A variation of this piece was presented in the Kabataan Party-list Aklan Provincial Chapter Assembly held in the Kalibo Poblacion Brgy. Hall last May 26, 2012.
It has always been said the youth is the hope of the nation. It has been repeated again and again since Jose Rizal first said it a century back that the adage has become a seemingly worn out claim, a cliché.
In order to retrieve it as a truth claim, in order to make it effective again, in order to make it the powerful assertion that it used to be, we must add a condition to the statement that the youth is the hope of the nation.
The truth is the youth cannot become the hope of the nation if it does not act collectively – side by side with the masses of workers, peasants, urban poor, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized sectors – to change an oppressive and exploitative social order.
The continued domination of US imperialism, domestic feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism has led to the deterioration of the national situation.
The youth can never become the hope of the nation if it continues to be shackled by these three basic problems which have as its direct symptoms the lack of access to education and social services, joblessness, hunger, and poverty.
The Filipino youth and people suffer more than ever under the Noynoy Aquino regime. It’s now two years after Noynoy assumed power. The Coronavela saga is about to end. But the youth are still out of school and out of work. Millions have no food on the table and are mired in poverty.
After using anti-corruption rhetoric and empty promises of change to win big in the 2010 elections, the Aquino regime proved to be no different from previous regimes by pursuing the same programs that only worsened the chronic crisis plaguing the nation.
There can be no bright future for the Filipino youth unless it fights to transform an unjust society dominated by despotic feudal hacienderos, big compradors, corrupt bureaucrats, and their foreign masters.
US Imperial Domination
Imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. From free competition, financial and industrial capital has become concentrated in the hands of a few big monopolists of advanced capitalist countries like the US, Germany, France, Britain, and Japan.
Imperialist powers seek colonies and semicolonies – like the Philippines – in order to facilitate the quick expansion of their burgeoning economies and gain enormous superprofits. Their drive to divide and re-divide the world among themselves has led to war and much suffering.
Under the Aquino regime’s “matuwid na daan” our country continues to suffer from subservience to foreign powers – mainly US imperialism – politically, economically, and culturally even after the granting of nominal independence after the Second World War.
This situation of domination is sustained by unequal treaties and unjust economic edicts that keep our country a source of cheap labor and natural resources for foreign powers as well as a dumping ground for surplus capital and commodities manufactured abroad.
Our ability to borrow from foreign financial institutions like the US-controlled International Monetary Fund-World Bank is tied to unfair economic provisions that further open our economy to foreign control and keep our country more dependent on more foreign loans.
Budget for the social services like education – especially the State Universities and Colleges – and health is reallocated for foreign debt servicing and superficial doleout programs like the Conditional Cash Transfers that does not weed out the roots of massive poverty.
But the most glaring manifestation of foreign domination in the country is the escalating buildup of US military presence in the guise of aiding us against Chinese aggression. Through the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Balikatan Exercises, US troops freely enter the country.
US military advisers train and directly command Filipino troops while US smartbombs and aerial drones are directly used in counterinsurgency operations against the Communist Party of the Philippines-led revolutionary movement in the country.
Backward and Foreign-Dominated
The Philippine social formation has been kept backward, agrarian, and lacking basic industries in order to keep it dependent on US surplus capital, goods, and loans as well as to keep it a steady a source of cheap labor and natural resources.
The persistence of feudalism or the land monopoly by the landed elite stands out as the most pervasive problem of the backward and foreign-oriented social condition.
The continuing saga of the peasants and farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita – the sugar estate of President Noynoy Aquino’s family – is one of the most blatant symbols of the continued domination of feudal rule in the country.
While various regimes have implemented their own agrarian reform programs, 7 of 10 peasants still do not own their land. Land remains concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few who continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor majority.
“Industrial” progress is limited to business process outsourcing call centers, environmentally-destructive mining and plunder of our natural resources, and the repackaging and reassembly of goods that are mainly manufactured abroad in export processing zones.
The wages of ordinary workers are meanwhile kept low, with a P272/day minimum wage here in the island of Panay, and cannot suffice for the basic needs of an ordinary family of 4 pegged at over P900 a day. Most workers are also contractuals and lack benefits.
Youth unemployment has soared up. According to the latest SWS survey, 54% of the labor force that are aged 18-24 while 49% of those aged 24-35 are jobless.
Because of the deregulated economy, the people continues to be at the mercy of international oil monopolies which leads to weekly oil price hikes and soaring cost of basic goods. Education and health services are expensive commodities that are out of reach to the masses.
State universities and colleges and public schools are deprived of sufficient budget leading to massive shortages and forcing admins to resort to commercialization schemes.
Under the Education Act of 1982 that continues to hold sway even today, private schools are given free rein to hike fees annually with tuition rates soaring from P257 per unit in 2001 to P501 per unit in 2011.
Despite the reality that only 1 for every 10 Grade 1 Elementary students make it to graduate College because of high fees, the Aquino government is still pushing for the addition of two more years to the basic education curriculum under the K+12 program.
This does not consider the massive shortages in the public elementary and high schools. According to DepEd, there are shortages of 50,921 classrooms, 74,178 in teachers, 123,196 toilets, 62.4 million in textbooks and 1.3 million chairs.
This education “reform” is, of course, premised on creating more semi-skilled laborers for the disposal of multinational companies. It directly serves the Aquino regime’s continued allegiance to a labor export policy.
Executive Committee of the Ruling Classes
Instead of confronting these problems head on, the Aquino government resorts to hiding massive poverty by doctoring official statistics in the form of lowering the poverty threshold from at least US$2 (P83) to P46.
The unemployment situation is meanwhile reduced by excluding those who are of working age but are not looking for jobs anymore from the labor force. The 7% government unemployment rate is thus very far from the 34% unemployment rate pegged by the latest SWS survey.
When Asian Development Bank officials met in the country’s capital for its 45th annual meeting, the Aquino government – following the footsteps of Imelda during the Marcos dictatorship – made “a little fixing up” by erecting a makeshift wall along the main roads of Metro Manila.
This brings us to the obvious conclusion that government has never been a service at all. This is symptomatic of bureaucrat capitalism or the use of government as a business enterprise by these very same landlords and big businessmen who benefit from the country’s foreign-dominated and underdeveloped condition.
The shenanigans that led to the recent impeachment and conviction Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona is in fact the “standard operating procedure” his fellow corrupt bureaucrat in the judiciary, legislature, and the executive.
All these serve to reaffirm how “the executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” Our public servants are in government to serve not the people but their own selfish interests.
The armed forces, meanwhile, are mobilized for the primary purpose of militarily suppressing people’s movements that oppose such a social order.
A long series of human rights violations from extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, militarization of rural communities, massacres, forcible evacuations, etc., continue to intensify under the Aquino regime’s counterinsurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan.
The Future is Bright
The country is undergoing great transformations and the youth is at the forefront of the movement for social change. In the past year, the Kabataan Party-list and the whole Filipino youth movement was at the forefront in exposing the rotten ruling system and its representative and number one defender, the Noynoy Aquino regime.
In particular, the youth and student movement was at the spearhead of the broad movement against the low budget for State Universities and Colleges. But more needs to be done. There is an urgent need to further strengthen and expand the growing mass movement for social change.
The youth must take on a greater role in pushing for the implementation of a program of genuine agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization. We must stand against foreign domination and abrogate all unequal treaties and unfair economic agreements.
We must push for the cancellation of all foreign debt and prioritize the social services like education and health in the budget. Military officials responsible for the killings and disappearances of activists and journalists and corrupt bureaucrats must be put to justice.
Amidst false accusations of apathy, passivity, and indifference, the Filipino youth has proven that it can stand up for social change. Idealistic, energetic, and open to new ideas, it has proven to be a powerful force for change. Our history is replete with instances that we can look into for inspiration. It was only when the Filipinos united under the banner of the Katipunan that we were able to kick out the Spanish colonizers.
Twenty years of organizing and mobilizing by the people’s movement against the Marcos dictatorship culminated in the 1986 EDSA Uprising. Twice, our peaceful gatherings in the streets were able to depose abusive presidents from power.
Conscious of the people’s demands and the nation’s real problems, many of the country’s best sons and daughters are forgoing their personal, family, and class interests to unite with the workers and peasant majority in the struggle against the bankrupt social order.
History teaches us that it is only the collective action, solid organization, mass mobilization of the Filipino masses that can truly transform oppressive and exploitative social structures and create history. Only this way can we ensure a bright future for the Filipino youth.