Following backlash from his earlier proposal, Ronald Cardema of the National Youth Commission backtracked and said that only those who are members of the New People’s Army should be stripped of their scholarships.
Cardema previously asked President Rodrigo Duterte that “all anti-government” scholars should be removed from state-provided programs. It later earned widespread criticisms and eventually got rejected by the Palace.
The former chair of right-wing Duterte Youth told CNN Philippines’ “News Night” that he’s referring to students who have joined the rebellion.
“Hindi ko naman sinabing lahat ng government scholars, lahat ng nagpo-protesta ay tanggalan po ng government scholarship,” he said.
“Yun lang pong mga government scholars na already joining the rebellion. ‘Yung mga anti-government na talagang sumasanib na sa New People’s Army,’” Cardema added.
Duterte later also specified that only youth activists who have joined and provide support to members of the NPA are considered enemies of the state.
“If you go and say, ‘let us go out, join the NPAs, support the NPAs, give food to the NPAs, money to the NPAs,’ then you espouse the destruction of the duly constituted government,” he said during the signing of bills in Malacañang.
He emphasized that there’s no harm done when students express dissent.
“Wala naman kung dissent lang. If you disagree with my move, you disagree or you do not find consonance in our decision, I need more overt acts,” he said.
This was different from his opinion when students from the University of the Philippines staged a walkout rally to participate in the National Day of Walkout against Tyranny and Dictatorship in February 2018.
Back then, he threatened to kick out students who join rallies and replace them with children from the Lumad communities and other minority groups in Mindanao.
Cardema felt victorious on his latest Facebook post following Duterte’s statement.
After ka banatan today ng 3 Senators, 2 Secretaries, 1 Vice-President, biglang sesegunda sayo ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas. PRICELESS. Salamat po sa pag-intindi ng punto ko, mahal na Pangulo. 🙂
Right to dissent
The right of Filipinos to assemble and protest is provided by Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, wherein:
“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Similarly, the Public Assembly Act of 1985 states that Filipinos, including students, have the right to organize any form of public assemblies “to petition the government for redress of grievances.”
In Section 4, it states that any person who affiliates himself with the Communist Party of the Philippines “shall be punished by the penalty of arresto mayor and shall be disqualified permanently from holding any public office, appointive and elective, and from exercising the right to vote.”
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the students’ engagement in illegal activities is a separate matter of concern from their education.
“But being active in raising issues, questions and so on and so forth, we might as well ask a great number of national leaders to refund the government from the time when they were scholars,” she pointed out.
Other public officials who denounced Cardema’s suggestion include Vice President Leni Robredo, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Senator Francis Escudero.