Friday, June 18, 2004

pissed off

For years my head has been struggling to answer one question…Why are the people in our country so fragmented?…Why are there so many factions in government? in the military? in business? in the communities? In the studentry?…There is what we call right wing and then there is the left wing? In the university where I came from we call them ‘tibak’; ‘aktibista’; or worst ‘NPA wanna be’s.’

And for years, I have been listening modestly and patiently on what they have been saying… 10 percent comment about capitalism, 10 percent comment about equality, 25 percent comment about social strata and a humongous 55 percent comment about Good Governance. They say that our country lacks it. That our country should have it!

But what I forgot to ask them is What is good governance in the first place? Does it mean that if our country would have this, it would belong to the first world? that if our country could acquire this, then there would be economic stability in our country? If our country can have good governance, does this mean that we can have a fair share on the issue of WTO? Or should we even use the word GOOD and GOVERNANCE in one sentence?

A couple of years ago, issues have been heaping up in our country, workers demand for the P125 across-the-board increase which was not really met, issues about Indigenous Community Militarization, which again killed dozens of Aetas, Manobos and Hanunuo since our indigenous brothers did not agree with the conversion of their tribes’ land into militarized areas, a series of Oil price hikes and then a few rollbacks which just like the previously stated events all ended in favor of lobbying groups. If you will take a look at all of these issues, they have a common ground…they are all government concerns.

The Philippine Government has been claiming all along that it is democratic…that we are very lucky since it is one of the freest countries in the world…that our government was made by the people, for the people…that our government system is IDEAL. Come to think of it, ideal is synonymous to perfect and since grade four my often quoted motto is NOBODY is PERFECT. In this context, I could safely assume that the Philippine Government has been lying all along, that its claim about idealism is a lie.

I am 18 years old. I am a student. I value education. I try to be an asset to my country. But I can only do so much. While most of my peers value signature items and gossips about their latest varsity crushes, I prefer to sit down and ask questions about my country. If government officials have been claiming that ours is an ideal form and I find out that it has been lying all along…what should I do?

To be honest, I do not know. Perhaps the answer would be to demand good governance from each citizen. But the problem is that the youth, like me, lack influence in formulating public policies. Our exclusion is caused by both external and internal barriers. The external barriers have to do with a ‘culture of apprehension’; reflective of the generation gap that tends to breed a sense of mistrust and misunderstanding between adults and youth. It is also reflected in the government and other decision-making bodies that do not bother to involve young people in policy development. Instead, young people are generally treated as the "next generation" and "leaders of tomorrow." The internal barriers relate specifically to youth, who often fail to see themselves as actors in decision-making processes. This is partly the result of never being taught that they have a role to play in making policy decisions, and partly a result of youth organizations lacking the necessary skills and strategic thinking to make inroads into policy circles. This brings me to the query Does it have something to do with budget cutting on educational funds every time there is a national emergency? Why does it have to be the educational funds?

I remember when Nelson Mandela delivered his speech in the African Youth Convention. He firmly stated that a time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices - submit or fight. And as of this moment I believe that there is nothing left for the youths of today to do but to fight and demand for good governance. It is our right and it is our responsibility.

Involving us young people in policy-making is important. It provides opportunities to build skills and learn from experiences that will serve us well throughout our lives. It will help us combat cynicism about politics and politicians, It will give us a first-hand understanding on how decision-making processes function. It will strengthen the civil society - will demonstrate the value of the public sector and of public service. At the same time, it will give us the chance to participate in the development of communities – in social, economic, cultural, and political terms. Lastly, it will help us disprove the multitude of negative stereotypes about youth that continue to exist.

Asking questions does not mean one is practicing treason. Demanding for an answer will not make one commit sedition. I call these two involvement. Youths are not ‘next generation’ scenarios, we are happening today, this very minute and we are assets longing to be tapped by our country. We should not be afraid of growing slowly, we must be afraid only of standing still…Of doing nothing for the country that has been our shelter, our protection, our home.
Good governance is not a gift. Youths like us have the right to Demand for it...Work for it…and Assume Responsibility for it. Who so neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future!

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