Mapúa Malayan Colleges Mindanao

ELeksyon: Boto Ko, Bukas Ko launches its first Voter’s Education Forum 

By Kit Lester Balayo

As the 2022 Elections draw near, the E-Leksyon: Boto Ko, Bukas Ko campaign hosted its first Voter’s Education Forum with the topic, “Suffrage: A Right or A Privilege?” last September 17, 2021, where Atty. Arvin Dexter Lopoz was invited as the guest speaker. The event was held via Zoom and live-streamed on Facebook Live. 

The forum was participated by the iPeople schools, namely Mapúa University, Mapúa Malayan Colleges Mindanao, Malayan Colleges Laguna, Malayan High School of Science, National Teachers College, University of Nueva Caceres, and the APEC Schools. The E-Leksyon: Boto Ko, Bukas Ko campaign is a collaborative drive of the schools to prepare the youth for the upcoming national elections. 

“This campaign hopes to empower the youth, particularly our students, to become wise voters for the upcoming 2022 National Elections,” Ms. Marycon Delos Reyes, Head of the Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement (CSCE) stated during her opening remarks. 

Suffrage a political right, not a natural right 

During the discussion, Atty. Lopoz cited the lead case of Pungutan versus Abubakar from June 20, 1972, wherein the supreme court announced that suffrage is “a political right intended to enable them to participate in the process of government to assure it derives its powers from the consent of the governed.” 

“So, necessarily, suffrage, therefore, is a right, but it is not a natural right,” Atty. Lopoz asserted.  

He continued to explain by differentiating between a natural right and a political right, pointing out that natural rights are rights that can be demanded from the state. 

“What’s a natural right? The right to live, the right to access to education, the right to safety and security, to shelter, and food—those are natural rights. We can demand them from the state. But the right to suffrage is a political right, granted only to those intended by the constitution to participate in the governance,” added Atty. Lopoz. 

Furthermore, Atty. Lopoz shed light on why suffrage is a right, rather than a privilege.  

“When you say it is a privilege, it would mean that there are terms and conditions that you will impose before a person can exercise their right to vote, or their right to be voted upon.” 

To back this statement, Atty. Lopoz mentioned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 1 Paragraph 1 and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights Article 25 where it was emphasized that everyone has the right to equal suffrage and opportunity to vote, without literacy, property, or any other substantive requirement. 

“Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, both of which the Philippines is a signatory of and therefore have treaty obligations, it is a must that we follow and hold periodic elections by secret balloting and guaranteeing that the free expression of the will of the people is made effective.”

Vote Buying and the Youth Vote 

Apart from explaining why suffrage is a political right, Atty. Lopoz also discussed other issues that have shrouded voting for a very long time, such as vote-buying, youth voting, and a run-through on the registration process of voting. 

Atty. Lopoz slammed vote-buying, stressing that it infringes on the people’s right to suffrage as it undermines their free will and turns the right of suffrage into a privilege 

“In this scenario, we can say that the right of suffrage has somehow become a privilege. Only a few, those with lots of money, those rich candidates because of vote-buying. Is that how we understand the right of suffrage?” he stated. 

Atty. Lopoz then urged the participants to practice the right of suffrage by protecting the right to remove corrupt public officials from the office, exercise the right to choose new officials, and insist on the right to freedom of expression and free speech. 

“We challenged corruption during our time, but the challenge is continuing. If you exercise your right to suffrage, then one-half of your duty to challenge corruption is already exercised by you. Challenge corruption anytime, anywhere.” added Atty. Lopoz. 

With 52 percent of the total registered voters for the 2022 polls being young Filipinos, aged 18-39 years old, he further enjoined the participants to vote and let their voice be heard regardless of whether they are satisfied with the status quo or not. 

“Who will make or break the future of this country, past this global pandemic and economic downturn, will be all of you listening to me right now. It will be the youth vote that will decide the future of the Philippines. That’s why you should take part in the electoral process,” encouraged Atty. Lopoz. 

About E-Leksyon: Boto Ko, Bukas Ko 

E-Leksyon: Boto Ko, Bukas Ko is the iPeople schools’ nationwide campaign, in partnership with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) which aims to educate students and their respective communities on the importance of voter registration, responsible voting, and more importantly, the exercise of their right of suffrage.

As part of the campaign, the People schools’ held an online forum via Facebook Live to encourage its 60,000-strong student body — where the administration and student leaders released a Manifesto stating their intent to be responsible voters. 

Further, this awareness campaign will host an online forum monthly leading into the 2022 elections. It will also roll out a voter education module, voter education video, social media campaign, and a series of contests to engage the youth.

The “Suffrage: A Right or A Privilege?” voter’s education forum is the first of a series of monthly forums leading to the election date, which covers topics that will help students make informed decisions for a brighter future.