“Bagamat hindi pa nakakaboto ang mga bata, mahalaga na bigyan natin sila ng pagkakataon na maipahayag ang kanilang opinyon ngayong halalan. Hindi lang mga botante ang dapat kinakausap ng mga kandidato kundi maging mga bata rin. Dapat may malinaw silang programa, lalo na’t kabilang ang mga bata sa lubhang naapektuhan ng pandemya,” said David Austria, secretary of Salinlahi Youth Marikina, during a children’s activity in Quezon City earlier today.
Dubbed as “Bata, Boto, Balota: Strengthening Children’s Participation in Election through Arts, the event was joined by more than 50 children from different urban poor communities of Metro Manila. The activity was composed of child-friendly discussion and interactive workshops on the situation of children amidst the pandemic and their demands to the candidates.
“Nakakalungkot dahil kahit ilang eleksyon na ang nagdaan at ilang mga pulitiko na ang namuno sa bansa, palala nang palala pa rin ang sitwasyon ng mga bata at kanilang pamilya. Maraming nagugutom, lumolobo ang out of school youth at kahit saan ka tumingin ay may mga batang namamalimos at nakatira sa lansangan. Kaliwa’t kanan din ang kaso ng pang-aabuso at karahasan sa mga bata,” added Austria.
Through visual arts, the participants expressed their insights and ideas about the Filipino children’s electoral agenda as well as the characteristics of good candidates. “Gusto namin ng kandidatong makikinig sa aming mga problema at gagawa ng konkretong hakbang at progama para maiahon ang mamamayan sa kahirapan at kagutuman. Gusto namin ng pinuno ng bansa na uunahin ang kapakanan ng nakakararami Pilipino at hindi kalianman gagamitin ang pera ng bayan at kanyang posisyon para sa pansariling interes at pagpapayaman,” Austria emphasized.
“This year, the country’s voting population will once again be given an opportunity to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right in choosing nation’s leaders by participating in the upcoming local and national elections. Such an important decision making process is also a chance to challenge candidates and duty-bearers in coming up with concrete plans on how to resolve the overwhelming challenges brought by the pandemic and its consequent economic impact including the dismal conditions of Filipino children,” said Salinlahi Secretary General Eule Rico Bonganay adding that Salinlahi held series of consultations among children wherein they identified major issues that candidates must prioritize and incorporate in their agenda which include Filipino children’s health nutrition, education, child rape, online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC), and human rights abuses.
The outputs of children highlighted the valuable tasks of children in the upcoming election including their active participation in public debates, lobbying with candidates and mobilization to oppose any form of fraud and election-related violence. “Gusto natin ng isang halalan na walang halong dayaan at karahasan. Kaya naman, nananawagan kami sa pamahalaan na maging magandang ehemplo sa aming mga bata sa pamamagitan ng pagsisiguro ng malinis at maayos na eleksyon,” said Maymay Doringo, spokesperson of CRC Children’s Collective.
Thus, the outputs of the art activities were compiled and will be presented to local and national candidates so they can consider including in their platforms the concerns and demands of children.
During the event, a candle-lighting activity was also held to call for justice for the New Bataan 5 who were mercilessly killed by military elements last February 23. Salinlahi particularly gave highest tribute to staunch advocates of Lumad children’s right to education Chad Booc and Jurain Nguho III, who selfishly dedicated their lives in helping Lumad communities in Mindanao. ###