The Force of Relevance

For the Class 2012 of the University of the Philippines
Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy- University of the Philippines
22 April 2012

The question has never been whether or not a UP graduate will succeed beyond the gates of the university. Doubtless, your UP education has sharpened your edges enough to cut through all the challenges that might confront you in any endeavor. The question, rather, has always been whether or not a UP graduate will wield excellence, tempered by honor, in the pursuit of relevance.

Now, more than ever, is the time to reaffirm what it means to graduate from the University of the Philippines. It means stepping forward with eyes wide open into a society fraught with contradictions. The kind of education you have received from UP, both inside and outside the classroom, is one that demands engagement with the pressing issues of our turbulent times.

For the present is a time of war. The Aquino government through the Armed Forces of the Philippines has chosen to assault civilians whom it has deprived of social services. In Mindanao, the recent military air strikes against the state’s avowed enemy—the communist rebels—have caused the evacuation of families of Lumads to unfamiliar places away from their livelihood and the familiarity of their households. The current assault against civilians also comes in the form of state repression against activists. Youth leaders from Anakbayan and other progressive youth organizations and formations are being arrested, they are recipients of death threats and all sorts of harassment. The Aquino regime’s internal security plan, Oplan Bayanihan is a reinforcement of the Arroyo regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya, much condemned by human rights advocates all over the world. The Visiting Forces Agreement and the Balikatan Exercises which have allowed the U.S. troops to violate our claims to sovereignty, and our bid for peace and safety are testament to the government’s subservience to U.S. military aggression. We stand for sincere peace talks to take place between the government and the National Democratic Front, as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Through peace negotiations, the people’s interest for socio-economic reforms are asserted with the force of conviction that those who stand outside government must deliver. It is always the burden of government to prove that it is worthy of the people’s bid for democracy.

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For the present is a time of state abandonment. The series of strikes launched by UP students as well as their counterparts in different state universities since 2010 against budget cuts to education and social services in general have raised the bars of progressive resistance and just defiance. This moment in history cannot be just one of conflict but of solidarity with the basic sectors in advancing our claim to good governance that will cultivate a system that is committed to human needs. To the extent that we envision this reality in the future through our concerted efforts in the present, the government’s attacks on our basic freedoms is unjustifiable.

For the present is a time of neglect. Of families rendered asunder to seek even the most temporary relief. The labor export policy of the government has peddled our people, mostly women to countries where they endure precarious jobs, abuse and all sorts of dangers. The Aquino government’s strong stand for the contractualization of labor to attract foreign capital has not only rendered Filipino labourers exploited, it has left them with no rights to fight for, no unions to cultivate and find strong support systems in.

But the present is definitely a time for commitment to serve, a time for solidarity with our people. In a time of war, state abandonment, and neglect that is now, a true people’s mass movement stands against oil cartels, oil price hikes, corruption and all other forms of injustices. It stands for worker’s wage hikes, for land for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita and other haciendas, for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings, the desaparacidos and political prisoners. It will gain decisive victories with our support and our solidarity.

We call on you dear graduates: Serve the people.

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