Putting climate on the voters’ ballot

by Jowi Aggabao and Lanz Quizon

On May 9, 2022, the Filipino people will elect a new set of public officials from the Malacañang to the barangays. Different presidential aspirants have already filed their certificates of candidacy or COCs; some names that we already knew were gunning for the highest office in the land even before the filing of COCs, while some came as a surprise for many of us. The presidential candidates have already stated their positions on the policies of the departing administration. Some pledged to keep the current policies in place, particularly the current administration’s violent drug war, which has been criticized by a number of human rights organizations. There is one thing in common about most of the candidates: their primary agenda and the front and center of their platform is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 will arguably be the biggest election issue, aside from corruption and criminality. Additionally, the looming threat of another Marcos presidency is also a pressing issue in the upcoming elections. There are clear efforts to rebrand the Marcos family image to a more palatable one, to the dismay of the many victims and survivors of Martial Law. 

Political participation is a process that leads to freedom of speech and the ability to take part in public affairs. Throughout the history of the Philippines, political participation of the Filipino people has been evident, both through voting and outside electoral campaigns. In this way, electoral campaigns present a crucial avenue for Filipinos to express their sentiments regarding pressing national issues.

However, most of the Filipinos choose not to participate in politics even though they have no idea that they are participating through voting and following laws. In today’s generation, a number of Filipinos choose to remain apathetic or not politically involved. Factors range from age of citizen-voters to economic adversity. Around the world, a pattern of apathy and disengagement with politics among the youth exists across much around the world also. In the Philippines, the traditional perception that the Filipino youths are uninterested if not apathetic to politics remains unchallenged. Some studies in fact confirm this view. A survey of Filipino youths showed that the young consider being politically involved as important as having a good marriage, family life, steady job and good education. Another study noted that the youths’ less-than-positive attitude towards being responsible voters, minimal social involvement, and being uninformed about government have not improved over the years.

Although apathetic Filipinos are high in number, youth participation in politics is evident, especially through social media and mass organizations. In many ways, this helps youth in forming critical opinions and making positive changes in our society through participation in youth organizations, NGOs, people’s organizations, and campus and youth publications. New forms of social and political involvement in public life are emerging particularly among young people, suggesting that youth politics is not limited only to actions that aim to influence government policy but encompasses issues of wider social concerns. No matter how young they are, today’s youth seem to have an expansive critical analysis of our society. Many are aware that several politicians stray away from the right path and they are not afraid to voice out their opinions against an oppressive government.

With the Philippines experiencing some of the worst impacts of climate change, leaders who can really promote the climate agenda and fight for climate justice on all fronts are desperately needed. We need leaders who can look beyond their immediate boundaries, who are bold enough to facilitate change, and who can leave a lasting record well beyond their own terms. Voting during elections is just one of the mechanisms by which we can express our calls but our political participation does not and should not end here. The real fight does not take place every six years, the real fight happens every day and in the streets through collective action. . As part of the youth sector, we should vigorously organize and mobilize in demanding climate justice. We should take part in the struggle in order to have a more secure future on this planet. 

The climate crisis is still one of the biggest issues that is widely not discussed in presidential debates or forums. The climate crisis is arguably the other elephant in the room next to COVID-19. Many candidates have chosen not to include climate change in their platforms because it is something that will not click immediately with the people, unlike illegal drugs and criminality. We can connect this to the rise of the “penal populist narrative” used by President Duterte. During his campaign his core message was that the country’s problems are rooted in the proliferation of illegal drugs. We all saw how effective this messaging is — up to this day, President Duterte is still enjoying high satisfaction ratings. This kind of narrative serves as a framework for politicians in their campaigns not just for the presidential candidates but down to the local government units. The rise of populism paved the way for single-issue candidates like our outgoing president. This is unfortunate for our country that has been plagued by a plurality of issues, including typhoons all-year round exacerbated by a changing climate. It’s time that climate change becomes acknowledged in candidates’ electoral campaigns. At the end of the day, this is our planet we are talking about; at the end of the day, what would these government officials do without a planet to live on? 

The first step in addressing the climate crisis is to acknowledge that we have a problem that is, in many ways, here to stay. To adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, the next administration should promote transition to renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, switch to electric transportation, among so many other things, all incorporating a framework of social justice. The upcoming elections present an avenue through which we can enact change, and in the process, let’s also embrace the avenue of taking to the streets, the avenue of collective action to push for the system change we need to address the crisis impacting us today.

This article is part of the Spotlight series by YACAP’s Education Committee which talks about various issues related to climate and climate action.

Published by yacaphilippines

Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines is an alliance of individuals, youth organizations, and student councils that advocate for immediate youth-led global climate action. The Fridays for Future of the Philippines.

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