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YOUTH POWER
6M will be voting
for the fist time
By Karla Delgado-Yulo and Blanche S. Rivera
Philippine Daily Inquirer


SOME six million young people will be casting their votes for the first time this year. That's a lot of people who have never voted before, who are probably as nervous and excited about the big day as they are confused about the procedures and the candidates.

''This is the 21st-century vote,'' says Namfrel secretary general Guillermo Luz, whose calculation of six million is based on the latest census. ''This is the last election before the next century.
More than anyone else, they have the greatest stake.''

Luz says Namfrel looks at ''the three Gs'' to determine how people vote: geography, gender and generation.

The gender vote is unproven and, thus far, so is the generation vote.

But this election may yet set a precedent because of the sheer number of young, first-time voters.

''Young people don't appreciate the strength they have as a bloc,'' says Luz, who points out that everyone 24 and below has never voted for president, while all those 21 and below have
never voted at all.

Everyday for the past two months, the youth played audience to the presidential circus. Now, 24 hours before Decision Day, they scream, ''Our turn!''

To find out what they're thinking, the Inquirer conducted an informal survey among first-time voters at the Glorietta mall and among 23 students of the University of the Philippines,
University of Santo Tomas, Letran College and St. Paul College.

The students were randomly chosen from among the Inquirer's volunteers for its election coverage.

At the mall
Twenty respondents were chosen randomly among sales attendants, shoppers and groups or pairs eating outside fast-food establishments.

They were polled on their level of enthusiasm, the qualities they look for in a president, whether their candidates are the same as their parents' candidates and, finally, who their candidates are.

An overwhelming majority said they were looking forward to voting. Among those who were not, the reasons varied from apathy (''Wala akong paki-alam, hindi siguro apektado'') to
disappointment (''Masyado nang commercialized. Parang ginagawang kengkoy'') to indecision (''Nakakalito, hindi namin alam kung sino ang i-boboto namin'').

Among leadership qualities, intelligence (''matalino''), followed by integrity and credibility (''hindi corrupt''; ''puedeng pagkatiwalaan'') were the three most frequently cited.

Others mentioned were ''pinaka prepared para i-angat yong economy,'' ''able to handle his/her responsibilities,'' ''good role model sa kabataan,'' ''makamasa,'' ''makatao,'' ''makabayan,''
''masipag,'' ''hindi puro salita,'' ''able to establish peace and order,'' ''hindi binebenta ang Pilipinas'' ''handang ipaglaban ang Pilipinas'' and ''good-looking.''

Six out of 20 respondents said they were voting for the same person as their parents, while 14 said they were going to vote for someone else.

And their candidates?

For president, 10 out of 20 said they were for Sen. Raul Roco, five were for Speaker Jose de Venecia, two were for Vice President Joseph ''Erap'' Estrada, one was for Manila Mayor
Alfredo Lim and two were undecided.

For vice president, 11 out of 20 were for Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, three were for Pangasinan Gov. Oscar Orbos, one was for Sen. Edgardo Angara, one was for Sen.
Serge Osmeña and four were still undecided.

Student volunteers
Not surprisingly, intelligence and integrity topped the list of
leadership qualities considered by the students.

But coming from a generation that has often been branded as morally lacking, the next outstanding quality of the youth's leader will come as an amazing revelation: They insist on a faithful, God-fearing man or woman to run the government.

Four of the respondents mentioned that a leader should be pro-masses because they said it's about time the ''unfortunate half'' felt the country' gains.

Concerns such as the environment and the plight of the children also came up in the interviews.

The so-called virgin voters may have a rather good idea about the kind of leader they want for the coming millennium but based on the interviews, they sure were not very enthusiastic about the election process.

Only three of the respondents expressed optimism in the success of the May 11 polls. One, who felt she was lucky to be living in a democracy, said the Filipinos should be grateful that
they even have the chance to vote.

The rest, however, were more worried than grateful or excited.

Fear

There is an almost palpable fear among them that the elections will be ''bloody and chaotic.'' Another put it more lightly, saying it would be ''very colorful . . . a battle of money, power, and
political machineries.''

Still another said it would be ''star-studded,'' alluding to the increasing number of actors in the political arena.

But actor or not, the next president will be facing the challenge of living up to the expectations set down by the young voters.

Brimming with idealism characteristic of untainted youth, the respondents demanded that the next president find feasible ways out of the economic crisis. All of them agreed that this is
the foremost problem of the country.

Four particularly mentioned that the new administration should provide jobs, especially for those who have been retrenched.  It's ''jobs for the jobless, homes for the homeless, and food for
the hungry,'' as one interviewee put it plainly.

The next pressing problem that the incoming president should address, according to the youth, is the peace and order situation in the country.

Following this is the issue of graft and corruption in the government. With faltering hopes, the youth said it was time for a new chief executive to initiate ''major changes'' in the prevailing system.

Hilarious

The question dealt the 28 respondents about the possibility of an Erap-led administration gathered hilarious answers from 23 of them. These ranged from ''God help us all'' to ''I'd rather migrate
to the US'' (and this coming from someone who's been rallying against US imperialism!).

One predicted a P500 to $1 exchange rate while another, the promotion of our national language (which is not bad as long as it does not imply the president's incapability to speak the
English language fluently).

Another named the Philippines under Erap the ''Republic of Action Stars.''

However, there are those who said an Erap presidency will not be that bad, considering his pool of advisers.

Another explained that if Erap becomes president, ''the sectors comprising the entire political establishment will be scrutinizing his every decision, so he will be careful . . .''

Two believed in Estrada's sincerity and pro-poor advocacy, but both were quick to say that they were not for Estrada but for Roco.

And so were 10 others who were interviewed, spelling a majority. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Lim got one each of the remaining 15. The rest were still undecided.

If this echoes the youth vote, Roco of Aksyon Demokratiko is likely to benefit from the estimated six million ballots to be cast by virgin voters tomorrow. And like the gods, this could just as
easily defy the surveys.

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