(UPDATED on May 12, 2022) – As the country reels from increased school dropout rates, job loss because of COVID-19, and tight screws on academic freedom, the youth now look to the next Congress for policies that will address their woes.
Latest data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) show that 31.41 million Filipinos belong to the youth vote, or those who are between ages 18 to 40. This means that the youth comprises about half of the over 63.3 million registered voters for the 2022 elections.
Among the candidates that voters must select are party-list representatives, which seek to represent the interests of various sectors in the House of Representatives.
In this election, youth representation is split between two party-lists vying for a seat in the lower chamber: Duterte Youth and Kabataan. These two parties, both incumbent, are gunning to craft policies targeting key problems in the youth sector.
Here are the parties running to represent the youth in the 19th Congress.
Kabataan, formerly Ang Nagkakaisang Kabataan Para sa Sambayanan Youth Party, claims to be “the first and only youth sectoral party in Philippine Congress.” The party was formed in 2001 following collective youth action that called for systemic change after the second People Power Revolution. Among its founding organizations are militant groups Anakbayan, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.
The party first ran in 2004 but was unable to win a seat after falling victim to red-tagging attacks and election fraud. Running again in 2007, the party secured a seat in the House and was represented by former UP Diliman University Student Council Chairperson Raymond Palatino, who served two terms.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago speaks at the group’s national convention on Sept. 25. Photo by Tatti Hermoso
Kabataan is currently represented by Cong. Sarah Elago, who was a former councilor of the UPD USC. At 25, she became the country’s youngest female lawmaker after her election in 2016. Now 32, she is the youngest legislator of the 18th Congress.
Elago is the principal author of 697 bills, covering basic education and culture, higher and technical education, and national defense and security. Of these, 29 bills are referred to the Youth and Sports Development committee or those that promote the sector’s “moral, physical, intellectual and social well-being.”
During the opening of the 18th Congress, Elago filed the Students’ Rights Bill and the Free University Services Bill which would prioritize the welfare and development of students, and fight against a commercialized education system. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Elago filed resolutions 657 and 1722, which called for a moratorium on tuition fee increases. She also filed the unnumbered Safe School Reopening Bill which aimed to assist students and schools for a safe resumption of in-person classes.
Another focus of the party-list is freedom of expression. The Campus Press Freedom Bill, of which Elago is principal author, seeks to ensure the editorial independence and funding of student publications.
She also filed House Bill 10171 seeking to institutionalize the UP-Department of National Defense Accord after its unilateral abrogation last year. Despite its passage on third reading last September 21, the bill’s approval was illegally withdrawn five days later and was excluded from the bills for approval last February 2.
Kabataan continues to suffer from red-tagging amid its progressive legislations and critical stances. Elago herself has been a target of harassment by the DND and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. The task force also lodged a petition to the Comelec to disqualify Kabataan from running in the election.
Duterte Youth’s Ronald Cardema at a campaign supporting the campaign of Marcos Jr. and his running mate, presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio. Taken from Duterte Youth’s press release.
The “Duty to Energize the Republic through the Enlightenment of the Youth Sectoral Party-list Organization,” or Duterte Youth, was founded in 2016 to back the candidacy of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte. Its chairman, 34-year-old Ronald Cardema, is also the head of the National Youth Commission and the Kabataan for Bongbong Movement, a group supporting the presidential bid of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In 2019, Duterte Youth ran for Congress and won with Cardema as its first nominee. While the party-list made it to Congress, they were unable to immediately sit in because of legal challenges.
Cardema switched with his wife Ducielle Cardema to represent Duterte Youth hours before the polls opened.
Election lawyers and petitioners urged Comelec to cancel the registration of Duterte Youth, citing its failure to complete publication and public hearing requirements. Disqualification cases were also lodged against Ronald Cardema since he was over the age limit for youth representatives.
Under Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List System Law, a party-list applicant should publish their call for recognition in two national newspapers, and hold public hearings on their application. The same law also requires the fielded youth representatives to be 25-30 years old.
The Comelec First Division eventually voted 2-0 disqualifying Ronald Cardema as Duterte Youth’s first nominee. Despite pending cases, the Comelec voted 4-1 proclaiming Ducielle Cardema as Duterte Youth party-list representative in October 2020. Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, the only dissenter, said that granting the partylist a House seat would overlook its legal deficiencies and result in a “betrayal of the Constitution.”
Since taking office two years ago, Ducielle Cardema has principally authored 13 bills — none of which fall under the Youth and Sports Development category. Seven of these proposals are pending in various House committees, two were passed and forwarded to the Senate, while another two were incorporated and adopted into other legislation.
Proposals from Duterte Youth that involve the youth include House resolutions 1293 and 1311, caling for investigations into supposed links between the New People’s Army and progressive youth organizations.
Who’s taking the reins?
From left to right, Kabataan candidates Jandeil Roperos, Raoul Manuel and Angelica Galimba. Photo by Tatti Hermoso
Kabataan’s top nominee for the May elections is its national president Raoul Manuel, the first summa cum laude from UP Visayas and the university’s 34th student regent. An advocate for accessible education and academic freedom, Manuel is also remembered for his exchange with an infuriated Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who was pushing for mandatory military training in senior high school.
The partylist’s second nominee, Angelica Galimba, campaigns for indigenous people and the environment. She led Kabataan’s #LigtasNaBalikEskwela campaign for the indigenous youth, and campaigned for the protection of their rights amid intensified attacks from the Duterte administration.
NUSP National President Jandeil Roperos is the group’s third nominee. Roperos has been active in campaigns against gender-based discrimination, standing as a convenor of the Rise for Education Alliance which calls for a national, scientific and mass oriented education system.
The next four nominees in order are Maria Jianred Faustino of Kabataan Southern Tagalog; Jayvie Cabajes of Kabataan Mindanao; Vince Alloso of Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Cebu and RJ Ledesma of Kabataan Negros.
Kabataan is currently running under a nine-point platform that involves the safe reopening of schools, proper allocation of resources for students, and legal protection for activists and campus journalists who have been targets of state attacks.
“Patatagin natin ‘yung ating pagkakaisa para ma-best natin ‘yung pagtutulak ng mga [laban] sa darating na tatlong buwan at matiyak ang hustisya, kapayapaan at lahat ng karapatan,” Manuel said.
Meanwhile, Duterte Youth’s Facebook page does not prominently feature their nominees’ names nor the platforms they plan to carry out.
Their top nominee is Drixie Mae Suarez. While we are unable to find a Facebook page for her campaign, we identified that Suarez graduated from the UP Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga and Olongapo in 2017, and was previously part of organizations UP Business Management Society, UP Manga-Anime Associates and Campus Crusade for Christ. Suarez has also appeared in several family photos with Ducielle Cardema, whose maiden name is Suarez.
Duterte Youth’s second nominee is Ralph Raymon Preza. Election watchdog Kontra Daya found that he is related to incumbent Tiaong, Quezon Mayor Ramon Abad Preza and councilor Amboy Preza.
The remaining three candidates in order are Manasseh Ephraim Dizon, Michael Christian Marcial and John Michael Dagcuta. While we are also unable to find notable information about the candidates, we identified that Marcial is the incumbent Sangguniang Kabataan chairman of Brgy. Tamayong in Davao City.
The party is currently active in supporting the candidacies of Marcos and his running mate, presidential daughter Sara Duterte.
“Lalaban tayo para sa pangulo, para sa kabataan, at para sa sambayanang Pilipino,” Duterte Youth’s Facebook bio says.
How the party-list system works
A total of 63 seats are up for grabs for the 178 partylist hopefuls, who can send a maximum of three representatives in the lower house. To determine which partylists secure all three seats, they undergo two rounds.
First, partylists that have obtained over 2% of the total votes are allocated one seat. But since not all partylists can meet this threshold, not all 63 seats can be filled by the end of the first round.
Additional seats can be given to parties who have already secured one. The number of available seats is multiplied by the percentage of votes that partylist has received.
So, if there are 53 leftover seats in the lower House and a one-seat partylist received 9.45% of total votes, that partylist can be given five more seats (53 x 0.0945 ? 5). However, election ruling puts a cap on the number of representatives per partylist to only three.
If by the end of the two rounds the 63-seat quota still is not met, the partylists that did not meet the 2% vote threshold will be ranked according to the number of votes they garnered. Until all 63 seats are filled, each ranked party will get one seat.
Pulse Asia’s latest election survey conducted from April 16 to 21 shows that Duterte Youth got a 1.65% voter preference among 2,400 respondents with a ±2% margin of error.
If the elections were held during the survey period, Duterte Youth would not have met the 2% threshold to secure a seat. Still, they will have ranked high enough to receive one leftover slot.
Meanwhile, Kabataan received 0.54% in the Pulse Asia survey. In this hypothetical election scenario, Pulse Asia data shows that Kabataan would be unable to secure a slot in the lower house.
Earlier this year, during the 52nd General Assembly of Student Councils, UP student councils formally endorsed Kabataan, citing their experience for over 20 years in “forwarding pro-youth and pro-student bills and resolutions.”
“The GASC will exhaust all democratic means to campaign for Kabataan Partylist, the genuine representative of the youth and student sector in the House of Representatives,” the resolution added.
Kabataan has topped mock polls in all of UP’s constituent units, including UP Diliman where it garnered a 51.6% preference score from 5,106 out of 25,607 students.
With four days before the election, these partylists are ramping up campaigns to represent the youth in lawmaking. As the nation’s youth contend with issues in education, labor and health, they will head to the polls on May 9 to elect those who will be their voice in Congress.