THE youth are mobilizing their own ranks for voter education and to help ensure the conduct of clean and honest elections this May.

“We’re pushing for issue-based elections based on the Millennium Development Goals,” said Justine Castillo, project coordinator of Youth Vote Philippines.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals are eight measurable goals that signatory countries, including the Philippines, have committed to meet by 2015.

These goals are eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.

They provide a framework for the youth to determine what good governance is, Castillo said during a roundtable discussion with media and civil society groups sponsored by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City last Friday.

Youth Vote Philippines is composed of 14 youth groups and organizations in at least 17 provinces nationwide. Its website at www.youthvotephilippines.com aims to help voters get as much information about the candidates as possible so they can make informed choices.

With elections to be automated for the first time this year, the group conducted a time and motion study in Nueva Ecija, where people aged 18 to 70 years old were asked to fill out ballots.

It took the participants an average of six to eight minutes to fill out the ballots, she said, so the group recommends that 24 people vote at the same time to ensure that everyone gets a chance to vote within the 11-hour period set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for voting.

Aside from filling out the ballot, time will be needed for voters to have their identity verified before they vote, and to feed their ballots into the automated counting machines.

The goal of the group is to have a stronger youth vote in 2016.

For this year’s elections, the group is working with the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) to develop a module on how to prevent electoral fraud. It will give tips to voters, like not to have anyone touch their ballots after they vote, Castillo said.

Lente, whose aim is to guard the canvassing stage of the elections, started in the 2007 elections after the “Hello, Garci” scandal that engulfed the 2004 elections cast doubt on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s victory in that contest.

Lawyer Rona Ann Caritos, project director of Lente, said the group aims to file election offense-related cases in the 2010 elections.

Blogs

To inform voters of the various election offenses, the group will put together the 10 most common election offenses in posters to be posted in the polling places, she said.

Other groups hoping to make the youth more aware of the elections are Rock Ed Philippines and Blog Watch.

Blog Watch aims to give Filipinos, especially the youth, information they need to become better-educated voters through the use of new media and social media software applications.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado of Blog Watch said its website, www.blogwatch.ph, contains blogs of people ranging in age from 21 to 66 years old.

“I tell them (bloggers) to disclose their affiliation and bias. This is in their profile,” she said.

Aside from features and commentaries, the website contains Comelec laws and other data for voter education, such as information regarding automation and campaign finance.

Rock Ed Philippines, on the other hand, aims to make teenagers interested in socio-civic issues and encourages critical thinking, using concerts, poetry, sports, fashion, photography—any other way except the classroom—to educate the youth.

To help give the youth information on the candidates for this year’s elections, Rock Ed founder Gang Badoy invited the media to send news articles on candidates for posting on the website sinongmasokey.org.

The website can also establish links with the news websites, she said. (CTL)