July 23, 2010
Southern Tagalog youth gathered on July 23 and trooped to the House of Representatives, Commission on Higher Education and Mendiola to stage the so-called State of the Youth Address (SOYA) and challenge newly elected lawmakers and President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to address the education crisis.
SOYA is an annual build up activity for the July 26 State of the Nation Address (SONA). This year’s SOYA is also part the youth’s weeklong series of protest actions for education which kicked-off during the nationally coordinated youth walkout participated in by about 1,000 students. The mass walkout was held on July 16.
“We do not want to keep our hopes up with the current administration but we urge Aquino to address the worsening state of education in the country,” John Paulo Bautista, regional coordinator of Kabataan Party-list said.
Independent think-tank Ibon Foundation reported that the Arroyo administration’s per capita spending for education dropped to P6.85 in 2009 from P7.19 in 1998 during former president Joseph Estrada’s term. Meanwhile, Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN), an alliance of student organizations, fraternities and sororities in the University of the Philippines – Los Baños denounced the yearly budget cuts for state universities and colleges (SUCs). This resulted school administrators to come up with cost-cuttings and income generating projects such as the Large Lecture Class Policy in UPLB that drastically converted 20-30 normal class size to 160-200 students.
“This policy greatly sacrifices the quality of UP education that the premiere state university boasts,” SAKBAYAN Deputy Secretary General Carla Bertulfo said.
It was under Arroyo’s term that tuition fees in UP increased from P225 to P1,000 per unit in 2007. Bertulfo said that former president Gloria Arroyo should be held accountable for her negligence of the youth’s right to free education. “We call on Aquino to speed up the prosecution of Arroyo. It was during her term when the youth suffered the most since Marcos.”
She also enumerated the many cases of human rights violations during the Arroyo administration including extrajudicial killings of youth leaders such as Anakbayan spokesperson Ramon “Bong” Ternida and League of Filipino Students spokesperson Rei Mon “Ambo” Guran, not to mention, the enforced disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
“The nightmares of the Arroyo regime will haunt us for many years; it is a challenge for the youth to become more vigilant, to walk our path with the people and to ensure that Aquino’s ‘daang matuwid’ will not lead us all straight to the edge of a cliff,” Bautista said.
Bautista claimed that the upsurge of support received by Kabataan Party-list during the May 2010 elections legitimatize the youth’s demands not only in Congress but also in the so-called parliament of the streets. “We will be watchful during the SONA. Aquino’s vow against corruption does not suffice for genuine progress. For his youth ‘bosses,’ he must be able to address the education crisis. Quality and democratic access to education for all is what we need which can only be achieved through allotting higher state subsidy education and other social services.”
Kabataan Party-list won a reelection seat in the 15th Congress for Representative Raymond Palatino. The SOYA was also held to honor and welcome Palatino and other newly elected party-lists of the Makabayan Coalition in Congress which includes Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela and ACT Teachers. During the event progressive partylist representatives were decorated with leis. In contrast, the Arroyo congressmen were portrayed in handcuffs.
Policemen however tried to cease the program, a certain police chief with a nameplate “Pedrozo” harassed and violently pushed one of the youth protesters. “This is a clear manifestation of the state violence still prevalent in our country. We are only practicing our legitimate right to air our grievances,” Bautista stressed.
Bautista stressed that the current youth agenda is part of the combined demands of different sectors dubbed as the People’s Agenda. “The youth are not just students; we are farmers, factory workers, teachers, OFWs, human rights victims… We cannot expect Aquino to assure us of decent jobs with proper wages and benefits, genuine land reform and social justice among others, but we will never get tired of demanding whoever is in power to uphold these rights.”
The Quezon City Police has recently declared Aquino’s residence in Times Street, West Triangle Village, Quezon City as a “No-Rally Zone.” Aquino has decided to stay in the ancestral home instead of living in Malacañang. Meanwhile, Aquino suggested that the SONA rally be held in Quezon Memorial Circle instead of Commonwealth Avenue where the former has always been held by tradition since Marcos.
“It’s not a welcome suggestion but an insult to a democratic tradition. Aquino should be reminded that her mother, late President Cory Aquino, was sent to power by the streets,” Bautista said.
John Paulo Bautista, Regional Coordinator, Kabataan Partylist Southern Tagalog