"Akala mo 'pag UP, perfect na? Kita mo naman 'yan..." (Related to me by an acquaintance)

Seal of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
Photo courtesy of CSSP
For 22 years now, Buklod CSSP (founding member of Alyansa) had dominated college politics, despite its near fall (I don't think this is the right term) in 2010. If they're a coalition basing on the fact it is a party of allied orgs, I don't know. But yes, they are without doubt the foremost political juggernaut of our college and their dominance in the local student council had produced generally good results. Indeed, they have gained the distinction of being the only local party in the University of the Philippines that have been entrenched for so long. Still, this very dominance raised a problem that kept lingering in the new decade: voter turnout.

Year
2006
2007
2008
2009*
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
Turnout
51.43%
52.37%
47.01%
N/A
53.45%
N/A
59.79%
51.82%
52.27%
Voters
1,256
1,292
1,231
N/A
1,116
1,154
1,194
1,123
1,095
*2009 was the first year when automation was implemented, but it lacked statistical data in the college level.


Most analysts view turnout as an important factor that needs attention in the current democratic system. Indeed, it is the legitimizing factor of any democracy of its type. In this case, 2013 saw it lay back to 2006 level of turnout, but only in terms of percentage. Although, there was only a small rebound in 2014, when abstention in the councilor election reached single-digits for the first time in recent years (at 8.5% from 12.3%). That is not the only problem. Deceiving it may be at first look, but actually, more voters voted in 2006 (1,256) than in 2013 (1,123). Another thing, while a fair rebound in turnout percentage was seen in 2012, whereas the Buklod candidate for Chairperson fought against abstains, it is still significantly lower than pre-automation levels in terms of absolute number of voters. In my short talk with one Political Science student, he relates to me the low turnout of CSSP Student Council (SC) election and traces it to apathy in student politics. I suggested the method we had back in high school: donate half the school day for elections. He still remained skeptical of this proposal, and kept tracing it to apathy. Is he correct or does the problem not lie among the students per se? We will get to this later.

Also, speaking of abstain; we have to also consider the abstention vote. 370 (32.95% of those who voted last year) abstained from voting for the unopposed Vice Chairperson position, which was almost as many as for the unopposed Chairperson position in 2012 (394 abstains equivalent to 33% of those who voted).

2013
figures
Chairperson*
Representative**
Councilors***
Department Representatives****
Abstention votes
179
170
138
185
Percentage to total votes
15.94%
15.14%
12.29%
16.47%
*Two candidates competed for the position. Only one winner.
**Three candidates competed for the position. Only one winner.
***11 candidates competed for the position. Only eight winners.
****Total of abstention votes from all departments representative elections. 4 of 9 seats were unopposed.


On average, abstention rate was 18.56% (that is, if you average the abstention rates on the five positions). Subtract it from 51.82% and we have 33.26% actual votes for the available candidates. It’s hardly a mandate. Perhaps students of the college only wanted to waste their vote. Thus, there’s no significance in this, right? We would have thought the students just organized their votes to horse around with it in Election Day, but are we really into that level today? It is possible to consider that this abstention vote is a conscious choice as well.
That was a conscious choice


Doofenshmirtz to Perry the Platypus: Hey, I just realized. That was a conscious choice, [you peed on my couch.] (Line derived from Phineas and Ferb Movie in Fabulous 2D)

I remember seeing a STAND-UP pamphlet with this statement in large font: We disprove the notion that the Filipino youth of today are apathetic. Well, I really didn’t see a real argument to support that notion, (than voting them to have a real patriotic and fighting council), but in the first place, who said the student is, in general, apathetic in the first place? I may not be that into the specific issues a year back (just the general ones), but I still voted, and I never abstained.

The voters made the conscious choice not to participate... (Naisbitt: Megatrends, 1984)


We have to look at the issue in a different perspective. There is the concept of voter fatigue, wherein turnout reflects a poor performance from the institutions they elect, thus making the voters decide to do that decision. Naisbitt, on this note, believes that the people “by not voting, may be expressing the belief that politicians either cannot or will not do what the voters want done.” Many reasons lay behind voter fatigue. Some of the reasons include:


Lack of interest in any of the issues that are being voted on (1)
Lack of convenience when it comes to casting a vote (2)
• Voters feel their vote will not count / the election has "already been won" by one side. (3)
• Voters feel that it is not worth their while to educate themselves as to the issues and hence their vote would not be worth making. (4)


I think my proposal to my Political Science classmate last year only solves, in part, the second reason. However, the automation of elections in 2009 was made to solve this issue. Now it takes only 5-10 minutes to vote. Unless a student has straight classes, and even that can be a pretty shallow reason not to vote, it would be easy to drop by and cast your vote.

The first reason needs a little more deliberation. Both Buklod CSSP and Saligan sa CSSP (local party of STAND UP now reaching its 16th year) have a bit common ground on their platforms, at least basing on short descriptions on the said platforms (Apologies if I misunderstood some of them)

Buklod CSSP
Saligan sa CSSP
Make it Apt: Educ Budget and STFAP
CSSP Kilos na Laban sa Budget Cuts
CSSP Back to Basics*, Public GA
Sama-samang pakikilahok**
Anong gusto mo KAPP?
Open Up! Asap!
KAPPwa
CSSP PLUS
StatAS Update
Asap CSSP Update
Akademikong Suporta para sa KAPP
Scholarship Fair
*Six specific platforms were under this general platform. Its intent was continuation of CSSP traditions.
**Four platforms were under this category.

11 of 19 on Buklod platforms and 9 of 16 Saligan platforms coincide, as said, basing on short descriptions on the said platforms (basing on the 2013 elections). Perhaps what existed among the voters was this they’re all alike mentality. If this is so, then the students will just prefer the one who had the “track record” of doing all the same thing. As it was then until now, people want to see results, not just proposals. There’s nothing wrong, so why fix it? Thus, interest drops. Significantly, though.

We all sense intuitively that it is obsolete. (Naisbitt: Megatrends, 1984)


Some may argue that these parties, including MagKaisa CSSP (local party of KAISA already in its 5th year), an emerging party not yet recognized by the college, have their own ideological divides, as well as respective colors (blinders, in one way). But, the thing is, they’re actually all parties, institutions that represent the old system of government. No one can be truly progressive if an official is to be bound by party prerogatives, not the people’s decision (besides, it’s too time consuming to do the latter, right?). Parties may not feel like it is so, but theory is different from practice. Thus, what resulted was the advent of independents. They may not have the machinery or network to push the campaign as much as parties do, but they try. 


E kung talagang open sa lahat ‘yang Student Council na ‘yan, e di sana marami nang tumakbo? (Related to me by another acquaintance)


The third reason can be traced to a so-called superior-inferior relationship between the council and its constituents. As early as Confucius, we have this mentality, but we are not in the time of Confucius now, yet it still exists. Besides, they got college credentials, track record, org work, etc, to legitimize their qualification for the position. And of course, they got the money, money, money. You got no org (or maybe an inactive org member), no track record, no money, etc, so who are you to go out there? OK, perhaps I am too surreal in this but in some instances, this can happen, perhaps even beyond our consciousness. Why not? Have the candidates released any financial statements concerning their campaign expenses? Only one candidate in the CSSP Student Council elections (an independent) has published such financial statement. In fact, he spent only 2 pesos for every voter that voted for him. Being the least of the candidates, one can only imagine the massive amounts these parties can expend every election.


A less inferiority complex property yet alarming cause can be the lack of awareness on how important an individual vote is. Why would the ruling and opposing blocs care to inform their constituents of this anyway? It’s just a waste of time and resources. They’re political juggernauts, and that’s only what the voters had to know. You vote them as they come to you. And you know what else, they benefited from it. I admit, in my first year, I was one of those who were, but not completely, carried by these prevailing waves. However, since 2010, the value of a single vote rose to 0.09% on average from the 2006-2008 average of 0.08%. Come to think of it, the eighth spot for college councilor was only separated by two votes from the ninth spot. This mentality of insignificance must be broken if we are to see more voters in the gates of Halalan.


Now this fourth reason can be directed more into the studentry than to the council. I can’t exactly say if this is just an incarnate of Juan Tamad or what have you (Why not try doing a qualitative survey on this some time?), but we can still trace one reason that is not connected to laziness, but to sheer industriousness. I once asked my mom, who once studied in the College of Education, why her college is continually posting low turnouts. Actually, they have one of the lowest in the whole university. She related to me that it is most possible that students of the said college are too busy in schoolwork. This is not to say, though, that CSSP students are not into schoolwork as well. We are all UP students, so we have almost always the same weight in this field. This is also not a universal statement. Why, amidst their mega readings can the College of Law record exceptionally high voter turnout through these recent years? Still, I don’t exactly like comparing colleges, and I don’t want to make a real study on this, but to some extent, it helps.


Other factors could also be considered, but a real exhaustive study is required to see this through.


Low turnout = politically apathetic?

Fine, well and dandy, voters don’t want to vote. They’re “fatigued”. Of those who voted, almost half prefer to abstain. So, are we experiencing, or rather suffering from political apathy?

In a survey by Factbytes last March, 267 respondents from all over the campus see CSSP as more politically involved than, say, our neighbour the School of Econ. 1.43 VS 2.64 have the game ended in this round. However, let us take note that Econ posted a pretty healthy turnout of 64.99%, while CSSP was at 51.82%. That’s almost a democracy of 50%. I wonder why no one still is calling something like “We are the 49%!” among student ranks in the college, just as Occupy Wall Street claimed they were the 99% (to think we are one of the more vocal colleges). This is a futile attempt, perhaps. It’s just like doing Harlem Shake, and the catch was they never dance with you. Anyway, surveys are not universal as well. It is still to be noted, though, that a wonderfully high turnout (i.e. 99% or 100%) is not the best thing in the world either. Elections might be made compulsory, and this apparently messes up the rationale of the democratic process. Anywhere between 60% and 90% is healthy enough.


February Resolution


Representatives may not even be representing him/herself... (Toffler: The Third Wave, 1980)


The student population may have been experiencing an imbalance in representation to voice out their interests and so they chose either not to vote or to abstain. They are trapped into an either-or option, though in this diversified age, they should have multiple options. Diverse nga eh.

It is greatly possible this is not apathy. Perhaps in the national scale, this line of reasoning may work, since majority had not qualified for college as educational attainment (sad to say). But, this is college. You can’t assume that the student will just waste his or her vote, especially if you consider that even in the national scale, those who had reached college post high voter turnouts. Out of 18.7 million who reached or graduated from college, 11.4 million (61%) voted in 2010. Almost the same number voted in 2010 among those who graduated from elementary (or attained less), but in the Census, they numbered 35.4 million. Turnout from this sector was 32%. If the electorate is not with its council, what are they in power for (Courtesy of former Senator Jose Avelino, who once said “What are we in power for?”)? There is no real leadership without followership. And, well, we don’t want to happen here what happened in Seoul National University in 2011. The SC election was nullified because the required 50% voter turnout to legitimize the results was not reached, even though it was twice extended. Though, compulsory things like this are just not our style, as far as I see it.

Thus, now is the time to think. Just simple numbers as it may seem at first, but as it was said in Transformers, it’s “more than meets the eye.” The electorate may want a new director, a new facilitator to follow. All we need, as was the Lao Tzu principle, is to get in front of the parade, to offer something new and invigorating. A truly multiple option suited for a diverse community. However, there’s no need to launch a violent revolution to see results. We may be keen into such revolutions and coups a generation ago, but not today. What we need is a peaceful resolution. A widespread revamp in the current system that will make more students participate and get involved, and provide recognition to our diversified and demassified college. A suggestion on what we can do is to have an initiative system applied within the local college. For example, have 3% of the voters in the past elections forward a proposal by signing. Say, it was a proposal for a shift from fluorescent to LED lights to help save energy. And then, it will be voted upon by the council. As for the 2013 elections, that would mean 34 people united in one proposal. This is expected to encourage non-affiliated students to forward their own proposals. There is a problem if only organizations and parties have a voice in the council, while around 1/3 of the college are very likely to be non-affiliated (i.e. orgless or partyless). Again, this is only a plain suggestion, and is open to improvement and further modification. Still, this is a pioneering idea that is not applied even in the country itself.

And with this, stand firm to our resolve, for man may see his victory as inevitable, but we have to face the effects of our actions.

Let us vote accordingly in the upcoming student council elections. Think before you vote.

*** 

"There are so many things that we can do and we should do during and after elections to participate actively in running our government. Some of you will say: “Well, Soc, I can do very little. What can I do? I am only a student. Yes, I admit each of us can do but little. But, little things taken together amount to something formidable.” 
(Francisco "Soc" Rodrigo, one of the "trinity" of the Progresistas in the 1950s)

***


[Note: This lengthy document was created for the February 2014 CSSP Student Council elections, and may be outdated. Thus, it is subject to change. While this is mainly directed to the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy in UP Diliman, it is fervently hoped that readers from all over the university read and understand that this situation may very well be occurring in their own colleges.]

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