MANILA - Students participating in anti-state protests, especially those allied with communist rebels, should lose their scholarships, the head of the National Youth Commission said, earning the ire of some lawmakers and youth groups on Wednesday.
NYC Chairperson Ronald Cardema called on President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order "removing the government scholarships of all anti-government scholars, specifically those students who are allied with the leftist CPP-NPA-NDF."
In a statement, Cardema said rebelling against the government equates to "fighting the majority of the Filipino People and also not fulfilling their roles as the expected breadwinners who will uplift their families and hope in strengthening the country."
He also dismissed student activists' claim that the law prohibits denying students admission to the state-run University of the Philippines on the basis of political affiliation.
"Walang batas batas or charter charter para sa mga gustong magpabagsak ng gobyerno," he was quoted as saying in a Philippine News agency report on Tuesday.
(There is no law or charter for those who want to bring down the government.)
CARDENAS TOLD: QUIT!
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.
Cardema, he said, is "copying his boss Duterte" and acting "like a tyrant so insecure that he attacks our right to express as enshrined in the Constitution."
The NUSP said that aside from Cardema's latest remark, other "blunders" that are "sufficient basis for his resignation" include his alleged endorsement of the administration's senatorial bets, communist-tagging against students, and his silence on rising school fees and moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
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.
"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.
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.
Cardema was appointed as head of the NYC in August 2018, replacing singer Ice Seguerra who resigned from the post due to "personal reasons."