MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday said students who simply express dissent against government policies should not have their scholarships in state universities revoked, after the head of the National Youth Commission called on President Rodrigo Duterte to kick out “all rebellious anti-government scholars.”
NYC Chairman Ronald Cardema drew flak after asking Duterte to sign an executive order removing the subsidy of anti-government scholars, specifically those allied with the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front.
But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this cannot be done easily.
“We are a government of laws, not of speculations. Kailangan mayroon tayong ebidensya na parte nga sila ng grupo na laban sa gobyerno,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
(We are a government of laws, not of speculations. There should be evidence showing the student is really of a group that is anti-government.)
“Kung sila ay sumasama lang sa mga rally, that’s a right. That’s freedom of expression. That’s freedom of assembly. Unless you can show concrete evidence that they are really part of those who are against this government hindi naman pupwede iyon.”
(If they join rallies, that’s a right, that’s freedom of expression, that’s freedom of assembly. Unless you can show concrete evidence that they are really part of those who are against this government, that cannot be done.)
Panelo stressed that anti-government actions that can cause a student to lose his scholarship include joining the armed struggle and planning against the government. He said mere membership in groups espousing dissent against the government is not enough.
“Hindi pu-puwedeng mere membership lang. Kailangan may ebidensya na more than your membership. Kung nakita na kasama ka sa plano against the government, nagkaroon ng raid tapos ikaw pala kasama doon, ang laking ebidensya noon,” he said.
(Mere membership is not enough. We need evidence. If you are caught planning against the government, then a raid took place and you are caught, that’s a huge evidence.)
“If you just express your dissent to government policies, kasama sa demokrasya iyon (that’s part of democracy).”
NYC CHAIR DRAWS FLAK
Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero meanwhile said Cardema's "sycophantic and obsequious" suggestion "shows his ignorance of the Constitution and, far from helping, is surely doing a disservice to PRRD (Duterte) and the government."
"The Government is the government of those who agree with it and disagree with it... and the President is the President of of those who voted for him and did not vote for him," said Escudero in a statement.
"Both the President and the government should serve every Filipino without distinction and regardless of political beliefs. Dissent in a democracy should never be frowned upon, much less penalized in any way," he continued.
Raoul Manuel, secretary general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, said free education and scholarships "are not from Duterte’s money."
"They are people’s money. So students are not indebted to the corrupt tyrant in Malacanang," he said in a statement.
"We owe our education to the Filipino people, to whom the youth offers its efforts as we push for the rights and welfare of the oppressed millions," he added.
The Akbayan party-list also slammed Cardema's remark, saying civic engagement is "one’s right and duty."
"While youth activists & development workers are busy asking the gov’t for accountability on youth welfare and issues, the official policymaking body for young people that is NYC has transformed into an anti-youth agency under Cardema," the group said on Twitter.
Cardema was a leader of Duterte Youth, a group that made headlines in 2017 for confronting OPM icon Jim Paredes, a staunch critic of the President, during the anniversary celebration of the 1986 People Power Revolution in EDSA.