By PAULINE GIDGET ESTELLA
For Kabataan Partylist (Kabataan), the first important thing to do when the 15th Congress opens in July is to derail President Gloria Arroyo’s bid for the House speakership.
Kabataan, which currently represents the youth sector through Rep. Raymond Palatino, has already garnered more than 396,000 votes in the 2010 elections, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) partial count as of May 15. Kabataan is at the top 20 party-list groups as of press time, but still needs to reach the two percent threshold for one seat in Congress.
The National Board of Canvassers has already tallied around 29,900,000 votes as of May 16, pegging the two percent threshold at around 598,000 votes.
“Whether it is with the Liberal Party (LP) or any other party, Kabataan will support any means to stop Arroyo from assuming the fourth highest position in the land. Instead, she must be held accountable for all the graft cases and the human rights violations under her nine-year stint as president,” said Palatino.
The LP is set to field Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., the newly elected congressman of the Quezon City’s fourth district, as House Speaker, reports said.
The first president in history to be elected as congresswoman after her term, Arroyo needs 144 votes out of 287 to become House Speaker. So far, Arroyo reportedly has at least 80 loyalists in Congress.
Furthermore, aside from campaigning against Arroyo’s speakership, Kabataan will call for a review of the Party-list Law. Palatino said the Comelec had been “lax in accrediting party-list groups such that the party-list system has become a backdoor for traditional politicians and Arroyo allies, who do not really represent the marginalized sectors.”
However, Kabataan’s “immediate” agenda remains to be the campaign for the education sector. As the largest youth party, Kabataan will urge the new president to issue concrete directives in addressing the “perennial dilemmas” of the education sector, said Palatino.
The Education Agenda
“In time for the Congress deliberations for the 2011 budget from July to August, the youth will pose a challenge to the new president and lawmakers to increase the allocation for education,” said Palatino, adding that Kabataan will also call for an assessment of government spending especially in debt servicing.
The past ten years saw a consistent decrease in the government subsidy for state universities and colleges (SUCs), in line with the state policy of privatization and commercialization of education, said Kabataan secretary general Vencer Crisostomo in a statement.
“The government has been gradually washing its hands off its responsibility to subsidize public education. As a result, SUCs like Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) are resorting to income-generation schemes at the expense of students,” Crisostomo said.
Students from PUP and University of the Philippines stormed the office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) last March to protest the pending 1,700 percent tuition hike in PUP. CHED Chairman Emmanuel Angeles then issued a statement deferring any tuition increase in PUP.
However, early in May, 10,000 freshmen were transferred from their preferred courses to newly offered courses with a higher tuition rate of P250 ($5.55) per unit. Palatino said Kabataan already initiated a dialogue with the PUP administration to discuss the matter.
Presumptive president-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III should adhere to Kabataan’s education agenda, which includes the allotment of six percent of the Gross Domestic Product to education as recommended by the United Nations and the imposition of a moratorium on tuition hikes, among others, said Palatino.
“Instead of brandishing out motherhood statements as stated in his platform, Aquino should issue categorical statements on the issue of increased funding for social services,” Palatino said, adding that the directives under the education agenda should be issued in the first 100 days of his presidency. (Bulatlat.com)