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

up black

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 on the Sabah Standoff

Akbayan Party-list expresses its deep regret and sadness regarding the deterioration of the Sabah standoff into violence. The fighting which killed several of Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram’s followers and Malaysian security personnel could have been prevented if both sides exercised maximum restraint. To this end we urge both parties to halt any actions that might precipitate further retaliation from either side.

Moreover, we call on the senior officials of the Philippine government to refrain from issuing statements that might only further escalate the tension between both parties. We call on them to temper their pronouncements and focus on the task of aiding in efforts to defuse the standoff by arriving at a win-win solution together with the Malaysian government and the Sultanate of Sulu.

We also call on the Aquino government to review our historical and legal claims to Sabah with the end view of developing a comprehensive strategy to engage the Malaysian government. This must be immediately undertaken after the just resolution of the crisis. We urge the government to consult and forge partnership with all the stakeholders to seek a determined, yet, peaceful and diplomatic course to assert our rightful claim.

Likewise, we call on the Malaysian government to secure the safety of thousands of Filipinos working in Sabah. We hope the crisis will not be used to fan the flames of ethnic resentment, sexism and misguided nationalist sentiment that will further complicate the matter and distract focus from the more crucial and urgent task of coming to a just and peaceful resolution.

Lastly, we call on the people, both in the Philippines and Malaysia, to exercise vigilance against groups that would want to exploit the crisis to derail the current peace effort in Mindanao and drive a wedge between Malaysia and the Philippines. The circumstances on the ground are already tense as it is. We call on the public to exercise prudence and allow the political, diplomatic and legal mechanisms to fully function to end the crisis as soon as possible. ###

Commemorating triumphs, registering struggles (The Akbayan Youth Statement honoring Labor Day)

The 1st  of May – a day of victory and continuing struggle, Akbayan Youth herds to the symbolic Mendiola to celebrate the triumphs accomplished by the working class and to register the battles that must be fought.

The rapid inflation rate and poverty prevalence are causing a hole in the back pockets of many Filipinos. In this nation, where unemployment is just so vast, citizens tend to take on any jobs available and take perils of insufficient wage and minimum benefits.

For the moment, while the system of employment is still not amenable for wage increase, we push for an increased non-wage benefit. Should we not give up insisting for an increased wage, we still encourage and urge the administration to at least, craft necessary economic policies that will bring it closer to the “living wage” where workers can passably attend to the fast-rising cost of living.

As we continue fighting for sufficient and humane wage, it is also important to ensure that private sectors also aid to maintain the permanency of a worker’s employment. This bill will stop the bleeding caused by market’s greed for profit.  Many companies also restrict union activity, preventing the creation worker’s solidarity that will lead to the betterment of their lives. In the rural areas, many farmers, who toil as much if not more than their urban counterparts, are still subject to the whims of big landowners. Women, on the other hand, toil not only in companies, but in homes where their labor is not only subject to the control of market forces, but also the machismo of men.

As we believe that the government should have interventions to private sectors, we appeal to the administration to certify the security of tenure bill as priority legislation. This bill will also ensure that stipulations in the Labor Code are implemented accordingly. Given these measures, there will be a secured and safe employment that will be provided for the people.

Compounding the issues of contractualization, union of workers, women’s right, peasants’ dependency on landowners and urban poor’s concern is the fact that the Philippine unemployment rate has changed very little since 2006 (vacillation from 7-8 percent). Nearly half of these are young people, many of whom enter the workforce after paying huge sums to a largely privatized educational system.

As a response, instead of strengthening the capital of the existing industries, government should invest more on supporting the SMEs and on the number of laborers to construct and maintain public infrastructure.

Working for a just way of living is what we aim as individuals and as workers and a just way of living is reflective on two major factors—income and necessities. The fast tracking increase of the basic needs prices is not equitable with the worker’s salary, as discussed. Basic needs, we deem, should be the top priority of the government. Workers find it very hard to provide humane living for their families as the government still has minimum mechanisms to regulate the price, specifically the price of fuel. Fuel price hikes reflect the movement of the price of fuel in the global market down to the price of the most basic and essential needs of the people.

Apparently, just like the increased wage, government should have at least, partial control of the market. Monitoring is an important initial methodology to take the succeeding actions as leaving the market alone to impose its own policy continues to fail the people.

Also, a warning of rice shortage is still upbeat. Making sure that there will be enough local warehouses with domestically produced rice will be an effective initiative for the government to increase the fluidity of rice flow in the country. It will also ensure government’s control over the price of rice. Government should also give enough support, may it be technologically and financially, to small local producers.

We recognize the government’s effort and dedication in trying to melt down graft and corruption as its main mechanism in alleviating poverty. However, we still strongly believe that economic reforms should be the center of all these actions. Again, we firmly believe that market is driving this society and so the governments should intervene to successfully eradicate poverty.

On top of all the young workers’ issue lies the issue of deteriorating quality of education in the Philippines. We still believe that failure to reform education equates to failure to providing decent work and decent future for the youth. We deem that education, as one of the basic social services, should be provided to each and every individual to be able to attain decent living in the near future.

The Aquino administration has proven its dedication to combat corruption in the Philippines. The resignation of Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez was merely the first triumph in an anti-plunder crusade. This crusade will ultimately allow the government to have more money to spend on basic services such as education. An administration serious about anti-corruption will benefit the working class. Despite this, Akbayan Youth recognizes the many challenges ahead.

Akbayan Youth also recognizes that the struggle for worker’s rights transcends the fight for good governance. Regardless of who occupies the seat of power, the working class struggle will not strengthen without the spirit of solidarity. It is through mass struggles and collective action that we truly commemorate the spirit of May 1st.

Marcos: a dictator, a murderer, never a hero – Akbayan Youth

Marcos: a dictator, a murderer, never a hero – Akbayan Youth

Press Statement on Marcos’ burial in “Libingan ng mga Bayani”

The sacrifices of our national heroes have given birth to our nation. It is through their pain that the fruits of independence and sovereignty are enjoyed by all. In celebrating the Araw ng Kagitingan, the nation pays homage and tribute to those who gave a part of themselves to give meaning and substance to the values on which our republic stands on.

We, in Akbayan Youth, remember, give respect and honor those who sacrificed and are rightfully heroes, named and unnamed. We strongly oppose granting the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos such title and an esteemed place in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

We believe that the Libingan ng mga Bayani stands for something. They are not empty words or a trivial name given to a cemetery. They stand for heroism. They stand for honor. They stand for sacrifice. Those are things we cannot associate with a dictator. To do so would to consider fact as false and history as hearsay. To consider Marcos as a hero would be to consider his regime as heroic and justify the excesses of military rule as necessary if not praiseworthy. With a simple burial we will praise a dictator whose regime imprisoned and killed thousands, driven the military to corruption, and ran the economy to shambles as a hero and condemn those who opposed him as the villains. We cannot stand for that.

Unless we do not value history, we remember that Marcos was never called a hero by the hundreds of student activists during the first quarter storm of 1970 that were bludgeoned, punched and kicked, surely not by the people of Cordillera when he threatened to dam the Chico river and destroy their communities or the people of Mindanao when he waged his war of attrition against the Bangsamoro. Even for those alive when he was deposed, they cannot call him a hero. He could never have been a hero by those in EDSA who faced tanks sent by him.

Many will definitely say, “Is this not simply an act of vengeance, of vendetta?” To be clear, we do not oppose Marcos and his family’s right to have him buried in the country. Any Filipino deserves such a right, even those his regime has killed and whose remains cannot be found to this day. We do not close our hearts to forgiveness so long as the debts of justice are settled. This is not simply being stubborn about a seeming trivial matter. What is definitely stubborn is to insist that a dictator is a hero. It is vengeance to impose more than two decades of brutal rule and taunt the victims with a hero’s burial for the dictator. It is vendetta to depose a tyrant only to have him raised to the status of hero by those who are blind to facts.

Why I Voted for Impeachment

Monday, March 22, 2011

 

by Walden Bello, Representative of Akbayan, 15th Congress

 

Public trust is a very precious thing. When one enjoys it, she is truly a public servant. But when one loses it, then she no longer deserves to remain in public office. She has to resign and if, out of lack of delicadeza she refuses to do so, it is the duty of the representatives of the people to remove her.

 

Through her defiant and arrogant refusal to act on one major case of corruption after another, Merceditas Navarro- Gutierrez has only herself to blame for losing the trust of the Filipino people. Indeed she lost the public trust long before this historic evening.

 

Tonight the eyes of the people were upon their elected representatives.  They  asked us: will you take the side of one who has betrayed the public trust or will you take the side of the people?

 

Tonight we fulfilled our contract with the Filipino People. If there is a winner tonight it is this precious thing called democracy.