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Robredo to NYC chief: We don't want young Filipinos to be mere puppets

CEBU, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo is against the proposal of National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairman Ronald Cardema to remove the scholarships of students critical of the government.

Robredo told reporters here in Cebu on Wednesday, February 20, that Cardema's suggestion goes against Filipinos' freedom to voice out their beliefs.

"So kapag sinabi iyon ng National Youth Commission [chief], gusto bang sabihin, iyong gusto nating klaseng kabataang Pilipino iyong sunud-sunuran lang? Iyong gusto ba nating kabataang Pilipino, iyong hindi nabibigyan ng boses para ipahayag iyong kanyang paniniwala?" asked the Vice President.

(So if the National Youth Commission chief said that, does he mean to say we want the Filipino youth to be mere puppets? That we want the Filipino youth not to be given a voice to express their beliefs?)

"Tingin ko hindi ganoon iyong gusto natin, kasi ang gusto natin Pilipinong malayang nakakapagpahayag ng kanyang pinapaniwalaan, Pilipinong hindi natatakot sabihin kung ano iyong kanyang saloobin – at gobyernong handang makinig kahit hindi maganda iyong lahat niyang naririnig," said Robredo.

(I don't think we want that, because we want Filipinos who freely express their beliefs, Filipinos who are unafraid to say what they think – and a government ready to listen even if the things they hear are not pleasant to listen to.)

Cardema had asked President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order removing the subsidy of "all rebellious anti-government scholars." He specified students who were allied with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army, and National Democratic Front.

The NYC chief, who previously headed the Duterte Youth movement, earlier asked Sangguniang Kabataan officials nationwide to "fight" leftist youth groups. (READ: 'Traitor to youth': Groups slam NYC chief's proposal vs 'anti-government' scholars)

On Wednesday, Robredo posed a question on whether or not such a statement should make Filipinos scared of the official who is supposed to represent the youth in government.

"So for the National [Youth] Commission [chief] to issue such statement, parang kailangan na ba tayong matakot? Kailangan na ba tayong matakot na iyong mga namumuno ng ating mga kabataan, ganyan na iyong pag-iisip?" asked Robredo.

(So for the National Youth Commission chief to issue such a statement, is there now a need for us to be afraid? Do we now need to be afraid that the leader of our youth thinks this way?)

The Vice President further said Cardema's proposal "saddened" her, because history has shown the Filipino youth are among the first to oppose abusive policies.

"Nalungkot ako, kasi over the years, parang throughout the history of our republic, every time na may conflict, every time na mayroong upheaval, iyong nauunang maglakas ng loob, iyong mga kabataan. Nakita natin ito sa EDSA Revolution. Nakita natin ito during Martial Law. Nakita natin ito even before Martial Law," said Robredo.

(I am saddened by this because over the years, throughout the history of our republic, every time there is conflict, every time there is upheaval, the first to have the courage to stand up are the youth. We saw this in the EDSA Revolution. We saw this during Martial Law. We saw this even before Martial Law.)

"Parang mas courageous iyong mga kabataan, eh. Parang wala pang takot, wala pang takot na ipaalam kung ano iyong kanilang saloobin," she added.

(Young people seem to be more courageous. They're unafraid to express their feelings.)

Malacañang and several senators already rejected Cardema's proposal.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Education Secretary Leonor Briones also spoke out against it. Guevarra said universities "should be proud that they are producing young people who are socially aware," while Briones said part of an education is encouraging students to think critically about issues. – Rappler.com

 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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