MANILA, Philippines?It?s a movement still without a name?but it has a tough mission, a fast-approaching deadline and a bus taking its leaders on a nationwide tour to convince the lazy or apathetic citizen to register and vote in 2010.
At a time when ?dagdag-bawas? (vote-padding or -shaving) schemes and the ?Hello Garci? scandal have caused many to lose trust in the ballot, the campaign seeks to replace cynicism with new hope and bring an estimated 9 million ?new? voters into next year?s elections.
The drive, to be formally launched on Wednesday, is spearheaded by three incumbent and former lawmakers, a youth leader, a book author and a city mayor with a Ramon Magsaysay Award to his name.
Sen. Francis ?Kiko? Pangilinan, Akbayan party-list Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta, youth leader and entrepreneur Paolo Benigno ?Bam? Aquino IV, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo and writer Alex Lacson are reaching out to a section of the electorate whom they call ?the reformist constituency.?
?Nine million is a number you cannot ignore. This is going to be the revenge of the voters,? Aquino, a nephew of former President Corazon Aquino, said Wednesday night when the group met with Inquirer editors and reporters .
?Traditional politicians know that the nine million is the X factor. This is a big challenge, but we have faith. Let?s make a difference this coming year,? Baraquel said.
The Commission on Elections estimates 1.9 million first-time voters are turning 18 in time for 2010, and that 1.15 million ?old voters? have yet to register.
The group, however, said its own survey put the number of unregistered voters at around 9 million, including 2 million voters who are turning 18.
With under six months to go before the registration period ends on Oct. 31, Aquino said around 60,000 new voters would have to register each day so that all the unregistered voters could participate in the coming elections.
?We?re running out of time. We have to register 60,000 new voters a day. The challenge is to make it happen,? Aquino said.
?We have to get them to engage. What we?re saying is we?re providing an alternative,? Pangilinan said.
The group acknowledged widespread cynicism about the country?s political system, especially since the ?Hello Garci? scandal marred the 2004 presidential race.
Still, the stakes are just too high in 2010 for Filipinos to remain indifferent or complacent, the campaign leaders stressed.
?[The] 2010 [elections] is make-or-break in many ways. That is the feeling out there. The house is burning and the house is the nation,? Acosta said.
He said his group would welcome volunteers, including popular figures like boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. ?Imagine if he says, ?Get out and vote??? Acosta said of the ring icon.
?If we get these voters to register, it?s going to be the game-changing event in the coming elections,? he added. ?This could help build the reform constituency that would do battle [with traditional politics].?
Keeping the faith
Lacson, author of the popular book ?12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country,? said: ?We have to convince the youth to keep the faith.?
He recalled delivering a talk before high school and elementary students recently, and discovering that the majority of them, even at their very young age, could already say a mouthful blaming the government for the country?s problems.
Robredo, a 2000 Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service, said reforms could start at the grassroots or local level, but part of the campaign?s challenge is proving that voters can ?directly benefit? from the election of reformist leaders, in the form of good governance and the efficient delivery of public services.
While some in the group, like Pangilinan, are considering running for higher office next year, they do not necessarily expect the new voters to support their respective candidacies, Baraquel said.
She said that what was important was the chance to inject fresh blood into the electoral system. ?It could prove to be decisive for all reformists. We need nothing less than an electoral revolt.?
The campaign will have its grand launch on May 13 in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, with a two-hour concert featuring rock bands Parokya ni Edgar and Kamikazee and Pangilinan?s wife, singer-actress Sharon Cuneta.
The group will be touring the provinces on a bus to be called the ?The RV? (?Register and Vote?). It will also be spreading its message on the Internet via YouTube and Facebook.
It is partnering with advocacy groups like Y-Vote and the First-Time Voters Network.