Opposition bets slam bid to revoke scholarships of communist-linked students
MANILA, Philippines – Otso Diretso senatorial candidates on Wednesday came to the defense of progressive students and assailed National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Ronald Cardema for asking President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke the scholarships of “anti-government” students.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay argued that such a suggestion was “contrary to the mandate” of the youth commission.
“‘Yung scholarship should be based on merit, not politics,” Hilbay asserted during a press conference in Quezon City on Wednesday.
Marawi City civic leader Samira Gutoc, meanwhile lamented Cardema’s remarks, saying this would curtail the students’ rights to freedom of expression and speech.
“I for one, am so, so sad that a National Youth chairman would even… sa bunganga nya lalabas ‘yun,” Gutoc added.
Gutoc also cited a landmark ruling of the Supreme Court stating that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, for his part said students should exercise critical thinking, especially on national issues.
“Kailangan natin sa ating mga kabataan ang magkaroon ng critical thinking, critical minds. Hindi pwedeng masanay sila na busalan ang kanilang bibig sa mga nangyayari sa ating bansa,” Alejano argued.
“Wala naman silang nilalabag na batas. In fact, Constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” he added.
In a statement on Tuesday, Cardema asked Duterte to issue an Executive Order withdrawing the government scholarships of “all anti-government scholars,” specifically those students who are “allied with the leftist CPP-NPA-NDF, a terrorist group that is trying to overthrow the Philippine Government and killing our government troops.”
Cardema, who headed the “Duterte Youth” group before he was appointed by the Chief Executive as chair of the NYC in August 2018, also asked officials of Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Citizen’s Army Training (CAT), among others, to report scholars who are supposedly linked to the communist movement.
Republic Act 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, covers the tuition and fees of students enrolled in 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 78 local universities and colleges (LUCs), and all technical-vocation education and training (TVET) programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). / gsg
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