“CITING a poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics, the Asian Journal magazine wrote last year that more millennials are getting involved in political issues.
One of them is Ellirie A. Aviles, 20, and president of the Sigaw ng Kabataan (United Youth Voice) Coalition, an organization of young people engaging in concerns from health impact of tobacco to Federalism.
The BusinessMirror sat down with Aviles after speaking at a conference on Federalism in October to seek his views on the move of the Duterte administration to change the Philippines’s system of government.
What prompted you to organize the conference on Federalism?
Because it is our main advocacy to empower young people through amplifying their voices. I think that discussions on reforming the Constitution is a positive move because the policies will forge systems that will really affect young people’s lives and of course their future.
How do you assess the reception of the young people who participated in the conference?
I think they were enthusiastic about it and that they are interested [on the topic]. More young people are approaching us, telling us that they want to have a campus tour.
Regarding the campus tours, what are your plans?
Actually the plan here is to have one summit each in Luzon and in Visayas. We also plan to have one in Davao, then we will go on tour in campuses and other communities.
What is it about Federalism that made you decide to organize the conference?
It’s something that will affect their entire lives. I think [Federalism] will affect the entire structure on how they will participate and engage with the government. I think we could have youth interested [in participating to] include more policies and provisions [if Federalism comes into effect].
In your own opinion, how will we create a Federal Government?
First, we go to the community and the various sectors. And majority of these sectors is composed of the youth; we are there in other sectors. If you could actually amplify and hear the voice of the youth, that is the real voice of the people.
In configuring these voices into the drafting of policies we can make these policies in parallel with the reality that is happening on the ground.
Some people would say that involvement of the youth in politics is becoming extreme. What do you think?
Youth involvement on political issues actually makes [polemics] better. Some people may think that the youth participate too much but actually most of the time the youth are just given ceremonial roles so they are not really given enough authority and they are not really taken seriously.
What we want to happen here is that we draft policies through these dialogues. We’re talking to the youth, to young people, to real people. We could draft and hear their voices, make policies and then submit it to the right authorities and then do whatever method the reform could be. If it’s a Constitutional Convention, then we should have representatives there. If it’s a Constitutional Assembly, then we should lobby these policies to our legislators.
There are a lot of ways where we could make our voices be heard.
What were your expectations on this conference? How do you assess these expectations when you saw the reactions of the participants?
We were expecting the youth wouldn’t be interested in the conference on Federalism because the topic is very technical. We were expecting the topic to be something beyond the youth’s comprehension because Federalism is something serious and big.
But these [considerations were] what actually made us decide to educate the youth so they could form a choice of whether to support or go against federalism; so that they could have an informed choice.
So when you saw their reaction, how did you feel?
The participants’ reactions further motivated us. [We realized that] with the right approach, young people could be really interested in [Federalism]. With the right terminology, with the right level of delivering these ideas-these concepts, then, the youth would really participate.
So if this was a test, how would you grade yourself?
I’d grade myself 7 because I believe that there is more to do. I mean we could do far better than this.”