Given at Manila, July 22, 2011
A year has passed since President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivered his State of the Nation Address. His first year in office shed light on the tremendous corruption that was institutionalized in the government by the previous administration. We waited patiently as the President introduced reform measures to address corruption, poverty, health, and a host of other concerns that seemed to have been neglected and worsened by the previous administration. Government effort in addressing these concerns slowly but surely restored trust and hope in government.
It is no surprise that the youth today feel that we must speak up about our issues now that the mechanisms for addressing our concerns have been strengthened.
The State of the Nation for the Filipino Youth is one filled with both trepidation and hope. There is trepidation because the opposition to reform efforts is very strong. But we also know there is hope now that we can see crucial youth reform measures can be realized under this administration.
Now is the time to raise the collective voice of the youth in fighting not only for jobs, but security of tenure in those jobs.
Contractualization is a major factor to the serious employment problem. The youth have nothing to gain from such an oppressive and failed job policy that has ensured that our workers have little protection from corporate greed. Current labor laws are inadequate in ensuring the rights of workers are protected by the pernicious effects of contractualization.
A study in 2000 by a leading international research NGO showed that the “combined share of casual, contractual and part-time workers in total enterprise-based employment” had increased from 14 to 15 percent in 1990-94 to 18.1 percent in 1995 and to 21.1 percent in 1997, which meant that for every five workers at least one was a non-regular worker.
Another local research has even claimed that between 1995 and 2005, contractual labor in the Philippines has “soared from 65 percent to as much as 78 percent of the country’s employed labor force.”
The youth is challenging the Aquino government to generate secure jobs for all, especially for the working youth, and for jobs wherein workers are justly remunerated and their rights are fully respected. We are also calling for the passage of the Security of Tenure bill, HB 4853, which has been lingering in Congress for more than a decade now. This legislation, if passed, will be the biggest response of the President Aquino government in addressing the working youth’s concerns
In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognized the universal right to education. We believe that education is a right that must remain accessible to all Filipinos regardless of race, religion, gender, and social class.
While the government has made attempts to solve this problem, it has yet to address the issue of educational accessibility. A K-12 system does not mean more poor youths will have access to education.
The solution is larger government investment in education. With the current administration spending only 2.44% of the GNP, less than the 6% international standard, it comes as no surprise that education in the country remains as dismal as ever.
Access, however, must go in tandem with quality. We believe that students learn more in academic environments that respect their rights. The Students Rights and Welfare (STRAW) bill will allow students to demand more from their teachers and administrators. It will also ensure that school administrations respect the autonomy of its students.
We believe that a comprehensive reproductive health policy is crucial to the welfare of the youth. Age-appropriate and gender sensitive sex education is integral to the intellectual and moral growth of young people.
It is imperative that RH information and services be made available and accessible to those who needed it most: young people, who are most prone to sexual illnesses and unwanted pregnancies.
We support the Reproductive Health Bill. It is a law that will allow the state to uphold women’s rights and the health of its citizens, regardless of which faith they subscribe to.
These three measures are the most urgent legislative actions that can address the needs of the Filipino youth today. We therefore urge President Aquino to fast track their passage.
We agree that the road to reform is a rough and rugged road. However, it is a road that we Filipino youth will wholeheartedly tread. The straight path, the “tuwid na daan” which our hero Jose Rizal walked was never easy. But we must remember that at the end of every road is the destination. For the likes of Rizal it was freedom from tyranny and ignorance. For the youth, it is the freedom from economic disempowerment, from deprivation of right to health, and the right to meaningful education.
There are five years left for our President to accomplish these and other reforms. They may seem insurmountable but with the youth backing a comprehensive reform agenda, we will succeed.
MABUTING PILIPINO YOUTH MOVEMENT