MA. LAYA GUERRERO
Spokesperson, Kabataang Makabayan
The Kabataang Makabayan, the revolutionary youth group allied to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) supports the opening and just concluded round of the formal peace-talks between the Government of Philippines (GPH) under the Aquino administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines from February 15-21, hosted by the government of Norway.
It can be a "balm in Gilead" if seen as a relief from Arroyo's nailed-fist policy of shunning the peace-talks, waging all-out war against the revolutionary movement and spreading terror in civilian communities.
The fascist Arroyo regime's all-out war, which mostly victimized legal activists and ordinary people and civilian communities under the counter-insurgency operations Oplan Bantay Laya I &II, had victimized 1,206 activists and ordinary people and more than 200 victims of enforced disappearances. Among them are students of University of the Philippines Karen EmpeÃ±o and Sherlyn Cadapan who were tortured and remain missing to this day, and other fellow youth like Cris Hugo, Rei Mon Guran, Benjaline Hernadez, the Maco Four, Farly Alcantara III and Rebelyn Pitao, all victims of EJK and summary execution.
On the eight month of Aquino's ascendancy, he already presided over the victimization of 36 activists, which makes an appalling record of one EJK victim per week. We continue to demand justice for the victims and believe that the Aquino government should extend in breadth beyond the negotiating table the commitment to uphold the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL.
The wanton disregard of the government to the welfare of the youth and basic sectors, human rights violations, the over-all systemic inequality in our country, impoverishment of majority of Filipinos, corruption, unemployment , rural unrest and landlessness, imperialist US domination are just some of the major problems that goad the Filipino youth to understand that the ills in our society need radical solutions if ever we dream for a just and lasting peace.
We appreciate the efforts of students and youth groups in organizing forums and other venues such as this to tackle the "meat" of the peace-talks which proves that the youth have claimed its stake in the ongoing negotiations. Peace-talks is not yet peace-time, but as the NDFP and GPH discuss the deeply-entrenched inequalities and roots of the armed revolution in the Philippine society, these roots should be dissected to find a common-ground to find solutions. The youth could certainly add its Youth Agenda to be incorporated in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) as the next substantive agenda in the negotiations.
The CASER should also address the worsening crisis of the Philippine education system, that is colonial, commercialized and reactionary in character. This current education system further heightens the foreign domination, social discontent and poverty. Also, basic education continues to exclude millions of Filipino children and poverty and hunger drives thousands out of school every school year. Reforms like the K-12 reform proposed by Aquino is not the solution to the root problems in basic education.
In tertiary, the commercialization of education is being warranted by the deregulation of tuition thru the Education Act of 1982 and the Commission on Higher Education's ineptitude to regulate scrupulous capitalist-educators who unjustly raise tuition and invent all sorts of exorbitant fees. Repression inside campuses is alarming as private school administrators want basic rights such as right to organize and freedom of expression be left at the school-gates. School handbooks include drastic penalty until expulsion to students who defy such repressiveness.
Inspite of the millions of shortages in teachers, classrooms, desks and textbooks, the government continue to cut the education budget and slash the subsidy for state universities and colleges. The state budget for education account for only 2.8% of GDP while debt servicing account for 56.2% of GDP. Payment for anomalous debt contracts should be outrightly cancelled. The Aquino administration has also firm and raunchy concept that tertiary education is not anymore a public good or a right that every Filipino youth should be entitled to. Thus, increasing privatization and commercialization as government's direction for tertiary education must be stopped and averhauled.
Indeed the peace-talks come at time when the imperialist system is battered by crisis and causing more drastic effect on the chronic crisis in our country affecting majority of poor Filipinos. This year opened with 1.37 million of Filipino youth unemployed, millions of school-aged Filipinos out of school, unabated tuition and school fee increases, fare hikes due to privatization drive of public transportation, rising prices of food and basic necessities continue to add woes to the Filipino youth.
The peace-talks opening came at a time when most Filipino youth want social transformation, not a superficial change drumedbeat by government slogans and rhetorics, but a change that will be meaningful for our people. The KM believes that the Filipino youth's unending fervor for the revolution will be an inexhaustible furnace to attain freedom from imperialist and elite domination towards just and lasting peace in our country.
(Released during the forum of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and other youth and student groups on Just Peace at the University of the Philippines Diliman, March 10, 2011)