The 2013 Youth Agenda: Challenges to Candidates in the Upcoming Midterm Polls

Originally Posted on Kabataan Party List Webpage
8 May 2013

The midterm elections provide a crucial opportunity for young people to put forward our own agenda – an alternative agenda –  one that builds on the struggles of other sectors of society, from landless farmers, to fresh grads eager for employment, to overseas workers laboring to keep their families back home alive.
At the heart of our campaigns is a call for a government truly representative of the majority of our people, for the benefit of our people. The hope for a decent future for ourselves and our families is a hope we all share.
Thus, in an effort to harness the collective power of the youth, we bring forth the youth sector’s 9-point agenda for 2013 and beyond – challenges that we present not only to candidates in the upcoming polls but also to our fellow youth and our countrymen.
1. QUALITY EDUCATION FOR ALL – Education is a cornerstone of national development, and is often held up as the last hope for many poor families struggling to break out of the cycle of poverty. Yet, there exists policies that hinder the youth from finishing school, forcing our families to work long hours – and in some instances take lives. Such policies include the deregulated nature of tuition and other fees, dwindling state funding to public education, and anti-student policies such as the “no late payment” and “no permit, no exam” policy.
Proposed solutions of the current administration to the worsening education crisis include adding two years to the basic education curriculum under the K to 12 program, and the so-called “rationalization” of funding for public higher education. However, the youth view these touted solutions as detrimental policies that would further aggravate – rather than solve – the current education crisis.
Thus the youth pushes for genuine solutions to the chronic crisis in education by calling for greater state funding for education, the scrapping of unsound policies that led to unabated hikes and the spiraling cost of education, the eradication of anti-student schemes that add to the burden of students, and the reorientation of the education towards being nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented, rather than serving as a tool to fuel the global need for cheap labor.
2. DECENT JOBS FOR THE YOUTH AND THE PEOPLE – Nearly every administration since the founding of the Republic has been quick to praise itself for stalwart economic management, amid booming growth rates. Yet such growth has mostly been confined to the stock market, tied to OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) remittances or dependent on tourism and real estate investment – and has rarely, if ever, resulted in the creation of real, long-lasting, decent-paying jobs on the ground.  The national economy, geared as it is toward foreign markets and dependent on foreign investments and OFW remittances, has failed to develop thriving local industries.
Nor has growth been inclusive. Profits of major corporations and CEO bonuses have soared while workers’ real wages have stagnated or declined over the decades.
Repressive labor policies from deregulation to contractualization have left workers in vulnerable straits, unable to find decent employment should their contracts expire. According to the Labor Force Survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the combined ranks of the jobless and underemployed – some 10 -12 million Filipinos of working age -  today make up 11 per cent   of the country’s total population. The youth comprises half of this figure.
To solve joblessness and the proliferation of harsh labor conditions, the youth calls for an end to contractualization, deregulation, harassment of trade unions, and other regressive labor policies. To create and sustain decent jobs in the country, concrete plans for national industrialization must be set and implemented. The youth is also one with the labor sector in calling for a P125 across-the-board wage increase and an end to the government’s labor export policy, which has left the economy dependent on OFW remittances.
3. A JUST AND HUMANE SOCIETY – Any mention of national development is incomplete without acknowledging the full spectrum of civil, political, social and economic rights that should be guaranteed to all citizens regardless of class, status, religion, ethnicity or political inclination. Yet human rights in the government’s development plans are noted only in passing, and while the administration pays lip service to ‘’inclusive growth,” the facts on the ground speak of a different reality.
Human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists of all stripes have long been assaulted on all fronts for their work.  Human rights watchdog KARAPATAN reports over a thousand cases of human rights violations in the past decade, with 137 extrajudicial killings under Aquino’s presidency alone, alongside other breaches of civil and political rights: 14 enforced disappearances, 72 victims of torture, 343 cases of illegal arrest with or without detention, at least 7,717 families left homeless by  violent demolitions, and 30,260 cases of forced evacuations of low-income or indigenous communities from lands marked for  mining, commercial development or real estate. A total of 430 political prisoners remain unaccounted for, with 148 arrested under the current administration.
The youth stands firm in demanding justice for all victims of human rights violations. We strongly urge authorities to “surface” all desaparecidos, free all political prisoners, and end military abuse both in the cities and the countryside. There is no better barometer of an administration’s commitment to rid itself of a legacy of corruption and impunity than to crack down on the murders of Filipino citizens committed by the military troops sworn to defend them under its watch.
4. IMPROVEMENT OF HEALTHCARE AND OTHER SOCIAL SERVICES – With millions faced with chronic job insecurity in an economy that has failed to provide real jobs on the ground, the need for a social safety net – one that provides at least basic social services for the majority and subsidies for the poor– is more urgent than ever.
Despite touted economic growth, the disparity in the lives of the rich and the poor has widened. Self-rated poverty has increased from 9.1 million households in 2011 to 11.1 million last  year according to Social Weather Station (SWS) surveys, while the combined wealth of the 40 richest Filipino individuals has more than doubled,  from $ 24.6 billion to $ 47.7 billion – or 21 per cent of national GDP.
Instead of improving social services such as health and housing, solutions offered by most administrations up to the present smack of privatization. Public hospitals and services are treated as government liabilities, and are opened to privatization through the administration’s much-hyped public private partnership (PPP) program. The poorest of the poor, meanwhile, are being shortchanged through the continued implementation of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme, a moribund solution offered to families long mired in poverty.
The youth believes that to improve social services, the government should set its priorities straight. Present and future leaders should throw away the notion that greater spending for social services is an unnecessary liability. Rather, we should take to heart that improving social services through higher funding plays a major role in safeguarding our countrymen’s welfare. Improvements in healthcare delivery, especially for the poorest sectors of society for example, would provide concrete benefits for the youth and the general public. Higher spending for social services is tantamount to the betterment of the Filipino people’s wellbeing.
5. ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION – The Philippines has always been considered the pearl of the orient, known for its verdant mountains and seas that teem with biodiversity. Yet with the intensifying exploitation of our natural resources by foreign companies and their business associates in the country, the treasures of our lands and seas are rapidly deteriorating.
This plunder of our natural resources – brought about by illegal logging, large-scale mining, industrial fishing, poaching and other forms of atrocities – are met with token moves by the current administration. Laws and decrees that should supposedly help preserve the environment – such as the Mining Act of 1995 – has instead fast-tracked and legitimated the destruction of our natural resources.
The youth, as heirs to the county’s veritable natural resources, vehemently oppose the unrestrained plunder of our environment. Environmental protection must go beyond rhetoric, we need strong legislation and enforcement of the law that would not only protect the environment but also put an end to the unabated plunder of our lands and seas.
6. GENDER EQUALITY – Gender discrimination remains an issue with strong socio-economic implications in the country, especially for the youth sector. Feudal gender roles remain vastly unchanged, in cities and the countryside alike. Meanwhile, discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals (LGBT) in schools, workplace, and in Philippine society in general still persist, with victims of harassment, bigotry and discrimination having little or no option at all to air their sentiments and grievances. Students with chosen gender roles continue to be persecuted under the largely conservative school system, while LGBT workers are still being harassed or looked down upon by feudal corporate systems and labor policies.
Ending gender discrimination should no longer be an individual struggle, but should be transformed into a collective effort by all. Future leaders and legislators are challenged to pass anti-discrimination legislations that would ensure that the rights and wellbeing of each and every Filipino will be safeguarded, no matter the sexual orientation.
7. GOOD GOVERNANCE – Developments in the country’s economic policies should coincide with reforms in the way the government is administered. Good governance entails not only the fast-tracking of government processes, but should also mean opening greater democratic space for people’s participation in the conduct of the country’s affairs.
All branches of the government should be made transparent and accountable for their acts. Laws should be enacted to empower the common people to serve as vanguards against corruption and ill-doing. Information held by the government should be readily available to every Filipino.
People’s participation should also not end in providing information. Every sector of society – particularly the marginalized and underrepresented – should be given the opportunity to take a direct and active role in every decision-making process of the government.
8. BETTER INTERNET – With the United Nations recognizing access to the Internet as a basic human right, our leaders should also take a clear stand on the development and enactment of laws and guidelines that would ensure that the Internet would not only be seen as the luxury it is now, but rather a social service readily available to the general public.
Efforts should be done to modernize the interconnectivity and telecommunications system in the country, especially in far-flung areas. Policy-makers should also keep in mind that legislation for the Internet should expand – rather than restrict – the relative freedom we enjoy online. Never again should there be an instance wherein a law that endangers our Internet freedom be passed and implemented haphazardly.
9. UPHOLDING NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY  In recent months, the Asia-Pacific has been the center of international dispute wrought by various conflicts involving national territory and international relations. Our sovereignty is being assaulted on all fronts – from disputes in the West Philippine Sea involving sovereign islands encroached by the Chinese, the bloody conflict in Sabah that has led to hundreds of deaths of our Muslim brothers and sisters, up to the US military’s unnecessary and dangerous dragging of Philippine forces to the brewing conflict in the Korean peninsula.
The youth demands from our present and future leaders to fervently fight for our national sovereignty amidst all these brewing conflicts. Let us always be reminded that to be patriotic does not mean surging into a war that we have nothing to do with; patriotism involves serving our own people and not the whims and orders of foreign hegemonic powers.###
Youth Organizations:
  • National Union of Students of the Philippines-National
  • National Union of Students of the Philippines-NCR
  • Katipunan ng mga Sangguninang Mag-aaral sa UP
  • Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (UP Diliman)
  • Alternative Student Alliance for Progress- Katipunan ng mga Mag-aaral (UP Manila)
  • SAKBAYAN (UP Los Banos)
  • NKE (UP Cebu)
  • Alliance of Concerned Students-PUP
  • Alliance of Concerned Thomasians
  • Kabataan Kontra Cybercrime Law
  • Anti-Cybercrime Law Alliance UP Diliman
  • Tulong Kabataan Volunteer Network
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-National
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-NCR
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Ilocos-La Union
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Cagayan Valley
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Southern Tagalog
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Central Luzon
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Baguio-Benguet
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Bicol
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Samar
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Cebu
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Negros
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Souhern Mindanao Region
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Greater Cotabato
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Far Western Mindanao Region
  • College Editors Guild of the Philippines-CARAGA
  • Philippine Youth Media Network
  • UP Solidaridad
  • Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamahayag- PUP
  • The Philippine Collegian (UP Diliman)
  • The Manila Collegian (UP Manila)
  • UPLB Perspective
  • Frontliner (UP Diliman extension program in Pampanga)
  • KALasag (UP Diliman College of Arts and Letters)
  • Kolektibo (UP Diliman College of Social Work and Community Development)
  • The Catalyst (Polytechnic University of the Philippines)
  • The Communicator (PUP College of Communication)
  • EARIST Technozette
  • The LPU Independent Sentinel (Lyceum of the Philippines University)
  • NewsCASter (Lyceum of the Philippines University College of Arts and Sciences)
  • The New Frontier (National College of Business and Arts)
  • The Torch Publications (Philippine Normal University)
  • Philwomenian (Philippine Women’s University)
  • Outcrop (UP Baguio)
  • Himati (UP Mindanao)
  • Tug-Ani (UP Cebu)
  • The Angelite (Holy Angel University)
  • The Pillars (Ateneo de Naga University)
  • Atenews (Ateneo de Davao University)
  • The Pillar (University of Eastern Philippines)
  • The Spark (Southern Luzon State University College of Engineering)