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8 Things Every Person Should do to become an Engaged Citizen

May 06, 2022
10 min read

There are many pivotal elections in Asia and the rest of the world in 2022. This includes the May 9, 2022 Philippine general elections.

Fighting for democracy is a major pillar of President Ramon Magsaysay’s legacy. The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation recently held an online forum with young Filipino leaders to encourage them to vote, and vote wisely. But beyond the upcoming elections, what else can we do as citizens?

Here are our suggestions that every person can do before voting and even after the polling precincts have closed to practice citizen engagement and work towards our shared dream of better, kinder and more inclusive societies in Asia.

1. Reject historical revisionism.

As you vote, never forget our lessons from history. Let’s not repeat the horrors of the past!

The phrase “historical revisionism” has become a challenge in our lifetime. But there are people and organizations pushing back against this movement. 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee YOUK CHHANG from Cambodia tirelessly works in documenting the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. The Martial Law Museum is an online source where we can learn about the horrors of Martial Law in the Philippines.

Youk in Kandal.jpg

YOUK CHHANG interviewed the survivors and the victims' families of Khmer Rouge in Kandal Province, Cambodia

We should all look back at the horrific episodes of our national histories. We should learn from our mistakes, and vote for leaders who are forward-thinkers, who will bring us progress, and who will not take us back.

2. Check facts and verify data.

Before you believe, consider the source. Before you repost, be sure the information is credible.

The digital age has provided us with smartphones and the internet. But just like any good thing, these new tools can be used to manufacture false information a.k.a. “fake news”.

Be part of the community that propagates factual, informative information that inspires and moves people to act towards promoting the common good.

3. Volunteer.

In Indonesia, civil society is providing many volunteer opportunities in the spirit of gotong royong (mutual cooperation). Indonesian society believes that localized intergenerational partnerships with young people working alongside elders are indispensable.

In the Philippines, we are currently seeing this at work now! A new wave of young people are taking their advocacies to the streets and volunteering for causes they feel will affect their future.

Take part in opportunities where your talents can be used to contribute to positive change and sustainable impact. A few surprises await you when you expand your network and skill sets!

4. Engage in conversations.

Sociologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines Randy David opined that we are now experiencing generation gaps, even within generations. He observed that socioeconomic class and privilege are largely at play, and people tend to move within their limited social bubbles.

We ought to engage in conversations with other people different from us. Let us get out of our bubbles and appreciate each others’ perspectives. Let us not listen to just reply or argue but with the genuine intent to understand.

5. Rise up! Always.

Across Southeast Asia, young people have mobilized themselves through activism both online and on the ground. In the Philippines, there is a movement called “Tumindig” or “Rise Up,” initiated by local young artists and activists. Math, IT, HR/Interpersonal skills, Marketing, Writing, Singing and Dancing are skills we can all use in nation-building.

Be creative. Encourage others to rise up by example to go against any form of injustice, no matter how minuscule, long after ballots have been cast and counted. The work of an engaged citizen is ongoing.

6. Demand accountability.

Let’s hold our elected officials to their promises to serve the people.

Demanding accountability from elected public officials is the bedrock of good governance. ARUNA ROY, a 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee from India, empowered millions of Indians through access to right information. Her organization held open-air public hearings at which official records of state development projects were exposed to the scrutiny of the intended beneficiaries.


ARUNA ROY empowers Indian villagers to claim what is rightfully theirs by upholding and exercising the people's right to information

Measure our elected public officials based on their performance. Pressure them to do better if they fall short of campaign promises and vote them out of public office when they fail to serve the common good.

7. Remain vigilant.

In a recent forum, 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES appealed to young Filipinos:

“I appeal to our youth and first-time voters, to be the most responsible, if not the most vigilant, to sustain our democracy. Our youth is in the best position to protect and uphold key democratic processes in a post-election context, as they can continue to account, monitor, and publicly shame those elected to power and the entire government of their shenanigans through usage and exchanges in latest technology platform/s and social media instruments.”

Safeguard your vote by being present. Being present means casting your vote and being aware of suspicious activities and unusual occurrences in your polling centers.

In the Philippines, report immediately to NAMFREL or PPCRV.

8. Practice critical thinking.

Critical thinking skills are essential in life. This includes making the right choices in electing the leaders who will direct the future of our country for generations to come. Choose wisely.

Examine carefully every candidate who seeks public office, especially their educational background, work experience, and their record of public service. The late JESSE ROBREDO received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000 for “giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.”


JESSE ROBREDO often visits Naga's rural communities to assess their needs


Remember: Candidates are applying for jobs! These jobs require people that know how to solve our problems Involving poverty, education and the environment, access to health care, and national security among many others.

Every vote is important. Your vote is important. We have the power to prevent those with track records of corruption from holding public office. Exercise that power!