It seems like the country’s youth groups are catching the attention of the government, now more than ever. These past few weeks have proven it.
Youth and student organizations nationwide, together with numerous cause-oriented groups have criticized the government for filing charges against Anakbayan regarding missing minors.
The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed kidnapping charges against top officials of Anakbayan and several of its members, after a 17-year-old student was reported missing after her recruitment to the youth group. Inquirer.net reports that the complaint was filed before the Department of Justice on Aug. 1, after the teenager’s parents sought their help.
The complaint named various leaders of the Anakbayan organization, and among the charges include alleged kidnapping and violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, and the Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and other Crimes against Humanity.
However, Anakbayan has been fiercely defending itself from these accusations, and spokesperson Alex Danday has disclosed that the student is safe and still an active member of Anakbayan. She refused to disclose her location, mentioning the history of police harassment, abduction, and the assassination of youth activists.
“All we can say is that safe ‘yung mga kabataan ngayon at ‘pinapagpatuloy nila kung ano ‘yung gusto nila, which is ‘yung paglilingkod sa mamamayang Filipino,” (All we can say is that the youth are safe and they are continuing to do whatever they wish, which is to serve the Filipino people) she said, and mentioned that the said member will be resurfacing when she is ready to face the media.
Meanwhile, students have been rallying for the removal of police patrols in schools. Weeks ago, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) students fought off military presence on campus grounds after students were subjected to an unapproved mandatory drug test. And in order to protect the Soto-Enrile agreement prohibiting military presence on campus, students and teachers have been taking their protests to the streets.
“Campus militarization is equivalent to martial law in our university and we shall not let that happen,” UP student regent John Isaac Punzalan stated in a memorandum. “Our academic freedom is at high risk of being taken away from us as we become vulnerable to baseless accusations, intimidation, and harassment.” In a way, aren’t these symptoms of Martial Law?
The cherry on top of the youth mayhem is Sen. Bato Dela Rosa flaring up on a young leader of a student activist group for making remarks on the senator’s stance on convicted rapist Antonio Sanchez deserving a ‘second chance.’ This was during a hearing on mandatory ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) in schools.
“Siguro, kung mahirapan tayo i-uphold ‘yung…law enforcement and rights awareness, magkakatalo na lang kung amongst the ranks of our public officials, ay hindi po nag-a-agree doon,” Raoul Manuel, President of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said.
(Perhaps, if we have difficulty upholding…law enforcement and rights awareness, it will just boil down to whether amongst the ranks of our public officials would agree to it or not.)
He further emphasized their group’s opposition to ROTC. “Lalo na if we have a senator who will say na okay lang na makalaya at may second chance ang isang rapist na mayor habang ang mahihirap ay madaling tokhangin na lamang.” (Especially if we have a senator who will say it’s okay to release and give a second chance to a mayor who’s a rapist while the poor can just be killed through tokhang.)
With Raoul’s words, Sen. Bato outrageously went off.
“Ang layo naman ng sinasabi mo,Mister! Kasama ba ‘yan dito sahearing‘yungcomment mo na ‘yon?” (What you’re saying is way off-topic, Mister! Is that part of this hearing, that comment of yours?) the senator started, and began a tirade of accusations against the youth leader—questioning Raoul’s love for the country and his representation of Filipino students.
Seeing the situation could go out of hand, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian intervened and told Raoul to submit a position paper instead of putting up a fight with the senator.
Raoul was reprimanded for bringing up a subject that was not related to the hearing, and was even told that he was “wasting their time.”
It is the government’s job to listen to the cry of the people, especially of the youth. Why then, was Raoul’s testimonies a waste of time?
Attacks on the youth have been more extensive than ever in the past few weeks, and the level of discourse being formed with these issues can only go higher from here. It is awakening young people to speak up and do something about the state of our country, as it should, and shed light on crucial matters that the government should be paying attention to—like education, farmer’s rights, healthcare, and so much more.
Young people are being heard, voices louder than ever, so if the time to speak up is now.
Photo courtesy of Maria Castro’s Instagram account
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