happen?” she said.
Sumague cited the example of the government’s anti-smoking law. “It was made to protect our health and the environment. But, if we are not organized, we are wasting our government’s time and money. There is a call to cooperate in all activities that are geared towards the common good,” she said.
Sumague cited three responsibilities of civil society before, during and after the elections.
“First, know our candidates. They campaign and spend, so please don’t close your eyes at their efforts.  Second, vote with your conscience, not because you were dictated upon by another or because somebody engaged in vote-buying. Our biggest problems during the elections are those who buy votes and those whose votes are bought. We ourselves created that atmosphere. The people themselves push the candidates to buy votes. Then, let’s make our elections peaceful. Third, support the public officials and their barangay projects,” Sumague said.
Meanwhile, Aurora Hugo, a volunteer of Mission-Pagdihon, Inc. expressed admiration to the public officials of the said barangay for accepting the challenge of having a forum.
The group has sent out several letters to some barangay chiefs in Iloilo City and they refused, saying, “we are busy campaigning.”
However, Hugo stressed that the forum is not for the candidates alone but for civil society to be empowered about their right to vote.
She added that such activity will also engage candidates and residents to a dialogue.
A dialogue indeed took place after the 14 candidates for barangay kagawad and two candidates for barangay captain were given a chance to share their platform to the residents.
Some of the concerns raised were; how can they protect the youth from the entry of illegal drugs, what other projects are in store for the youth apart from sports,  children should stay in school instead of roaming the streets, environment and health protection through non-burning of garbage and other solid waste management practices, peace and order, medicines, and children’s rights, among others.
The candidates vowed to fulfill these promises if they win. They also promised that if they win, they will carry the initiatives or promises made by those who will not win in the barangay elections.*

Shots taken at the basketball court of Brgy. Libongcogon, Zarraga,
Iloilo while waiting for the candidates' forum to start.

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