In the face of rising authoritarianism under the Duterte regime, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged first-time voters to exercise their right to suffrage as their contribution to effect change by electing worthy leaders in next year’s elections.
De Lima, a known human rights advocate, reminded the Filipino youth that voting is one of the most important rights to exercise their power in regaining what is left of Filipino’s dignity and in rebuilding a just and humane society.
“Mahahalagang bagay ang nakataya sa pagiging botante. No less than the power and privilege to participate in elections, referenda and plebiscites is given to a voter,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 394.
“And it is through these political exercises that the destiny of our country is being shaped and defined with the kind of leaders that we elect and the program of government that we choose. Walang ibang pagkakataon, kundi sa halalan, nararamdam natin na ang tunay na makapangyarihan ay ang sambayanang Pilipino,” she added.
The Senator from Bicol made the statement days after the last day of registration of voters on Sept. 29 for next year’s elections slated in May 2019.
A proud aunt, De Lima shared that her nephew named Marcel was among the many who endured the long lines and punishing heat in Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices in different parts of the country to register to vote.
“At gaya sa ibang mga deadline, kilo-kilometrong pila ng mga naghahabol na mga tao — karamihan ay kabataan — ang nakita natin. Procrastination is a bad trait. Pero, sabi nga nila, mas maigi pa rin ang umabot kahit sa huling araw kaysa naman hindi,” she said.
De Lima, who made her mark as an election lawyer before being appointed as the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008, said the nation’s future lies in the hands of the young voters because they have the power to choose their leaders.
“These awesome truths — that sovereignty truly resides in the people, and that every voter has an equal chance to vote and to effect changes — should have special meaning at this time in our nation’s history,” she said.
“Kay Marcel at sa mga bagong botanteng Pilipino: Salamat sa inyong pagsisikap na makilahok. Gamitin ninyo ang bago ninyong kapangyarihan sa pagboto para sa katotohanan, katwiran at katarungan sa ating lipunan. Nasa inyo at sa iba pang mga botante ang kinabukasan ng ating bayan,” she added.
In an effort to preserve the integrity and independence of the Comelec, De Lima recently filed Senate Bill No. 2025 to give the agency the power to procure its own offices and increase the number of election personnel based on its needs.
Through this, De Lima believes, “the State effectively safeguards and holds sacred the ballots of the people, in whom all government powers reside.”