CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Volunteer spirit alive among young Filipinos

They used their own laptop computers and their own mobile phones to assist voters during this year’s midterm elections in the Philippines.
 
They were not required to do so. It was not even their job. It was something they did to try to ensure “honest and clean elections” across the country.
 
Most of the 300,000 volunteers of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), a Church-based poll watchdog, are young people.
 
The Commission on Elections accredits the election monitor, which was set up by the Council of the Laity of the Philippines in 1991.
 
Its members are volunteers who educate voters between elections, assist them on polling days and monitor proceedings at polling stations during voting to ensure honest and orderly polls.
 
One of these volunteers, 22-year-old Myklo del Rosario, said his interest in working with the PPCRV began as a result of reports of unaccounted votes in past elections.
 
“I feel that it’s a rotten system. There are no checks and balances, there’s no accountability, there’s nothing,” the young man said.
 
He wanted to do his part as a Filipino to help “because I can actually do something,” he said.
 
“There are so many people out there who want to help and a make a difference, but can’t,” he said, adding that he is fortunate to be able to serve. “Because we can make a difference, we should do all that we can do to actualise it.” 
 
Del Rosario said young people should “get more involved because it’s about our future.”
 
He asked, “If we don’t care now, how are we supposed to establish a foundation when it’s our turn to run, when it’s our turn at the helm?”
 
Father Ariel Destora, director of the Social Action Centre in Diocese of Marbel in South Cotabato, the southern Philippines, said the “spirit of volunteerism” among young people” these days shows their “growing social awareness.”
 
In his diocese alone, more than 2,000 people from 28 parishes signed up as volunteers this year.
 
Aside from assisting and guiding voters to polling stations, they also conducted voter education programmes before the elections and monitored and reported poll violations on election day.
 
Before they are deployed, volunteers undergo training workshops that last up to 15 days. Among their crucial tasks is to encode election results on copies of election returns provided by authorities as part of the unofficial count of votes.
 
Agnes Gervacio, PPCRV’s media director, said that although the organisation welcomes anyone as a volunteer, it is the young people who easily open themselves up to the idea of volunteerism. 
 
“It sounds like a cliché but youths really are the hope of the motherland,” Gervacio said. 
 
She noted the significance of the participation of young people in the political exercise, especially as the Philippine Church is currently celebrating the Year of the Youth. 
 
Not everyone might agree with the results of the elections, but one thing is sure among the Filipino youth: They are ready to take charge and to be accountable. UCAN

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