After five years of hardship and human rights violations, progressive youth band together in a summit to amplify calls for Duterte’s ouster.
Three speakers talk about “Youth Empowerment for Social Change” in a February 27 virtual summit, organized by Youth Unite in the Battle to Oust the Neoliberal Dictator (UNBOUND) – Southern Tagalog.
The tone of the next four hours through Zoom, also broadcast live through Facebook, was set through a primer from UNBOUND member Kristine San Agustin regarding the alliance. With that, the goal of the summit was clear: amplify calls to oust the President.
“Ang Youth UNBOUND ay isang alyansa. Tayo as pinagsama-samang mga indibidwal, konseho o organisasyon na may iisang layunin o mithiin – ang patalsikin si Duterte. Nadito [sic] tayo para pag-usapan kung paano tayo kikilos ng isa. Para pabagsakin ang rehimeng duterte para sa maraming human rights violations at pangi-ipit nila sa mamamayang Pilipino,” San Agustin explained.
How far has President Rodrigo Duterte come in bringing about suffering and more of such through policies? San Agustin mentioned among others the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, Rice Liberalization Law (both of which appealing to foreign investors, leading to backlash from local businesses and farmers, respectively), and the Build, Build, Build project (READ: What the Build! Build! Build! Program truly destroys).
“Napakaraming human rights violation at korapsyon, at ilan lang yan sa mga nakikita natin na binabalita. What more yung ibang pangyayari na hindi natin nakikita sa media? [Ni] wala siyang mahusay na response sa COVID-19 crisis,” said San Agustin, emphasizing the need for an ouster.
San Agustin added that “we probably know by now” that none of Duterte’s promises were ever true.
STanding against tyranny
Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) regional coordinator Kyle Angelo Salgado was the second speaker, discussing the human rights situation in the Southern Tagalog region, as well as a geographical background that tackled its cities and municipalities.
Among the incidents he recounted were the Calaca 6 case, which involved the intimidation of the community’s “magtutubo” and barangay officials over a planned protest, and that of Cabuyao 11’s, of which he was a part of after he and ten others were arrested for holding an indignation rally a day before Duterte signed the Terror Law.
Touching upon recent cases such as the consistent attacks on the farmers and residents of Hacienda Yulo in Calamba and the aerial bombings in Bondoc Peninsula and South Quezon, Salgado discussed how the controversial Executive Order (EO) 70 lead to the establishment of far more controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). These were moves that only heightened cases of red-tagging and for government-backed institutions to label progressive groups and leaders as terrorists.
“Kung ang layunin ng pagtatalaga ng NTF-ELCAC ay ma-end ang armed conflict, [kailangan natin na sagutin muna kung] bakit nga ba may armed conflict? Kailangan na kilalanin ng pamahalaan natin, ng gobyerno ni duterte, ang dahilan ng pagkakaroon ng armed conflict bilang ang mga pangunahin at totoong hinaing ng mga tao,” Salgado said.
Salgado concluded by reiterating the role of youth and the need to empower their voices and capacity in ousting Duterte from power.
The miseducation of the Filipino
Finally, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny (YANAT) national convenor and former president of National Union Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Raoul Manuel discussed further Duterte’s whole-of-nation approach in addressing armed insurgency, likening his administration to the likes of Adolf Hitler’s and ousted ex-Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’.
He also highlighted the pitfalls in the country’s education system, in that it attempts to prepare students to become “submissive” towards future employers.
“Pinapalunok satin bilang pilipino na kailangan natin sumandig sa mga oppressors natin para makalabas tayo sa mga suliranin natin. Sa hindi direct na paraan, ay iniimpluwensyahan tayo na ipagpatuloy ang mga unjust na nangyayari sa bansa. Tayo lang rin ay pagsisilbihin sa kung anuman an existing na sistema,” Manuel said.
He also said that the youth has a much larger role in a time filled with constant attacks and harassment cases in the pandemic.
“I refuse to believe na matatawag nating passive ang mga kabataan, dahil ang mga kabataan ay may pakialam. It’s just that paano ba natin nadi-direct ang energy ng mga kabataan, paano natin nae-equip ng tools for analysis ang mga kabataan para magkaroon tayo ng concerted na efforts,” Manuel said.
Manuel concluded with a call to change the current education system, as a means to gain freedom and democracy.
“Kaya ang isang papel natin bilang kabataan ay kung paano natin babaguhin ang current education system — hindi colonial kundi nationalist, hindi anti-democratic o pyudal kundi scientific, at mass oriented hindi commercialized. Ang edukasyon ay dapat magsilbi ng genuine freedom at democracy.” [P]
Photo by Sophia Isabel Pangilinan
Youth UNBOUND – ST is still open for new members and/or student organizations, clubs, councils, and elected SK officials who wish to be part of the said progressive and ouster alliance in Southern Tagalog. You can message them directly through their official Facebook page.