Senators agree: Criticizing government is a basic right
MANILA, Philippines – Amid the proposal to revoke the scholarship of “anti-government” students, senators from both the majority and the minority agree that criticizing the government or free speech is a basic right.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said that taking part in rallies is a basic right which can be exercised by anyone, even if the student is protesting against the government.
“Just like any citizen of this country, university scholars can express their dissent, even join protest rallies against the government in the exercise of their basic constitutional right of expression,” Lacson said in a text message.
Lacson, however, clarified that the state has a responsibility to implement laws, especially if anti-government scholars will take up arms and engage government forces.
“Having said that, if these government scholars, or any person for that matter, would participate in an armed rebellion or join a judicially proscribed terrorist organization, they will have to suffer the consequences of their action under our existing laws,” Lacson said.
No politics, please
Senator Bam Aquino on the other hand asked the government not to use college education for partisan politics and to repress students.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan said that there is nothing wrong with joining leftist groups, noting that the National Youth Commission’s suggestion is what is illegal.
“Hindi iligal ang sumama sa mga organisasyon na leftist at lalong hindi iligal at krimen ang mag protesta o sumali sa mga rally. Ang NYC ang gumagawa ng iligal na hakbang kung itutuloy nila ang iligal na patakaran,” he added.
(It isn’t illegal to join leftist groups or take part in demonstrations. It’s NYC that will commit an illegal act if they insist on the proposal.)
On Tuesday, National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Ronald Cardema asked President Rodrigo Duterte to craft an executive order which would remove the scholarship grants of anti-government scholars with alleged links to the Communist Party of the Philippines, New Peoples’ Army, and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Cardema — who led the Duterte Youth group before the President assumed office — also requested officials of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), and the Citizen’s Army Training (CAT) to report scholars who are supposed members of leftist groups.
“As Chairman of the National Youth Commission, I am requesting our Head of Government, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, to issue an Executive Order removing the government scholarships of all anti-government scholars,” Cardema said.
Earlier, Senator Francis Escudero asked Duterte to remove Cardema from office, as he brings the administration to shame because of his ignorance of the 1987 Constitution’s provision on freedom of expression.
“The sycophantic and obsequious suggestion of the NYC head shows his ignorance of the Constitution and, far from helping, is surely doing a disservice to PRRD and the government,” he said.
“Kung may sisipain (sa pwesto) dapat siya at ‘di ang mga estudyante,” he added. / gsg
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