YOUNG VOTERS' CARAVAN TO CONDUCT CROSS-COUNTRY VOTER EDUCATION

MANILA, February 24, 2004 (STAR) The concept of people power has caught fire among youths who were but toddlers when Filipinos showed the world they could claim their freedom without bloodshed.

This summer, these young folk are bringing their version of people power out on the road with them.

To commemorate the 18th anniversary of the 1986 people power revolution, a caravan of youth volunteers will journey cross-country to conduct voter education and involvement sessions and interact with their peers, as well as establish young voters zones.

This trailblazing group of youth volunteers is known as the Young Voters Caravan, which seeks to rally young voters to draft and push for a clear and genuine youth program in the platform of the next administration.

Youth Alliance Philippines founding partner Sol Delantar said the caravan symbolizes the response of the youth to the challenges before them now.

Youth Alliance Philippines (www.youthalliance.ph) is the network of students, young professionals and youth organizations behind the Young Voters Caravan.

"We believe that, despite the seeming hopelessness in our nation today, the collective efforts of young people will still bring a sense of optimism," Delantar said in a statement.

"It’s time we stop complaining and blaming others," she said. "It’s time we start acting on the circumstances we are in — to take responsibility for ourselves and bring solutions to the problems we face. This, to us, is the essence of a young people empowered. This is our conviction."

The youth group spearheading this caravan "was founded on the principle that we can no longer afford to complain and blame others for the circumstances we are in," it said in a separate statement.

"We must educate ourselves and act on what we learn," the statement said. "We must build on our capacities and create opportunities for us to prosper... we must empower ourselves and empower our peers.

"We come together on Feb. 25 to launch the Young Voters Caravan — a journey across the country to bring us closer to our distant peers and rally fellow young people to take part in guarding their votes in the May 2004 elections," the youth group said.

"We are no longer sitting on the sidelines," the Youth Alliance Philippines said. "This time we are taking action and we are bringing every young person with us — so let’s get our peers involved. It’s our turn. Volunteer."

The groups joining the caravan include TAPAT-De La Salle University, the Sanggunian ng Mag-aaral ng Ateneo, Ayala

Young Leaders Alliance (www.ayalayoungleaders.ph), CMLI Alumni (www.cmli.org.ph), Abot Kamay Youth Council, @62, White Forum (www.whiteforum.tk), the Rizal Technological University, Far Eastern University, De La Salle University and the University of Asia and the Pacific student councils and PYNOI.

The caravan was organized by the Youth Alliance Philippines in cooperation with the EDSA People Power Commission and the People Power Movement observation of the 18th anniversary of the 1986 revolution. The celebration revolves around the theme "Building Communities, Building Democracies."

Those interested in joining the Young Voters Caravan may call Pia at 0917-8386734 or e-mail partners@youthalliance.ph.

While the youth were preparing to commemorate the 1986 EDSA revolt by moving forward, the heroes of EDSA, victims of the brutality of the martial law era, human rights advocates, religious leaders and freedom fighters converged yesterday in Quezon City for a "special conscienticizing prayer and arts program."

The group Kalampagin ang Konsensiyang Kinakalawang (KKK) organized the event, dubbed "Ilawan ang Demokrasya, Ituloy and Laban ni Ninoy (Light the way for democracy, push forward Ninoy’s fight)," referring to opposition leader Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., who was assassinated upon his return to Manila from self-exile in Boston on Aug. 21, 1983.

Aquino’s murder lit a firestorm of anti-government rallies and demonstrations that culminated in the 1986 EDSA Revolution that catapulted his widow, Corazon, into the presidency and ousted his nemesis, then President Ferdinand Marcos.

The event took place at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Shrine at EDSA and Quezon Avenue, beginning with a Mass celebrated by Smokey Mountain parish priest Fr. Ben Beltran and a wreath-laying ceremony honoring and remembering the EDSA heroes and victims of martial law.

Former Senate president Jovito Salonga and former senator Heherson Alvarez led a candlelight ceremony that signaled the start of the narrative of the historical events that culminated in the people power revolt, beginning with the Aug. 21, 1971 bombing at of the Liberal Party’s miting de avance at Plaza Miranda in in Quiapo, Manila.

Leaders in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship from the First Quarter Storm Movement, the Constitutional Convention of 1972, Task Force Detainees/FIND, the opposition exile movement, the Light-a-Fire Movement, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections-Snap Elections and the alternative or "mosquito" press spoke of their experiences.

"In these days where principled politics takes a back seat to excessive compromises, we must be assured that all those aspiring for public office in the coming elections will commit to continue the ideals of Ninoy, which is to fight for freedom and democracy," Alvarez said. "We need to remind the public of the sacrifices of Ninoy and all the other heroes of EDSA I."

The commemoration was co-organized with KKK by the Ninoy Aquino Movement — of which Alvarez is the founding chairman — the Chino Roces Foundation, Spirit of EDSA and Kilos Bayan/Bantayog ng mga Bayani. Assistance was provided by Unilever Phils., the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Office of Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte and the Lling Hernandez Flower Shop.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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