The University of Santo Tomas, through the Office of Public Affairs, in partnership with ABS-CBN’s Bayan Mo, I-patrol Mo (BMPM), and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), held a voters’ education webinar titled, “The jUST Vote: Highlighting the Importance of Citizen Journalism and the Role of Media during a Pandemic Election.” The event was held through Zoom and livestreamed on the UST Facebook page on April 5, 2022.
Through its discussions, the webinar raised awareness and continued the dialogue on how the academe, media, youth, and other sectors of society can work together for a truthful and fair election. Serving as speakers were Ms. Rowena Paraan, Head of Bayan Mo, i-Patrol Mo; LENTE Networking and Advocacy Officer Ms. Antonette Eduardo; and journalist Mr. Jervis Manahan from ABS-CBN News.
UST Secretary-General Rev. Fr. Louie R. Coronel, O.P., in his welcome remarks, said that “During this time of the pandemic, the media has relentlessly fulfilled their mission of giving comprehensive coverage of the 2022 elections. May their commitment inspire us to be equipped with the proper training to contribute to these truth-seeking initiatives.”
For the topic “Citizen Journalism and the Election,” Paraan shared how every Filipino can responsibly exercise their right to free expression and access to information through citizen journalism. Through this initiative, ordinary people can share documentation, such as photos and videos, on local issues and concerns. Such reports can cover issues such as lacking school facilities to community threats such as natural disasters. Verified citizen reports can give important, first-hand viewpoints of crucial moments that reporters may not be able to catch in time, since newsrooms may often send journalists after an incident has happened.
Aside from highlighting community issues, citizen journalism can become a bridge between those in need and those who can help, call attention to emergencies, provide a venue for sharing positive experiences and moments of human interest, share updates from the ground on key issues, such as election campaigns and calamities, and fight disinformation, explained Paraan.
This was followed by a discussion on the “The Role of Media during the Elections.” Through media, voters can be educated on how to exercise their right to suffrage, learn about the developments of election campaigns, and have a platform to communicate their concerns and needs, shared Manahan. It also allows candidates to share their platforms through debates. Media coverage also includes reporting results and vote counting to protect against anomalies and scrutiny of the entire electoral process, from preparations to the day itself.
Media responsibilities also include leveling the playing field or giving underrepresented candidates airtime; explaining comprehensively the platforms, track records, campaign promises, and stands on issues of the candidates, with the end goal of ensuring that the public is well-informed.
Manahan also highlighted the deluge of misinformation and disinformation in the time leading up to May 2022. In this context, media and ordinary citizens must carefully do their part to fact-check to stop the proliferation of falsehoods and protect themselves from being victims of misinformation and disinformation. Particularly, Manahan warns that media consumers should watch for ‘representation’ in the media of issues, candidates, and platforms.
Eduardo shared the various duties of LENTE, a non-partisan nationwide network of lawyers, law students, paralegals, and volunteers who do election work and pre-election preparations, such as assisting PWDs and other vulnerable sectors in voter registration. The Network also pursues election reforms in such cases where policies or laws become obsolete or unfitting in present contexts to make elections accountable, transparent, and inclusive; monitors electoral processes, and raises public awareness on voters’ rights.
Amidst the ongoing pandemic, Eduardo also cautioned that voters should meticulously follow health protocols, whether one is showing symptoms or not.
Prior to a question-and-answer portion, insights and reactions were shared by Ms. Alyssa S. Ragodon, Vice-Chairperson of the UST Central Commission on Elections, and Mr. Felipe Salvosa II, the Journalism Program Coordinator of the Faculty of Arts and Letters.
The event was a result of a #Halalan2022 partnership with BMPM, which UST joined on January 17, 2022. In her closing remarks, OPA Director Asst. Prof. Joreen T. Rocamora, Ph.D., said “we gladly welcome this opportunity to help our youth make informed choices and participate meaningfully in the voting process.”