Photo by Khim Joshua Raymundo

The full participation of the youth must be prevalent in the coming May 13 elections to ensure the victory of independent and progressive candidates, said Makabayan bet Neri Colmenares during the signing of the 2019 National Youth Covenant on May 4.

The youth plays a big role in the 2019 midterm elections, since approximately 31% of the registered voters are aged 18 to 30, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Other senatoriables Erin Tañada, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay and Chel Diokno of Otso Diretso, and Labor bet Leody De Guzman also vowed to forward youth concerns and advance people’s rights as they pledged to the covenant.

The National Youth Covenant, containing the demands in the 2019 Youth Agenda, is an agreement made by youth leaders seeking to unite with the Senatorial bets in pursuing the advocacies of the youth sector.

The covenant, presented by youth leaders, forwards calls for education and employment for all, demands for better telecommunications and internet, improved health care and mental health awareness, environmental preservation, youth empowerment, end to discrimination, and respect for universal rights.

“Hindi democratic ang pwestuhan sa ating gobyerno[…] Halos lahat ng batas na kanilang ginagawa ay pabor para sa mga mayayaman,” De Guzman said, addressing the government’s supposed disregard for human rights through policies such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law and Rice Tariffication Law.

Colmenares, who placed 20th in the 2016 senatorial elections and has advocated for free and accessible education, also expressed how the current education system is commercialized and privatized. He added that inaccessible education furthers the vulnerability of the youth sector.                                                                                            

“Palaging sinasabi sa Kongreso na mahirap mag-budget sa SUCs (state universities and colleges), sa health, sa edukasyon; na walang pondo ang gobyerno. May pondo ang gobyerno, gusto lang nila waldasin sa mga walang kwentang proyekto,” Colmenares said.

In line with the various issues faced by all Filipino sectors as well, the candidates emphasized the call to action must not stop at the signing of the covenant.

“The covenant is just temporary, what [needs to] come is active participation from us,” Gutoc challenged.

Hilbay urged the audience to uphold fundamental basic rights, “Ang request ko sa inyo, sa ating lahat, is to go beyond our comfort zones, to go beyond our echo chambers.”

To close the program, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) National Spokesperson Raoul Manuel asserted the youth’s important role amidst the worsening political situation in the country.

“Kahit ganito ang nangyayari ngayon sa ating bansa ay meron at merong pag-asa hangga’t merong kabataan,” Manuel said.

A mock elections was conducted alongside the event. Out of 123 votes, Kabataan Partylist and ACT Teachers Partylist obtained 97 and 5 votes, respectively.

For the senatorial candidates, Colmenares, Diokno, and Gutoc garnered the most number of votes, with 111, 100 and 95 votes, respectively.

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