"Say no to despair."
In addition to teaching, I frequently give national situation briefings to diverse groups all over the country, mostly but not exclusively to faith-based organizations that include religious congregations, diocesan bishops and clergy, Catholic schools (teachers and students), and parish councils.
In these briefings, I try to be as level-headed and objective as possible even as I speak truth to power. I give my audiences space to discern their own choices. Contrary to what the President has been told based on his speech in Isabela, my talks are not anti-Duterte at all. Instead they provide a balanced account of the administration’s failures (human rights is one) and successes (the Bangsamoro is good). And I always emphasize a message of hope, not allowing defeatism or fear to prevail.
In recent days, I have emphasized the virtues of the cross and how it is being renewed through the trials we are facing as church and people. I remind my audiences of our history, of how bad moments are followed by good moments—which are gifts which often we squander. But God in His infinite wisdom and mercy always give us new opportunities, second and third and fourth chances. So this current moment will pass. The massacre of the poor will end, and we will hold people, including the inciters, responsible. There will be more reform opportunities. We can abolish poverty, have good infrastructure and services, establish law and order, protect our environment, achieve social justice and a functioning justice system. We can fix this country.
Above all, I tell my audiences that there is hope because of our young people. It’s amazing how many children and young people we have in all our islands and even in places where we have many overseas Pilipinos. From my vantage point as a professor teaching in 10 universities, with 400-500 undergraduate, law, and graduate students in my classes from all over the Philippines and of different economic, religious, and political backgrounds, mentoring at any given time 50-100 individuals for their thesis papers or doctoral dissertations or just for professional advancement, teaching also many overseas Filipinos, there is no room for despair.
One can only be amazed at how good the young are and it’s wonderful that is the case all over the country. Manila no longer monopolizes the best talent of the country. I can truly say that my Mindanao students are as good as my Manila students and my University Belt students are equal to my Diliman-Katipunan students.
We will be fine, we will do well actually, because of our young people – the incredible talent, the idealism, the resources and opportunities they have. That’s why the older generations must get the house in order. The Church must deal with child abuse. We must take care of the children orphaned on the war against drugs and other wars. We must fight with the Lumad so their children are not killed. We must make sure that a Christine Silawan never happens again.
And in this coming elections, for the Party-List elections, we must vote in more Kabataan representatives to Congress.
I came to this decision a couple of months ago—to vote and campaign for Kabataan in the 2019 elections. I have been very impressed with Sarah Elago’s courage and the competence and imagination she has done her work as a legislator with the Makabayan bloc. When I look at the record of her predecessors Raymond Palatino and Terry Ridon, I realized that Sarah’s work is not an individual achievement but in fact a cumulative result of a collective effort not just of one legislator nor even three but of a youth and student movement that has a long history.
I was so impressed reviewing Kabataan’s record that I resolved to help it get the maximum number of three seats so they will be more effective. I am further motivated by the reality that Kabataan has only one rival for the youth sector and student vote and that is the Duterte Youth Party (which is not even a group blessed by the President and more like a family affair again if news reports are to be believed). Even if I am not from the youth sector, I teach in more than 10 universities and consider myself a stakeholder and invested in that sector. I cannot imagine my students to be represented by such a group.
I am aware of course that there are other legitimate party list organizations that one can vote for, as I wrote last week. I certainly think that Bayan Muna and Akbayan are worth voting for if you were looking for a progressive party with a comprehensive vision to support, or Gabriela, ACT-Teachers, Anakpawis, Partido Lakas ng Masa, Murang Kuryente, and Magdalo are worthy and strong representatives respectively of women, teachers, farmers, workers, environmentalists, and soldiers. My appeal then is not to the supporters of these other good party list organizations but to voters who are still in search for options for the party list elections. To these non-aligned voters, I say with confidence that Kabataan is a good choice.
Kabataan Party-list is the first and only youth party-list group in Philippine Congress today. It is a large network of energized and pro-active young people who are leaders in various organizations, formations and barkadas. Their members are from across the regions—and this is reflected in the list of their candidates: Sarah is from Metro Manila, their second and third candidates Erika Rae Cruz and Vennel Chenfoo are from Mindanao, the fourth and fifth candidates Ellice Balgos and Renz Kang are from Northern Luzon, and the sixth candidate Kristian Abad-Lora is from the Visayas. Their members and candidates also represent diverse interests, backgrounds and social status, tied by a common vision of a better future for the youth and for the nation.
Kabataan Party-list believes that the youth should devote its intellect, energy and courage to building a new society devoid of corruption, inequality and social injustice. It supports youth and student-led organizations working for social, political, economic, cultural and environmental justice in the Philippines, and enjoins youth from all walks of life to foster active participation in nation-building, good governance and social change.
‘Kabataan Party-list is working to galvanize the Filipino youth’s unity for social change. It encourages the youth to work collectively with other sectors to build a bright future. It upholds, promotes and defends the interest of the youth to be able to harness its fullest potential as a sector.
While retaining its activist soul, Kabataan has also been effective in legislation. All its representatives—Palatino, Ridon, and Elago—proposed hundreds of bills (in the 17th Congress alone, Elago has sponsored 423 house bills and resolutions), fully participated in legislative debates, taken always the morally right and politically courageous position in impeachment, death penalty, and other controversial issues, and definitely has successfully brought the voice of the youth into the halls of Congress.
The country is in a difficult moment. I reject pessimism. I say no to despair. I choose hope. I choose to trust the youth of this country. I choose Kabataan.
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