By Gimar A Reyes

In anticipation of the 2016 national elections, Lambigit Igsoon para sa Hiniusang Pag-Uswag sa atong Katilingban (LIHUK) mobilized an extensive voters’ education program in various parts of Cagayan de Oro City spearheaded by Kristohanong Katilingban sa Pagpakabana – Social Involvement Office (KKP-SIO) of Xavier University.

LIHUK hopes to heighten critical awareness among voters as catalysts of meaningful social change through responsible voting. It conducted a series of Kuwentuhang Bayan sessions in numerous parts of CDO with student volunteers and community leaders as trainers in running voters’ education initiatives.

A loose network consisting of the academe, church and youth sectors, LIHUK aims to educate voters and make them realize their crucial part in the greater society by engaging them in four different forms of electoral involvement, namely: 1) voters’ education campaign 2) candidates’ criteria building through a poll survey, agenda building and candidates’ forum, 3) election monitoring and 4) Bantay Pangako.

VOTERS’ EDUCATION. A LIHUK team member discusses the duties and responsibilities of voters in the May 2016 polls during a Kwentuhang Bayan session at Liceo de Cagayan University. Photo supplied by KKP.

The LIHUK team trained more than 300 student leaders as facilitators since August 2015 from different universities and colleges across the city with the help of the KKP – Student Volunteer Formation Center (SVFC) group and National Service Training Program (NSTP) students who played an essential role in composing the pool of trained facilitators fielded in various educational institutions and communities cascading the Kwentuhang Bayan Voters Education Modules. Moreover, this has been also a part of NSTP’s goal for greater societal engagement towards good governance imparted to the community and their students as well.

The team has also forged partnerships with NSTP Educator’s Association in Region 10 (NEAR-10), Xavier University, Liceo de Cagayan University, Cagayan de Oro College – PHINMA, Pilgrim Christian College and Southern Philippines College. A total of 68 religious members from St John Vianney Seminary, San Guillermo Parish in Barangay Iponan and Libertad Parish also took part in Kuwentuhang Bayan.

After consolidating the issues gathered from the Kuwentuhang Bayan runs, the LIHUK team hopes that the information drawn from the community will help in the second phase which involves criteria building, agenda building, candidates’ fora and profiling.

This advocacy campaign was patterned from Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan’s political education program also known as “Katilingbanong Paghisgut-hisgut” which provides an opportunity for drawing out concerns and issues from the vulnerable sectors in the community through grassroots-participatory approach.

In collaboration with the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (ACDO) led by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma SJ DD, LIHUK pushes for a “clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful” (CHAMP) election process and results in which inclusive and participatory discussions on social issues are undertaken.

The network kicked off its first round of recruitment in November last year participated in by different sectors of CDO. It was followed by a convergence of volunteers on Nov 28, 2015 through a general assembly. Another round of discussions was also held at St John Vianney Seminary on Nov 27, 2015, and a commitment pledge on December 13 last year.

Social advocacy student volunteer Francismer Gascon said that by going to different schools, LIHUK 2016 was able to target the youth sector, which constitutes a potent number of voters in the coming elections. Gascon said that through this education campaign, “The voices of vulnerable sectors will be heard as well.”

Joining the LIHUK 2016 network in the crusade for honest elections are ACDO through its Social Advocacy Center, NEAR-10, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, Task Force 2016, Philippine National Police – CDO.

“Volunteers proactively engage in the grassroots to educate and empower community members that they can be of great impact in choosing new leaders for our country,” related Francesco Labuntog, senior student volunteer of KKP.

In the process of Kuwentuhang Bayan, facilitators assist in drawing out the issues from the community and developing political agenda that will be presented during the candidates’ forum.

Labuntog invites students to take part in the electoral voters’ education campaign as facilitators thereby responding to Pope Francis’ call to “go to the peripheries” and ripple the aspiration of clean and truthful 2016 elections.

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