KABATAAN Partylist leads youth groups and organizations nationwide in calling for free education and just peace as they launch class walkouts and mass actions in various schools and universities in the country, merging and culminating with a mass mobilization at Mendiola and other protest centers in the afternoon on Thursday, February 23.
“Sawing-sawi ang kabataan sa mga pangako ng pangulo! In the face of increasing threats and inclinations of the Duterte administration to backtrack on and break previous promises, it is high time for the youth movement to remind him of his social obligations and to call for the just demands of the students and the youth,” Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said.
Free education now, junk neoliberal policies
Elago reiterates the call for the just demand of students for free education against the current neoliberal framework. “Ibinigay mo na, babawiin mo pa pala,” says Elago to the Duterte administration regarding their pledge of free education starting next year.
“Neoliberal advisers and businessmen in the cabinet and outside are hell-bent on perpetuating the current neoliberal framework, which treats schools like businesses that operate on profit.
They claim that free tuition is ‘anti-poor,’ when in reality it is the system that they are desparate on keeping that is building walls for the poor,” Elago added.
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) drafted by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), on the use of the P8.3 billion free tuition budget, reportedly point to a nationwide implementation of the socialized tuition system (STS) of the University of the Philippines (UP) system, rather than a blanket implementation. The UP system is also exempted from the proposed implementation.
“We point out that UP’s STS has registered wide opposition from the students, as it has been proven to further narrow down access to education counter to its purported purpose of democratizing it. In addition, it only justifies further tuition increases, decreasing subsidy, and privatization of UP and other SUCs through collection of internally generated income,” Elago remarked.
In addition, Elago slams proposals to channel the free tuition budget to financial assistance instead, amidst statements that free tuition is ‘unfair’ to private schools. There is also a draft substitute bill being deliberated proposing a free tuition and loan program.
“This is being apologetic to private schools, which have long been exposed as businesses in the guise of education. Free education is a long overdue right of the people, no need to defend the rotten profiteering system of private schools,” Elago said.
Elago adds that the privatization and deregulation policies on education push schools to implement income generating projects, such as the Tanay, Rizal camping trip that led to the death of at least 15 students.
“In ensuring profit and income generation, the safety and welfare of the students have also been compromised,” Elago remarked.
All-out war an attack to the people
Kabataan Partylist also slams the rising fascist attacks from the Duterte regime, especially the police and military forces’ attacks due the declaration of ‘all-out war.’
“Ang lakas mong paglaruan ang damdamin ng mamamayan, may balak ka pang mandahas,” Elago said.
In three weeks since the declaration of ‘all-out war’ by Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año, nine political killings have already been reported on activists and leaders of progressive organizations.
“All of this happened under the AFP’s current flagship Oplan Kapayapaan. A mere rehash of Noynoy Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, the purported ‘peace plan’ based on the US Counterinsurgency Guide only resulted in a crackdown on legal activists and increased deception and harassment on the people,” Elago said.
Elago also pointed out that even during ceasefire declarations between the government and the NPA, there have been several reports of AFP and PNP troops entering peasant and indigenous people’s communities, and harassing and threatening civilians.
“Civilians continue to be targeted in the AFP’s mad attempt to employ deception and military solution to the armed conflict and to safeguard interests of large-scale mining and agricultural corporations raking in profits for foreign and local big business,” Elago added.
Other steps in the regime’s desperate plan to quell the people’s resistance include the proposal to revive the Philippine Constabulary (PC), the mandatory ROTC program on senior high school students, and proposals to reinstate death penalty.
“The surprise burial of the late Ferdinand Marcos and the Marcoses’ calibrated rise to power will only serve to make their fascist moves palatable to the people,” Elago said.
Duterte has also recently allowed US troops to conduct exercises under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Act (EDCA), backtracking earlier pronouncements to abrogate treaties between the US and the Philippines.
“We also condemn the continued meddling of the US with the people, in cahoots with the AFP, in the sabotaging the GRP-NDF peace talks and heightening fascist rule on the people,” Elago said.
Call to action
Elago calls for the scrapping of decades long neoliberal policies such as the Education Act of 1982 and the Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997. “Matagal na nilang pinapahirapan ang kabataan. How long? 2, 3 decades? Ang mahalaga, kalimutan na,” she said.
The solon also calls for a stop to the killings and illegal arrests, resumption of the GRP-NDF peace talks, and to a stop to Oplan Kapayapaan and a reassessment of the fascist regime the Duterte administration is building.
Ultimately, Elago calls on the Filipino youth to intensify their collective action against the imperialist neoliberal attacks on the people, adding that only through this can the aspiration for a truly nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented education and a just and lasting peace be attained.
“Kung mahal mo (ang edukasyon, ang kapayapaang batay sa hustisya at karapatan), wag mo hintaying ibigay ito dahil mukhang hindi ito ibibigay kung hindi ito ipaglalaban. Habulin natin, ipaglaban natin ito,” Elago concluded. ###