Youth and Politics: A 2010 Round-up
As organized youth groups and student leaders prepare for heightened struggle and greater political participation this year, it would be helpful to recall how the youth engaged in politics and rocked the nation in 2010. Let us look back at some of the top youth movement moments of last year.
It was election year, and the call for youth participation was central for movements clamoring for change and relevant polls. Networks and various initiatives were launched to encourage youth participation and push for youth demands for national and local candidates.
Previously, youth groups successfully extended the registration period after COMELEC arbitrarily shortened it, and encouraged millions more to register for the May polls.
Activities were also launched against Arroyo maneuvers to sabotage the polls and abuse the party-list system.
Last year also saw the re-election of Kabataan Partylist, the only youth representative in Congress. Despite the lack of resources and traditional political machinery, coupled with violence, harassment and cheating done against the party, votes for Kabataan more than doubled in 2010.
PUP students stop tuition hike
Dilapidated tables, blackboards and chairs flew and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) was both literally and figuratively on fire. This was the response of the students in collective anger against administration plans to increase tuition by 2000%. After a few days, University of the Philippines (UP) students caught the fever and hurled paint bombs against administration officials responsible for the unjust suspension of their student regent and exhorbitant campus fee increases. The protests reached the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), gates were demolished, and the mass actions prompted then CHEd Chair Angeles to withdraw the planned tuition increase. The PUP administration had the protest leaders arrested but was eventually forced to withdraw the charges after a series of mass actions.
Under fire: Sangguniang Kabataan
Around August, as period of registration for Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and barangay elections were approaching, government announced its intent to abolish the SK. Youth groups contended that while the SK has its problems and has in fact failed to provide representation and direction for the Filipino youth, it is only reflective of the rotten Philippine political system which is need of an overhaul. Youth groups slammed the DILG proposal for a single youth representative which they believe will further “weaken youth representation and make the youth more vulnerable to the influence of traditional politics.”
Kicking out K-12
High school students and national youth groups held protest actions against the plan to add 2 years to the education cycle. Signature campaigns gathered the support of parents, teachers, academe and other sectors. Rallies were held during DepEd meetings and during the initial presentation of the program. The groups opposed the Aquino K12 program, saying this will deny access to education to an even greater number of students, will be a burden to Filipino families, and is oriented to address foreign capitalist needs. Due to the broad opposition, the government, while still working towards the implementation of the program, backtracked and stated that the additional years will be imposed after Aquino’s term.
Tagged as “agaw-eksena” of the year, UP Manila students led by Ces Santos, student council chairperson stood up and “spoke truth to power” during the Aquino government’s 100-days report. Assailing the Aquino government’s plan to cut spending for state schools, the students chanted and shouted, interrupting the president during a scripted townhall meeting. “Kung kami ang iyong boss, itigil ang budget cut sa SUCs at edukasyon!”
State schools on strike
The State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) strike of November 25-26 and December 1 was a historic show of unity of students, faculty, and administrators. More than 80 schools nationwide participated in class stoppage, strikes, walk-outs and other mass protest activities in campuses, and in marches outside government buildings. More than 10,000 students participated in protests in NCR alone and marched to Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Mendiola and Senate. Malacanang tried to sow confusion to stop the protests but failed miserably, as it only further fueled the anger of the strikers. Due to the protests, Senate was compelled to reinstate a portion of the slashed funds. Unrest is still looming in schools though as the additional funds won’t be enough to reverse the crisis — tuition hikes, shortage of facilities and problems of deteriorating quality is still set to confront the education community this year.
Linking arms with the people
Youth groups also notably took up issues of basic sectors last year. Young activists joined calls for the immediate distribution of Hacienda Luisita and the junking of the stock distribution option and compromise agreement being peddled to the farmworkers. Initial protests againt the MRT/LRT fare hikes and oil price hikes were also organized by student council leaders.The “Kuliglig revolt” of December was also partly convened by youth organizers, convinced that the government’s attack on poor people’s livelihood should be condemned, especially when gov’t fails to provide them with decent jobs.The issue of human rights and the calls for the release of Morong 43 also resonated among young people.
Rocking new media
Causes and movements found a new friend in Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. During the elections, new media tools were used to discuss candidates and platforms. Campus mock elections were held online. Parties and candidates felt the need to engage the youth online audience and launched online campaigns. The strike movement against budget cuts was broadcasted and coordinated online, using #PHstudentstrike and #education4all. Netizens called for #betterinternet, in collective outrage against poor internet service and telco greed.
A bigger, bolder youth movement in 2011
Confronting same-old problems under a new government, youth groups have drawn important lessons from the victories during the past year. Last year has shown the Filipino youth’s readiness to take action for their rights and for the people’s welfare. Organized groups and student leaders have gained greater confidence in the strength of collective action. The young people are hopeful and very much ready for greater victories in 2011, aiming to make great strides in the people’s movement for genuine social change.