“The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern world.” – Robert Penn Warren
To fully appreciate our right and privilege to vote, we must look back at our country’s past and understand all we have gone through as a nation during the course of history. Only by connecting our realities to our collective past can we make wise decisions in the present, which in turn may have a hand in determining our future.
According to history, we were not always free to exercise our right to vote.
During the pre-colonial period, there were no elections for ruling authorities in the Philippines. Our government was based more on kinship, traditions, and customs. Our elections and other democratic institutions were products of American colonialism and were patterned from Western models. The first presidential election was held on September 15, 1935.
Youth like us were not considered ‘mature’ or ‘experienced’ enough to vote. In the United States of America, 18 year-olds only started to vote in 1972. Inevitably, our country had soon followed. During this time in the Philippines, Martial Law has just been declared by Ferdinand Marcos. In 1972, a new Constitution was drafted.
“In the 1935 constitution, the president was the head of government and state and was popularly elected, but in the new constitution, the president was just the ceremonial head of state elected from among the members of the parliament.” [Teehankee, J., Electoral Politics in the Philippines] This constitution gave the president direct powers and the right to remain in office beyond the expiration of his term.
Moreover, this new constitution also stated that voting age would be lowered from twenty one to eighteen. I consider this revolutionary for our youth.
So why should young people vote?
Because finally, young adults have been given a voice in the process of nation-building. We can have a say in the shaping of our law and government. However little influence we hold, it exists and it matters.It should matter because we have a big stake in this. This year, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) claims that almost 45% of the 52 million registered Filipino voters are youth aged 18- 30. Through a united vote, we could determine the elects. So voting becomes, not only necessary, but also crucial.
Who we choose to become leaders of our country could also determine the fate of the next years of our lives. Voting is our right and our privilege. It took a while for our predecessors to gain this right and pave the way so let us not let it go to waste. Instead, let’s claim it and embrace it. Let us not allow anybody to invalidate our experiences and our opinions and our cries concerning our country. Because in the end, this is our futures at stake.
As young as we are, we must make an investment to be involved, to educate and be educated. Soon, we would be the adults with mouths to feed and with jobs to juggle. We would be the ones burdened to abide by the law and pay our taxes. You get the idea. So let us not take our position in this country for granted. Let us not be apathetic and indifferent. Because just as we examine the events of our history and the choices our ancestors made, so we would also be examined by our children and our descendants. Let us be informed, let us be involved and let us choose wisely and compassionately. History has its eyes on us.