Youth groups dare senatorial hopefuls to put forward youth agenda

Aside from the free public education, included in their agenda are decent jobs for the youth and the people; improved healthcare and other social services; clean and affordable energy, water and utilities; increased awareness and focus on mental health; better telecommunications and internet; good governance and youth empowerment; promotion of democratic rights in and out of campuses; gender equality and end to discrimination and environmental preservation and climate action.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Education is always included in the politicians’ platform because families, especially those who belong to the marginalized, see this as an opportunity for a better life. Some also see education as the only treasure they can give to their children.

In the coming midterm elections, youth organizations have challenged the senatorial candidates to uphold their agenda in the Senate. This includes free public education at all levels.

“We dare them to stand with us in the struggle that all Filipino youth can acquire quality education which will enable us to become productive members of our society,” said Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago.

According to Kabataan Party-list, even with the enactment of RA 10931 or Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, education in the tertiary level is still not free. School administrations collect “dubious, redundant and miscellaneous fees” and implement more stringent admission and retention policies.

Aside from the free public education, included in their agenda are decent jobs for the youth and the people; improved healthcare and other social services; clean and affordable energy, water and utilities; increased awareness and focus on mental health; better telecommunications and internet; good governance and youth empowerment; promotion of democratic rights in and out of campuses; gender equality and end to discrimination and environmental preservation and climate action.

“The attainment of such goals are central to ensuring a better future for the pag-asa ng bayan and the next generations to come who will inherit this country,” Raoul Manuel, deputy secretary general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said in a statement.

In the recently held national youth covenant 2019, some senatoriables declared their support to the youth agenda.

Among the senatorial hopefuls attended the national youth covenant are Colmenares, Samira Gutoc, Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, Atty. Florin Hilbay, Atty. Erin Tañada and Leody De Guzman.

Hilbay said “one of the highlights of the covenant is its stunning reasonableness.” He added that the covenant is what also is enshrined in the Philippine constitution.

Diokno said candidates do not know all solutions on the problems plaguing the country. That is why, he said, candidates must also listen to what the youth has to say (about the society).

Gutoc meanwhile stressed that engagement with the youth is also important. “We need active authorities who are actively engaged in youth issues. If we have representation then it should be accounted for.”

On free education

How do some of the senatorial bets weigh in about free education?

Colmenares has a clear stand on the issue – that education must be free for all. Even during his first candidacy in the senatorial race in 2016, Colmenares believed that education should be free in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

During his term as Bayan Muna representative, Colmenares has consistently opposed budget cut in SUCs. He criticized the government for commercializing education that allowed tuition increases in SUCs like the University of the Philippines’ system-wide implementation of socialized tuition scheme.

In 16th Congress, Colmenares, along with the Makabayan bloc filed House Bill 345, an act imposing a three-year moratorium on tuition and other fee increases on all educational institutions. However, this proposed measure remained a bill in the lower house.

Reelectionist Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino who co-authored of the RA 10391 meanwhile supports the much criticized voucher system in the tertiary education or what they call as tertiary education subsidy. This is mandated under RA 10391.

The progressive groups particularly the Kabataan Party-list has expressed their disapproval to the tertiary education subsidy saying that the budget to be allocated to pay the private higher education institutions could be directly allocated to the SUCs to fund the implementation of the free tuition law. They also argued that the voucher system is not equal to free education but only commercializes education.

On K to 12 program

Aquino supported the K to 12 program which was first rolled out in 2011 by implementing the mandatory kindergarten even without a law. The Enhanced Basic Education Act or RA 10533 was signed by then President Benigno Aquino III in 2013.

The K to 12 program was also criticized for its hasty implementation in 2011. The inadequate number of classrooms, teachers, facilities and infrastructures were not addressed before it was implemented. Eight years after, problems brought about by the program are now hounding President Duterte’s administration. For one, private companies would not employ students who only finished senior high school – something that the K to 12 program had promised.

To address this, Aquino filed the Trabaho Center bill which aims to put up job placement offices in public schools and SUCs. Its main services include industry matching, career counsel¬ing, and employment facilitation.

Reelectionist Sen. Grace Poe meanwhile filed a resolution in the Senate urging the private sector to hire senior high school graduates.

Meanwhile, Colmenares has been against the hasty implementation of K to 12 since beginning. He was also among the petitioners against the K to 12 program in the Supreme Court in 2016. He agrees that years after its implementation, it is time that law must be reviewed.

Independent Senate

Colmenares stressed the need for an independent senate that criticize and oppose the anti-people policy of the government.

“Political affiliation doesn’t really matter. Independent senate can be ensured by electing independent senators,” he said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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