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By Nestor M Banuag Jr and Keziah Loucille Mallorca, SIAP

 11072023.Web.SIAP 1“DAPAT LANG!” Campaign Branding and its key focuses | Infographics posted during the “DAPAT LANG!” Social Media Campaign.

In a bid to promote citizen engagement, compassion, and character within its community, Xavier University's Social Development (SD) Cluster, through its Social Involvement and Advocacy Program (SIAP), initiated the "DAPAT LANG!" Campaign. This campaign encompasses four key focuses and significant election-related activities aimed at raising awareness and encouraging active participation in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) 2023. It aims to inspire the Xavier Ateneo community, especially students, to take an active role in shaping the future of their locality through active engagement in the electoral process.

The "Gahum sa Kabatan-onan" forum, hosted by the Social Involvement and Advocacy Program (SIAP) and led by its LIHUK Committee in collaboration with the Regional COMELEC Office-10 and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), was a significant event that took place on 27 September 2023, at the XU Little Theater. The forum gathered students, guests, and partner groups, all coming together to prepare for the forthcoming local elections. The forum's mission was in alignment with the university's vision of involving students in decision-making processes for the betterment of the community.

 11072023.Web.SIAP 2A Question-and-Answer portion with the speakers during the “Gahum sa Kabatan-onan” forum last 27 September 2023.

Under the theme "Gahum sa Kabatan-onan,” the forum's focus was on promoting civic engagement, empathy, and integrity among young voters during the electoral period. It aimed to raise awareness regarding the nature and impact of the BSKE, ensuring that the youth understood the importance of their participation in the electoral process.

To ensure that the Xavier Ateneo community was well-informed about the voting process, the SIAP organized a social media awareness campaign to educate students, faculty, formators, and staff by maximizing the online platforms. Key areas of focus included understanding the ballot, basic steps on voting, and the significance of active participation in the electoral process.

Additionally, SIAP offers online access to the CDO & Misamis Oriental List of Candidates from the Provincial COMELEC Office, making it easier for voters to stay informed about the candidates running for both barangay and SK positions.

 11072023.Web.SIAP 3Organizers, Guests, and CDO District 2 SK Chairperson Candidates during the PAG-ILA 2023 Candidates’ Forum.

The Xavier University Central Student Government (CSG) hosted the "PAG-ILA2023" Candidates' Forum on 25-26 October, located at the Auditorium in the Old XUGS Campus in Barangay Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City. This forum provided a platform for addressing the prevailing concerns in Cagayan de Oro, particularly those that significantly impact the youth. It allowed candidates to introduce themselves and present their agendas and platforms, with the aim of enabling voters to evaluate the alignment of the candidates' plans with the issues that hold the utmost significance for their communities. In addition, the candidates actively engaged in answering relevant questions from the audience, serving as the aspiring voice of the youth sector in their respective barangays. These two-day forums primarily focused on the desires and aspirations of the SK Chairperson candidates from both Districts of Cagayan de Oro, as they shared their vision for their future roles as officials in their respective barangays. This process aimed to assist the young voters in making informed choices.

 11072023.Web.SIAP 4NAMFREL Core Volunteers along with media partners during their press updates last 30 October 2023 | Gathering of NAMFREL Volunteers from various XU members and external groups during the NAMFREL Volunteers’ Thanksgiving last 4 November 2023

In a commitment to ensure fair, transparent, and integrity-driven elections, Xavier University through the SIAP partnered with the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) for election monitoring. This collaboration covered the barangays of Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental provinces.

The election monitoring process involved equipping the volunteers to observe polling precincts and voting centers, report any irregularities, and guarantee that the electoral process was conducted with fairness and transparency. Approximately 200 individuals actively participated in on-site monitoring activities. Xavier University expressed gratitude to our students and scholars who volunteered during the elections and to the various external partners, such as volunteers from ALERT10, CLEAN10, KARANCHO 10/LUMBIA Chapter, and various media outlets in the region, for their engagement in this non-partisan operation.

Xavier University President Fr Mars Tan, SJ, encouraged the active engagement of the XU community in the BSKE2023 through a memo. "Your active participation is not just a choice; it is a responsibility we all share. Through the 'DAPAT LANG' activities, we will work hand in hand, ensuring that our university continues to be a beacon of knowledge, understanding, and progress."

In summary, Xavier University's 'DAPAT LANG!' Campaign is an inspiring example of community engagement and active participation in local elections. Through its thorough approach, it enables the young voters to take an active role, educates the community about the voting process, offers candidates a platform to articulate their visions, and safeguards the integrity of the electoral process. This campaign reflects the university's dedication to nurturing a more promising future through responsible citizenship and ethical leadership.

Furthermore, in the face of widely acknowledged election-related challenges such as rampant vote buying and selling, Xavier University stands resolute in its dedication to actively promoting fair, honest, and credible elections, thus advancing the cause of genuine democracy. AMDG!