Last Saturday, July 4, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) blandly announced, without fanfare and bullhorn, that it has now in the voters registry some 50 million voters.
The Comelec made the announcement during the launch of its stepped-up voter registration drive at malls in Metro Manila.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautisa said they expect the number of voters to increase as the agency’s Election Registration Boards go through pending applications for voter’s registration and reactivation.
“We should have around 54 to 56 million. Right now, we have about 50 million and we still have to clean up our list and include the new voters,” he told the media during the opening of a satellite registration booth at the Glorietta Mall in Makati City last Saturday. Nine other malls in Metro Manila opened satellite registration booths the same day.
Half of population are voters
According to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, in the 2013 mid-term elections, there were 52 million registered voters. The figure went down to 48 million after those who failed to vote in the mid-term and barangay (village) polls in 2013 were stricken off the list.
Continuing, he explained: “That’s actually a regular cycle in our elections. The number would go down [after an election]because of those who failed to vote twice and then we would build up again during registration. Now we have 50 million voters.”
I find it stunning that 50 million voters represent nearly half of the country’s total population of 102 million.
Without doubt, the voting population size will critically affect campaign messages, strategies and tactics of many candidates, especially in the presidential race.
Generation X and Generation Y
What is driving up the voters’ rolls? Where are the new registrants coming from?
The simple answer is: the new generations. Specifically Generation X (citizens born between 1961 and 1980) and Generation Y (citizens born between 1980 and 2000), who are popularly known as the Millennial generation or millennials for short.
These two generations will be a potent force in the 2016 balloting.
Of the 50 million who are estimated to have registered and will be eligible to vote in the 2016 elections, the new generations will comprise about 28 million. The Comelec, however, does not have a breakdown of voters according to age groups.
With the 1998 elections as base, the authors, Ma. Lourdes Tiquia and Maria Irene Cariaga, in their book Campaign Politics (revised 2001edition), provided a profile of youth-voter demographics in the country:
“The Filipino voter is young.
“ In terms of age-group distribution, the country’s total population is dominated by 19 year-olds and below, or what are collectively now known as Generation Y.
“They number around 34.4 million or about 49.21 percent of the total population, while Generation X, those aged 20 to 40 years old, makes up another 30.89 percent or 21.62 million.
“Together, both generations easily comprise 70.83 percent of the total number of Filipinos.”
And then they noted: “While the Filipino youth, particularly Generation Y, has the demographics, they have yet to carve a niche in the political process.”
Youth participation in the electoral process in 2016 could be a major factor, making or breaking candidates.
Why youth choices will matter
I personally believe that the Filipino youth will get involved in a big way in the 2016 elections for the following reasons:
First, the new generations have a big stake in the 2016 elections. Most will come to maturity during the presidential term of the next President (2016 to 2021). Many will be landing their first jobs then. And many will also be starting their own families during the period. Jobs will be their top priority.
Second, many among the youth were politicized by the Aquino years. Many got to care about politics because of the excesses and failures of President Aquino. The Noynoying meme made them laugh.
Third, sheer numbers make Generation Y a factor in the elections. They are the largest generation in Philippine history, bigger than any earlier generation.
In the book, The Age Curve, author Kenneth Gronbach writes of a generational parade occurring in every society. Gronbach wrote: “Every twenty years or so, the United States creates a new generation.”
Because of their massive numbers, millennials will need to create their own world, and compete for everything just as the boomers did. They will of necessity become entrepreneurs and start a sea of small businesses to meet their own needs. They are already redefining the automobile.
Millennials will change our country
Time magazine in a cover story in May 2013 called the millennials “the new greatest generation” and predicted “the millennials will save us all.”
It concluded: “Each country’s millennials are different, but because of globalization, social media, the exporting of Western culture and the speed of change, millennials worldwide are more similar to one another than to older generations within their nations.
“The Internet has democratized opportunity for many young people, giving them access and information that once belonged mostly to the wealthy.”
Time and The Age Curve arrive at the same conclusion: Generation Y is going to change countries, far more than Generation X.
What’s true of the US will probably be also true of the Philippines.
Perhaps we will begin to know the change starting with the 2016 elections.