ELECTIONS

Anxiety and hope: Youth volunteerism and protest post-elections

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“Public service talaga ‘yung gusto kong unahin, lalo na sa panahon ngayon, kahit student ako, gusto kong unahin ‘yung bayan muna.” Photo by JL JAVIER

It is a hot Wednesday morning, two days after the 2022 Philippine elections, and a line of walk-in volunteers has formed by Gate 2 of the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila, which is the venue of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting’s (PPCRV) parallel vote count for the 2022 Philippine elections.

The day before, lines extended outside of Gate 2, even reaching the Lacson Gate as eager citizens hope to help the PPCRV manually encode election results. The PPCRV is one of the accredited citizen arms of COMELEC, serving as a poll watchdog to verify the accuracy of the results from COMELEC’s transparency server. In an interview with “The Source,” PPCRV chair Myla Villanueva said that as of Thursday, they’ve received about 22% of election returns.

19-year-old student Jian arrived at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion at 1 p.m. yesterday and has only left her spot by the driveway stairs twice. She initially volunteered as an encoder, but decided to help out with food distribution while waiting for her turn. “Dalawang beses lang ako makaakyat. Pag dating ko dito, sunod-sunod na ‘yung food, hindi kami makaalis,” she said with a laugh, as I managed to ask her a few questions in between all the truck, car, and courier deliveries that she had to receive and distribute.

Volunteers receive food dropped off by donors at the steps of the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion. Photo by JL JAVIER

Magi, Wilvena, and Maxinne are some of the young volunteers who arrived early in the morning to encode. While waiting for their turn, they also volunteered to man the registration booth. Photo by JL JAVIER

Jian is one of the many volunteers who flocked to the venue after seeing a call for volunteers on social media. The parallel vote count runs for 24 hours, and while there are fewer volunteers for the graveyard shifts, many others continue to arrive in groups, citing the post-election anxiety that they felt after seeing the election results.

Creative designer Magi, 23, and students Wilvena and Maxinne, both 21, are manning the registration booth at the front desk. They arrived at the pavilion at 6 a.m. and were asked to man the desk, where they have already logged 405 volunteers in only three and a half hours.

“Public service talaga ‘yung gusto kong unahin, lalo na sa panahon ngayon, kahit student ako, gusto kong unahin ‘yung bayan muna,” says Wilvena when we asked why she decided to volunteer. She’s also observed that a bulk of these volunteers are college students and young professionals.

Volunteers wait for their turn on the PPCRV encoding floor at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion. Photo by JL JAVIER

24-year-old Charles is the PPRCV volunteer lead for health and food. He has been volunteering with PPCRV’s parallel vote count since the 2012 elections, but he says that the volume of both volunteers and donations has tripled this year. “What I heard from the donors is they are very eager to know the truth,” he says. “As you can see, the volunteers are very eager. Even though they need to wait 2-5 hours before they can sit at the desktop computers on the floor, they still wait and are eager to be part of history, to be an encoder of PPCRV,” he adds.

The last time our team was at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion was during the CNN Presidential and Vice Presidential debates in late February. Back then, it was a more tense energy felt on the pavilion floor as the candidates faced off for the first time during campaign season.

Today, it is brightly lit and much quieter, the faint clicks of the keyboard and hushed conversations the only audible sounds as volunteers get to work encoding election returns. Occasionally, they play music. When we were exiting the floor at around 12 p.m., Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic” was blasting from the venue speakers.

Senior high school teacher Jom decided to volunteer with his friends after seeing a post about the PPCRV count online. Photo by JL JAVIER

Writer Marz Aglipay said she figured it would healthy to look at the actual election return receipts. Photo by JL JAVIER

Amid allegations of electoral fraud and questionable transmission percentages, others see the encoding process as a channel for hope. Jom, a 25-year-old senior high school teacher, decided to volunteer with his friends after seeing a post about the PPCRV count online. He hasn’t slept in 24 hours, having arrived at 4 p.m. the previous day and waited in line until he got to start his shift at 9 a.m. Despite the long hours, he says that volunteering helped ease his election anxiety. “Instead na anxiety na nararamdaman mo, may hope. Kasi gumagawa ka ng paraan kung papaano mo bibigyan ng katarungan 'yung mga resulta na nakikita namin sa TV.”

Writer Marz, 30, said that she was told volunteering would be like a “healing process,” and that it would be healthy to look at the actual [election return] receipts.

When asked if encoding helped, she said it did, despite some of the surprising things she encountered while volunteering. “I learned that there are certain areas within Metro Manila that are surprisingly balwartes of certain candidates,” she says. “And then the people in the regions who I wouldn’t expect to be open to new candidates are more open to new candidates compared to the people in Metro Manila.”

“Kasi mahirap paniwalaan na medyo nagkakatumbas ‘yung nilabas sa media, and seeing those results with our own eyes is very surprising and it tells a lot about what is missing with our voters and the Filipino people in general,” says Emil, a student at UST. Photo by JL JAVIER.

Emil, 21, a student at UST, said that he wanted to see with his own eyes if the partial unofficial count released by COMELEC’s transparency server was real. “Kasi mahirap paniwalaan na medyo nagkakatumbas ‘yung nilabas sa media, and seeing those results with our own eyes is very surprising and it tells a lot about what is missing with our voters and the Filipino people in general,” he says.

***

A few kilometers away in Manila, various peasant groups and members of the youth are camped out for Day 2 of the Kampuha ng Mamamayan Laban sa Dayaan. The protest began in the morning of May 10 when thousands marched from the COMELEC main office in Intramuros up to their current location at Liwasang Bonifacio.

By the time we arrive, protesters have just finished painting placards bearing statements calling out the Marcos-Duterte tandem, as well as the alleged electoral fraud and other controversies surrounding Monday’s elections. It is still too early for the program, but there are already a handful of individuals and groups (farmers from Lupang Ramos, Cavite had also just arrived) that have arrived to show their solidarity with those who have been camped out since Tuesday. Later that evening, hundreds more protesters came for the program, where community pantry leader Patreng Non prepared sopas for the attendees and they played documentaries showing history.

Farmers from Lupang Ramos, Cavite join various peasant groups and members of the youth at the Kampuha ng Mamamayan Laban sa Dayaan. Photo by JL JAVIER

“Kailangan nating tindigan na kaya naming magsakripisyo, kaya nating matulog dito sa Liwasang Bonifacio hanggang sa lumabas ‘yung final results ng halalan at para ipakita na nandito kami para sa malinis and honest na elections,” says cultural peasant advocate Fay. Photo by JL JAVIER

Camping out was a “spontaneous” decision, according to cultural peasant advocate Fay. “Kailangan nating tindigan na kaya naming magsakripisyo, kaya nating matulog dito sa Liwasang Bonifacio hanggang sa lumabas ‘yung final results ng halalan at para ipakita na nandito kami para sa malinis and honest na elections,” she says.

Cathy, the secretary general of Amihan says that they were calling on COMELEC to release the truth about Monday’s elections. “Naririto kami sa Kampuhan bilang mamamayan na nananawagan ng katotohanan laban sa dayaan sa ditong nakaraang eleksyon namin.”

At 58, Amihan secretary general Cathy was also active at protests during the Martial Law era. She added that after the 2022 elections, they saw many people, especially the youth, looking for hope and an action plan. Photo by JL JAVIER

At 58, Cathy was also active at protests during the Martial Law era. She added that after the 2022 elections, they saw many people, especially the youth, looking for hope and an action plan. “Bukod sa galit na galit sila sa resulta o doon sa mga paunang resulta ng eleksyon, nakakakita sila ng hope, nakakaramdam sila ng hope. Naghahanap lang sila ng avenue, ng pwedeng paglabasan ng kanilang galit at ng kanilang pagtindig.

NGO worker Camille, 24, called out the COMELEC, saying that “blatant electoral fraud is outright pambabastos sa Filipino people.” She adds, “The complete lack of trust and integrity calls for collective action to respond and to forward the rights of the people if the people who are supposed to enable our right to vote aren’t trustworthy in the first place."

Camille, 24 (left), and Gita, 25 (right) were some of the youth members camped out at Liwasang Bonifacio. Photo by JL JAVIER

AJ, 25, and Bo, 29, skipped work to join the Kampuhan. Photo by JL JAVIER

Young professionals AJ, 25, and Bo, 29, skipped work to join the protest. “Ang fishy, what’s been happening lately. Things aren’t matching up talaga and It doesn’t really sit well with me these days na hahayaan nalang natin nito lumipas at the pace it’s going right now,” says Bo, who works at a customer service operations department by day.

AJ, who is a graphic designer and UX researcher, also cited the irregularities that went on prior to election day. “We were doing house-to-house initiatives, and I saw that there are some areas that do vote buying and that doesn’t really sit well with me,” she says.

In the end, the youth, they say, are just looking for ways to cope.“I guess it’s just that feeling of losing a sense of control and you needing to do something about it,” says AJ. “And this is one way na ma-express namin ‘yung galit namin about the injustices that we’re currently facing with the system.”