[OPINION] Put Bato in his place

Wrong and all over the place. There’s no other way to describe Senator Dela Rosa’s reaction to Raoul Manuel, the president of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP). 

During a Senate hearing on mandatory ROTC, the newly elected lawmaker spent his time and energy to humiliate Raoul Manuel, who was invited as a resource person, the president of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP). 

To Dela Rosa, it meant nothing that Manuel represented the largest alliance of student councils in the country. He probably did not know either that the youth representative was a valedictorian and the first summa cum laude graduate of UP Visayas.  

By the way he treated Manuel, all Senator Dela Rosa saw in front of him was an ill-bred young man who needed to be lectured on discipline, nationalism, and, respect.  

Senator Dela Rosa put Manuel in his place.  

It’s time that we put the neophyte senator in his own place, where he must learn the most basic of all lessons: Respect is earned.

Wrong on many levels 

For starters, Senator Dela Rosa failed to see the fundamental point that Manuel tried to make. For Manuel, the contradiction was too glaring to be missed.

How can the man pushing for mandatory ROTC be trusted when he was also the same man behind the regime’s murderous war on drugs? What kind of human rights does he intend to inculcate among students? And what sense of justice does he really have when just a few days ago he made it clear that Mayor Sanchez, convicted for the rape and murder of UPLB students, deserved a “second chance” outside prison? 

At the core of these questions is Dela Rosa’s premise that mandatory ROTC is needed to instill nationalism among the youth.  

But his is a narrow version of nationalism. Dela Rosa’s bias has been clear throughout the tirade. This is about fighting communist rebels. Thus the neophyte senator exploited the time to attack NUSP’s political leanings.

Senator Dela Rosa dismissed all these accusations as irrelevant to the topic at hand. He also took his sweet time to explain his position on Mayor Sanchez, and ended by lamenting how the youth are no longer respectful. To him, that young people like Manuel cannot respect the Senate, is enough basis for reinstating mandatory ROTC.  

As a result, Senator Dela Rosa and his colleagues failed to listen to Manuel and the student alliance that he represents. His group may not represent public opinion, but that is not the point of such hearings. At their level, incisive conversations are necessary to assess the merit, impact, and unintended consequences of policy proposals such as the implementation of mandatory ROTC.

Thus the hearing has failed to deliberate on the most important issues surrounding the proposal: nationalism and discipline. Is mandatory ROTC really necessary? And wow, can the current regime credibly push for law enforcement, human rights, and love of country at a time when all these are questionable?

They all missed the opportunity. 

Indeed, Senators Pia Cayetano and Win Gatchalian rounded up the tirade by striking off Manuel’s statements and giving NUSP a stern warning for wasting their time. 

But nothing could be further from the truth.

It was not Raoul Manuel who wasted the time of the senators. By wielding their power on a youth representative, it was the senators themselves who wasted their own time. 

Dismissing the youth 

It is a tragedy of our culture that adults appeal to age and status to demand respect. But nothing with age or status is inherently respectable.  

Age is not a reliable indicator of wisdom. Nor is status of hard work. After all, many of those in power are there for all the wrong reasons.

Young people might appear brash. But their impatience comes across as arrogance because they still believe in their ideals. Convinced that they know better, adults who are threatened by young people’s honesty put them in their place.

But this is where the irony lies. Adults panic over young people’s boldness because they cannot accept that they have lost the idealism that once defined their youth.

Raoul Manuel was only holding up the mirror before the senators. 

Manuel is just one of the many other Filipino youth who are now mustering the courage to speak truth to power.  

That is because they love this country – even without mandatory ROTC. – Rappler.com

Jayeel Cornelio, PhD is the Director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. A sociologist of youth, he is the editor of the forthcoming volume ‘Rethinking Filipino Millennials: Alternative Perspectives on a Misunderstood Generation’ (UST Publishing House). Follow him on Twitter @jayeel_cornelio.

Jayeel Cornelio

Jayeel Cornelio, PhD is Associate Professor and the Director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. A sociologist of religion, he is a recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology. He i...

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