Honor Her. Finish Your Studies.Fight for a Better Future!

Honor Her. Finish Your Studies.Fight for a Better Future!

Akbayan Youth on the Death of a UP Manila Student

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We in Akbayan Youth express our deepest condolences to the UP Manila community and especially to the friends and family of the UPM student who, according to initial reports, committed suicide due to financial constraints that forced her to file leave of absence.

The loss of life of one student is a loss of many. It is a loss of one student’s dream for a bright future. It is a big loss for that aspiration that through education and hard work one can uplift one’s life and his/her family’s life out of misery and poverty. It is a big loss for a society trying to build itself as caring and supportive of its members.

This very sad incident highlights the necessity to reexamine our collective goals towards education. It redirects our attention to the current state of our education system and to the plight of the youth and students in our country.

We in Akbayan Youth maintain that education is a basic right. Providing accessible and quality education is an obligation of the state to ensure that its people achieve their full potentials and contribute meaningfully to the society. Ultimately, as stipulated in the International Bill of Rights, primary and secondary education should be free and accessible and the state should make progressive actions for free higher education.

A basic step is for the government to follow the international benchmark on education spending for developing countries at a minimum 6% of the Gross National Product (GNP), as prescribed by the 1996 International Commission on Education, popularly known as the Delors Commission. While we laud the efforts of the current administration to dramatically increase the education budget from 2011 to 2013 (PhP 207.3 B, 238.8 B, and 292.7 for DepEd respectively), we lament that it still remains way below 3 % of the GDP, an event smaller figure compared to the GNP. Education budget, in fact, declined from 2.3 % in 2011 to 2.1 % of the GDP in 2012.

The quality of education and school enrollment rate continues to deteriorate with less and less spending on education. Data from both the DepEd and DBM show strong correlation between enrollment rate and government spending on education. Furthermore, only 7 out of 10 students graduate in elementary while 5 out of this 10 graduate from high school, according to DepEd BEIS (Basic Education Information System) in 2008-2009.

Access to and quality of higher education is even worse. The five students that graduated from high school do not necessarily get to enter college. Education has basically been commoditized – only those with money can have access. The barely minimum support for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) to provide relatively affordable education to the poor and marginalized has resulted to tuition fee increases in SUCs and the lessening of state subsidy. Such is the case of the University of the Philippines and other SUCs. Such is the situation that has pushed one student to the extreme.

We challenge our government to take concrete measures in bringing back the youth to schools. We call for a minimum and mandatory 6% of GNP allocated for education.

While we call for greater state subsidy for education, we also call on the premier national university to intensively review its implementation of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) towards the end increasing coverage to poor students. We deplore the University’s policy to force indigent students to file leave of absence for their inability to pay school fees.

Similar repressive policies are likewise implemented in other schools, public or private.  We call on CHED to put more teeth on the implementation its memorandum imposing sanctions to schools on their “no tuition, no exam policy” which is a common practice among private universities and colleges.

We enjoin colleges and universities to establish or strengthen their guidance offices and peer support and counseling mechanisms to provide life saving interventions to students being taken down by stress and pressure for academic and social loads.

To our fellow students, we encourage you to honor the death of the UPM student by being even more diligent in attending classes and striving even harder to take full opportunity of being in school. Let us remember her as we remember our fellow youth, 50% of whom, are not even able to enter higher education. Honor her by finishing your studies. Honor her more by fighting for a better future. Let us reaffirm our commitment to fight for a more democratic, accessible and quality education for all.

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Bello calls for congressional hearing on plight of Filipinos in Sabah

Akbayan Party-list Representative Walden Bello today called for a congressional hearing to look into the plight of the Filipinos in Sabah as the Malaysian government rejected a ceasefire offered by the Sultan of Sulu.

Bello, who is the Chairperson of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said he will investigate reports of alleged cases of abuse against Filipino citizens working and residing in Sabah from Malaysian security forces as a result of the crisis.

“It is the responsibility of the Philippine government to protect Filipino lives wherever they are. Even as Congress initiates an investigation to the reports of abuse committed against our nationals, all concerned agencies must already take immediate steps to ensure the safety of our countrymen in the area especially those considered ‘stateless’ or undocumented,” Bello said.

Bello said that if there were clear violations committed against Filipino citizens, the Philippine government must demand its Malaysian counterpart to hold those involved accountable.

“The Malaysian government must not mistake our commitment to a peaceful solution to the conflict as an invitation for their security forces to take advantage of our citizens by wantonly violating their rights. All those that will be proven to have participated in such abuses should be made accountable,” Bello asserted.

Malaysia’s militarist response could spill over to Pinoy communities in Sabah

Bello, who is also a renowned international political analyst, feared that with the militarist solution carried out by the Malaysian government to end the crisis, arrests and incarceration of undocumented Filipinos in Sabah might escalate and become more abusive. He said that even legitimate Filipino residents and workers might become vulnerable to abuses.

“We all know that in the past, Filipinos, especially trafficked Filipino women in Sabah have become victims of arrests and illegal detention from Malaysian authorities. Crises such as this often create an atmosphere of xenophobia. We hope our countrymen don’t become victims of racial intolerance,” Bello explained.

“Thus, we call on the Malaysian government to heed the call of the UN and reciprocate the ceasefire offered by the Sultan of Sulu. We reiterate our call for restraint from all stakeholders and for both governments not to waver in finding a diplomatic solution to this conflict,” Bello added.

The Akbayan lawmaker also called on the Aquino government to work closely with its Malaysian counterpart to provide a ‘humanitarian corridor’ to allow the safe transit of humanitarian aid to Filipino and Malaysian citizens caught in the crossfire.

“I join the international community as we call on the Philippine and Malaysian governments to provide ‘safe zones’ where humanitarian organizations can provide assistance to both Filipino and Malaysian citizens who are displaced, injured and requiring medical care,” Bello said. ###

Akbayan Youth condemns the move to lower the minimum age of criminal liability

Press Release

Akbayan Youth condemns the move of some lawmakers to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 12, asserting that HB 6052 is a misnomer.

HB 6052 or An act strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” seeks to lower the age when a Filipino can be tried and jailed for criminal charges from 15 to 12 years old.

Akbayan Youth National Spokesperson JC Tejano said that “the proposed bill (HB 6052) will not strengthen the juvenile justice system of the country, but will only serve to backtrack our progress in human rights.” Tejano added that lowering the minimum age of criminal liability is an injustice to the youth.

“Children who break the law at the age of 12 do not do so with proper discernment and understanding of the act and the consequences thereof,” Tejano said. “On the contrary, they do so because of circumstances and situations they are in. Poverty and lack of parental guidance are only few of the unfair circumstances that can lead to criminality,” Tejano further said.

Tejano pointed out that the implementation of the landmark Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 has put the Philippines at the forefront in Asia in upholding international child rights standards. However, it has been a challenge for the government. Children in conflict with the law (CICL) are continually subjected to pre-trial detentions and poor conditions in overcrowded detention facilities without proper medical care, legal safeguards and proper counseling support.

“The challenge plaguing the justice system is not an issue of age. But it is an issue of the government’s failure to install and operate humane and rehabilitative mechanisms that would reform CICLs and prepare them to re-enter society,” Tejano asserts. “Consequently, lowering the age of criminal liability will not lessen the number of children who commit crimes due to poverty. The bill will only increase the number of CICLs facing the same dismal conditions and undignified conditions presently persisting,” Tejano said.

“We in Akbayan Youth posits that cases dealing with CICL must be handled in such a way that the age of the offender and the context they have been brought up should be taken into account. Treatment of cases involving children must be made in a way that promotes their sense of dignity and worth,” Tejano said. “Hence, branding CICL, especially those as young as 12 years old, as criminals is not only pejorative and disparaging. It further restricts the opportunities available for the juvenile offenders and results to their exclusion from society,” Tejano added.

Furthermore, Tejano asserts that CICL should be given better attention through functional rehabilitative centers in the spirit of restorative justice.

“The government must subsequently increase the resources available for reforming the juvenile justice system,” Tejano said. “They must provide better safeguards to ensure that the rights of the child are upheld and provide opportunities and support mechanisms to promote the development and well-being of each child,” Tejano concluded.###

Akbayan Youth: Kabataan PL, two-faced!

Press Release

“First, the FOI network; now, the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Coalition. It is clear that Makabayan lawmakers are nothing more than deceitful partners ready to take the credit when a coalitional campaign succeeds and quick to blame fellow advocates when the campaign faces setbacks,” Akbayan Youth Spokesperson JC Tejano reacts to the statement of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino.

Palatino recently blamed Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello for the cancellation of the technical working group (TWG) meeting in Congress to consolidate the different versions of the STRAW Bill.
Through an SMS message, Bello informed and consulted Palatino about the former’s request to postpone the meeting. Palatino replied “noted” but later attacked Bello publicly on his party-list organization’s website. Bello explained that the postponement was a strategic move given that there were only a few session days left.

“It is difficult to deal with groups like Kabataan which, instead of working in good faith with partners to seriously pursue reform legislation, have only the 2013 elections in mind. Inasmuch as we dream of a unified student sector to push for the passage of the STRAW Bill, propaganda such as this from Kabataan are not helping at all,” commented Mickey Eva, National President of the STRAW Coalition, a network of student groups advocating the legislation of the STRAW Bill.

“It is interesting to note that Kabataan never criticized COCOPEA when it argued during the committee hearing that students can be discriminated on the basis of gender, pregnancy, religion, and political affiliation upon admission into schools,” added Ernest Calayag, Secretary-General of the Student Council Alliance of the Phillippines.

“As it seems, Kabataan’s tactic is not to push for the STRAW Bill but to disparage like-minded advocates in order to get ahead of them come election time,” Calayag quipped.
Akbayan has been pushing for the STRAW Bill since the 10th Congress and has taken the lead in forging the nationwide STRAW Coalition for the passage of the bill.

In cooperation with the National Youth Commission, the STRAW Coalition has been engaging institutions to take action on documented and undocumented violations of students’ rights. Kabataan, on the other hand, has never assisted or even engaged the STRAW Coalition.

Akbayan Youth, along with the STRAW Coalition, remains committed to effectively and strategically work for the passage of the STRAW Bill in Congress.###

JUSTICE FOR THE NORWAY VICTIMS!

Akbayan Youth is one with the World in strongly condemning the cowardly and barbaric act committed against the innocent civilians in Oslo and in Utoeya Island. Today is a black day for Filipinos as well. The recent bombing in Oslo and massacre in Utoeya exposes the reality that terrorism exists in all colors and stripes. Reports by media have placed the casualties at around 87 dead and many more injured.

Most of the casualties in Utoeya shooting were fellow youth progressives. Many of them were enjoying their summer camp enjoying the company of friends unaware that it would end in tragedy. As for the victims in the Oslo bombings, many were office workers or staff of the government offices.

We cannot help but suspect that both attacks were concerted and deliberately targeting people for their political affiliation. Nonetheless, regardless of the race, gender or affiliation of the victims, it is clear that this was an act of terror, plain and simple.

We express our condolences to the families of the victims and hope for the immediate arrest of all the perpetrators. We understand that the Norwegian government is doing its best to swiftly bring those involved to justice.

We also call on all progressive youth around the world to stand with our AUF and Norwegian brothers and sisters and be vigilant and stand in defiance against all forms of terror whether perpetrated by lone gunmen, religious militants, or even by state and non-state actors. We can effectively prevent atrocities like these through persistent and uncompromising efforts to push for peace, dialogue and rule of law.

We are all AUF Activists and Norwegians today. Justice for all victims of fascist terror!

In Solidarity,

Akbayan Youth

Youth SONA 2011

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.

Security of Employment

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

Education Reform

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.

Healthcare and RH Bill

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.

Signed:

MABUTING PILIPINO YOUTH MOVEMENT

Statement of Akbayan Youth, MASP, and SCAP on the Appointment of Ronald Llamas as Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs

Youth Groups welcome PNoy’s Activist Adviser

 

Akbayan Youth (A!Y), the Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP), and the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) welcome President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino’s appointment of Akbayan Party President Ronald Llamas as Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs. This appointment proves the president’s commitment to a pluralist government open to progressive politics.

 

Llamas will bring to the administration skills and experience it needs to reach a broader constituency, particularly marginalized sectors. We know Llamas first and foremost as a seasoned activist, committed to the reforms of the democratic left.  He will not shed this history as he enters government. In fact, it is precisely this history that makes him an asset to the Aquino administration. His involvement with labor groups, peasant groups and NGOs will provide the necessary link between grassroots movements and Malacañang.

 

We do not deny that Llamas represents a form politics distinct from those who have traditionally walked the halls of the palace. His political awakening occurred in the streets and not the corridors of power. It was, in fact, through these streets that Llamas proved his commitment to Aquino’s quest for reform, acting as one of the most prominent leaders in the fight against the corrupt Arroyo regime. As he assumes his post, Llamas is continuing a partnership that began when PNoy joined the people in calling to task Arroyo’s corruption.

 

While we celebrate the news of Llamas’s appointment, we recognize the challenges ahead. An adviser’s effectiveness hinges on his principal’s readiness to listen. It also hinges on his ability to represent a strong and consolidated constituency. Our organizations challenge PNoy to mobilize the likes of Llamas and other reform-oriented individuals as they seek to promote institutional changes. Similarly, we challenge comrades in people’s movements to engage the reform elements within government.

 

The appointment of Llamas also highlights the role of the democratic left in governance.  The previous administration, marked by systemic corruption, narrowed the democratic spaces for any progressive actor pushing for institutional reforms.  Our organizations now urge the new administration to maximize the political role of those that genuinely combat head-on the social cancer that is traditional politics.  We reiterate the need to rehabilitate the institutions that we have through the still unresolved issues of the Arroyo-appointed Ombudsman, the Arroyo Supreme Court, and the Arroyos in Congress, while at the same time, ensure that the reform agenda is delivered.

 

Our organizations continue to be in partnership with the Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party and its members who act as appointed officials. We also seek to ensure that forces of traditional politics be made accountable to the people. We call on fellow progressives especially the Filipino youth to continue working for reforms we committed ourselves to during the elections.  It is only through critical engagement with different political forces that our fight for genuine change can come full circle.###