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I. Youth in Nation-Building, The National Youth Commission and the National Youth Parliament
On the 25th of July 1994, the Congress of the Philippines created one of the most important laws in the land that made the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s provision on the state’s recognition of the vital role of the youth in nation-building, This act culminated into the creation of the definition of the Filipino Youth and the institutions where they could be empowered and be involved with the state affairs namely, the National Youth Commission and the National Youth Parliament.
According to the Official Website of the National Youth Commission (NYC) (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/about-national-youth-commission/vision-mission), the commission was established by the Section 5 of the Republic Act 8044, or the Youth in Nation-Building Act, which was enacted in 1995. This law provided for the creation of a National Comprehensive and Coordinated Program on Youth Development. The NYC operationalized this provision through the creation of a Medium-Term Youth Development Plans from 1999-2004 (Estrada/ Macapagal-Arroyo Administration), 2005-2010 (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/images/downloads/2005-2010-MTYDP-draft-REVISED-01122005.pdf Macapagal-Arroyo Administration) and currently to the much awaited and not yet finalized Philippine Youth Development Plan 2011- 2016 (Aquino III Administration) of which all youth programs and projects implemented by all government agencies are strategically evaluated and monitored for their specific role in involving and enabling the youth as able partners towards national development and it also served as the secretariat of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Kabataan (National Federation of Youth Councils) or now commonly known as the Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation (SKNF)
While Section 13 of the Republic Act 8044 (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/about-national-youth-commission/republic-act-8044) created the Parliament of Youth Leaders or now commonly known as the National Youth Parliament (NYP) in November 1996 to recommend policies and resolutions to the Commission, that in turn the Commission would forward the actual resolutions to the respective agencies called upon by the Parliament. Here is the copy of the original text that constituted the NYP:
SEC. 13. Parliament of Youth Leaders. – There is hereby constituted the “Youth Parliament”. The Youth Parliament shall be initially convened not later than six (6) months from the full constitution of the Commission, and shall meet at the call of the National Commission, and thereafter be convened every two (2) years. The Youth Parliament shall have a regular session from two (2) to three (3) days every time it is convened, but may form task forces which may meet during the period between the convening thereof.
Delegates to the Youth Parliament shall be chosen by the Commission taking into consideration equal and geographical representation among men and women. All delegates shall be of good moral character, able to read and write, has not been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude, and shall not be more than thirty (30) years of age on the day of election to the position by virtue of which he qualifies as a delegate and on the day the Parliament is convened. The delegates shall elect the President of the Youth Parliament who shall preside during the session of the Parliament.
The Youth Parliament at the end of each regular session shall present its proceedings, declarations and resolutions to the Commission.
The Republic Act 8044, served as the result of the clamor of the Filipino Youth during the time of the democratic and reform-minded Aquino Administration in the creation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution to have a hand in shaping the their future and the future of this nation by having their own commission under the Office of the President of the Republic and by having their officially-mandated body where their representatives can ratify and directly recommend the laws and policies that would serve in the service of the Filipino Youth through the National Youth Parliament.
II. The Power Play
However, despite being created as an institution meant for genuine reforms, the commission had been a battleground for power struggle, battles and even corruption as it is an agency attached to the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. One must note, to become a part of the Commission, one must be a part of the ruling coalition of the administration. There had not been a case that an individual was appointed to the commission being reluctant or critical to the incumbent administration.
One case that a commissioner tried to create dissent inside the commission was former NYC Commissioner-at-Large Asst. Secretary Michael Francis Acebedo Lopez where in his expose (http://pagodkanaba.blogspot.com/2008/06/confessions-of-comm-michael-mike.html#axzz1so7UNgzX ) about the irregularities and corruption within the NYC, which was refuted by his fellow NYC commissioners in an official statement of the NYC (http://pagodkanaba.blogspot.com/2008/07/official-statement-of-national youth.html#axzz1so7UNgzX)
Another scandal that rocked the commission was another alleged corruption issue (http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=623093&publicationSubCategoryId=68) over former SKNF President and Ex-Officio NYC Commissioner Jane Cesoria Cajes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Censoria_Cajes), daughter of incumbent Mayor of Trinidad, Bohol Roberto Cajes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Cajes), a proud Lakas-CMD party member (the political party of the Former President Macapagal-Arroyo) and a social media campaign page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Investigate-SK-President-Jane-Cajes/112946678762580) was launched to have her investigated.
Even the National Youth Parliament had not been spared by politics and dominating collusions from the members of the alumni who had political affiliations and at times the NYC, through the National Organizing Committee dictate the turnout of the majority of the members of the parliament that caused the election of unlikely NYP presidential candidates to win in the parliamentary elections as a majority bloc was constituted long before the parliament session was convened. If one would review the resolutions of the previous parliaments, the agenda of the majority faction survive and be used as a political leverage in the next electoral campaign by political parties.
This fact may be proven during the time of 6th NYP President & 8th NYP National Organizing Committee Head, former Commissioner Steve Arquiza, a member of Macacapagal-Arroyo’s National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez’ Youth for First World Philippines (YFFWP). During his time, there were a lot of members of the parliament who were members of the YFFWP, and the group almost elected their own president, which lost via one vote against Jericho Bustamante of Zamboanga.
As one would hope that a change of presidential administration from the Macapagal-Arroyo Administration to the reform-minded Aquino III administration changed the nature of the NYC to a more responsive and more relevant institution. This scenario indeed changed the composition of the members of the top brass of the NYC. It placed several former student and youth leaders and even a former staff of the Commission into its en-banc. Some of the members of the commission are the following:
Commissioner-at-Large Percival Cerdana (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/about-national-youth-commission/national-youth-commission-officials/atty-percival-cendana) is a former president of the UP Student Council, founding president of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), a former aide to former Rep. Risa Hontiveros (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risa_Hontiveros-Baraquel), president of the national political party Akbayan, an alumnus of the LGBT group UP Babaylan and founder of its alumni group, BABAYLANES.
Commissioner-at-Large Gregorio Ramon Tingson (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/about-national-youth-commission/national-youth-commission-officials/commissioner-gio-tingson) was the former president of the Ateneo De Manila Student Council and current president of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (http://scapnational.wordpress.com/contact/), a conglomeration of student councils and student political parties in the country.
Commissioner for Luzon Georgina Nava (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/about-national-youth-commission/national-youth-commission-officials/georgina-nava) was said to be a notable and well-loved former staff of the NYC and Senator Francis Pangilinan- the Liberal Party 2010 Senate Slate Campaign Manager (http://www.kiko.ph/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/378-kiko-pangilinan-formally-named-campaign-manager-of-lps-senate-slate) and was the former Director of Pangilinan’s Ten Outstanding Youth Organization (www.tayoawards.net, TAYO) Foundation, an NGO that collaborated with the NYC and private entities in the conduct of the search for outstanding organizations in the country.
As one would hope change, these people who represent the youth had been active in the clamor for change then in government as they have been active in the socio-civic campaigns like the Youth Vote Philippines. Youth Vote Philippines is a collaboration of several organizations like Akbayan Youth, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, TAYO, the National Youth Parliament and the International Center for Innovation Transformation and Excellence in Governance (http://incitegov.org/about-us/about-incitegov/, INCITEGov), an institution formed by some of the members of the HYATT 10, secretaries who resigned in protest against the Macapagal-Arroyo Administration. The appointments of these people mentioned above would say much on how these people clamoured for change then and now given power to change and represent the youth to development.
IV. Reformism in the Era of Change
In a span of less than two years, the Filipino youth had seen changes in the Commission on its stances on issues. Being vocal on youth and students issues, like the Students Rights and Welfare campaign, Reproductive Health Campaign, Sangguniang Kabataan Reform, the STC Bikini Girls issue in Cebu and many more. The NYC attempted to become inclusive in all of its programs by using social media as a means of communication and information dissemination of its flagship exchange programs, like the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENYSYS) Program, a two-week exchange program and the Ship for Southeast Asia Program (SSYEAP).
As reported by GMA 7 Online News (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/254543/cbb/parliamentarians-chosen-for-the-9th-national-youth-parliament ), together with the National Youth Parliament Alumni Association (NYPAA), the National Organizing Committee of the 9th National Youth Parliament, headed by Commissioner Gregorio Ramon Tingson created a selection panel that crafted and screened the applicants objectively with quantitative and qualitative criteria of selection, based on leadership, community involvement, an act never before publicized by the previous leaderships of the Commission.
But as this picture shows a pro-active NYC favourable to the Filipino youth, one must be careful to generalize, for there are peculiarities in the era of change.
V. Analysis to the Recent NYC Campaign Initiatives
In terms of the initiatives, yes, one may say that the initiatives launched were relevant and responsive to the needs of the youth, however, observation shows that the campaigns had been limited to the program of actions similar to the youth arm of the national political party and partylist- Akbayan Youth (http://www.akbayanyouth.org/) and its affiliates and campaign coalitions like the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, Coalition for Students Rights and Welfare (www.facebook.com/STRAWcoalition), SK Reform Coalition (http://skreformcoalition.wordpress.com), Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (http://maspnational.wordpress.com), First Time Voters (FTV) Network/Project (http://scapnational.wordpress.com/what-is-ftv/) and others.
Let us be reminded that each campaign may not only constitute a resolution from the commission but actual events funded by the NYC itself and panelists for their for a and symposia also include leaders of the said parties mentioned, considering there are a lot more advocates and leaders in the field of student leadership and youth advocacy in the country than the combined conglomeration of all affiliated members of these networks. This could be attributed to the proximity of the relations between these groups to two of the commissioners, namely Percival Cerdana and Gregorio Ramon Tingson, belonging to the same partylist (http://www.comelec.gov.ph/2010%20National_Local/certlist_partylist_p2.html, 2010 COMELEC List of Registered/Accredited Partylists, No. 58) & national political party (http://www.comelec.gov.ph/2010%20National_Local/political_parties_page4.html, 2010 COMELEC List of Registered/Accredited Political Parties,) -Akbayan
VI. Deconstructing the 9th National Youth Parliament
In the 9th National Youth Parliament results online posting, one must take note that there had been 3 versions of the press release. The first version released by GMA 7 News Online at April 11, 2012 at exactly 12:47pm (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/254546/news/nation/160-youth-leaders-picked-to-join-9th-national-youth-parliament) only contained criteria of selection, the composition of the members of the parliament (regional & sectoral and national government agency nomination listing), the role of the NYP, the year it was established and the theme of the parliament.
The second version (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/254543/cbb/parliamentarians-chosen-for-the-9th-national-youth-parliament ) was released by the same news network online on April 11, 2012 at 1:01pm, 14 minutes after the earlier press release. This now contains a brief history, the current process of the selection of the members of the parliament done by the NYPAA and the National Organizing Committee of the NYC, headed by Commissioner Tingson, composition of the parliament and the list of names of the qualified applicants. However, the stated composition did not comply with the actual number of qualified applicants on the list below the press release. As the composition stated that there would be 5 representatives per each region- a total of 85 regional representatives the list only provided 80 regional accepted applicants. In the sectoral listing, 55 representative slots would be allotted but the list provided 60 sectoral accepted applicants and in the national government agencies nomination slot that provided 20 representatives only 10 people were mentioned in the list, creating a disparity of minus 10 representatives between the originally intended 160 representatives, a loss of 5 representatives to the regional representation in the parliament, an added 5 representatives to the sectoral list and a deduction of 10 representatives to the national government agencies nomination list.
Original Count stated by GMA 7 Press Release 1 & 2:
85 regional + 55 sectoral + 20 NGA nominated= 160 9th NYP representatives
Actual Count in the GMA 7 News Online list in Press Release 2:
80 regional + 60 sectoral + 10 NGA nominated= 150 9th NYP representatives
The last version was released at the official website of the National Youth Commission (http://www.nyc.gov.ph/whats-new-at-national-youth-commission/nyc-updates/81-youth/642-nyp9-participants-announced) on April 11, 2012 at 8:50pm, 7 hours and 49 minutes after the GMA 7 News Online release. This now contained several differences in content compared to the earlier press releases. The press release rephrased the context of the earlier releases on the selection process-removing the name of the NYPAA but instead emphasized that the selection panel was a multi-sectoral panel composed of NYC representatives, former NYP delegates and other NYP delegates and other partner government agencies. It also emphasized the role of the former NYP batches, quoted the Republic Act 8044 provision on the creation of the NYP but the highlight of this release is that it stated that the 9th NYP would have 170 delegates that would be divided into 5 committees. Now compared to the earlier list, 20 more youth delegates had been added in a span of almost 8 hours.
Original Count stated by GMA 7 Press Release 1 & 2:
85 regional + 55 sectoral + 20 NGA nominated= 160 9th NYP representatives
Actual Count in the GMA 7 News Online list in Press Release 2:
80 regional + 60 sectoral + 10 NGA nominated= 150 9th NYP representatives
National Youth Commission 9th NYP Press Release:
80 regional + 80 sectoral +10 NGA nominated= 170 9th NYP representatives
To answer these mysteries, first, one must go back to what the ‘Power Play’part of this paper stated:
Even the National Youth Parliament had not been spared by politics and dominating collusions from the members of the alumni who had political affiliations and at times the NYC, through the National Organizing Committee dictate the turnout of the majority of the members of the parliament that caused the election of unlikely NYP presidential candidates to win in the parliamentary elections as a majority bloc was constituted long before the parliament session was convened. If one would review the resolutions of the previous parliaments, the agenda of the majority faction survive and be used as a political leverage in the next electoral campaign by political parties
It could not be denied nor refuted that the National Organizing Committee (NOC) was politicized from the start. According to the GMA 7 News Online 2nd article on the 9th NYP, it was Commissioner Gregorio Ramon Tingson who headed the NOC and together with the members of the NYPAA composed and served in the selection process and reiterated by the NYC’s 9th NYP results press-release that NYC representatives, former NYP delegates and other NYP delegates and other partner government agencies served as panelists to the selection panel.
This composition may had provided multi-perspective clashes on the selection to legitimize and create a balance of forces in the selection process, however- leaving the final shots to the NOC, headed by an Akbayan.
It was said that the leadership of the NYPAA initially requested a phone interview to further screen the applicants which Commissioner Tingson reportedly said no because of the lack of budget. There are several factors why did the NYPAA did not pursue the said criteria. One reason could be the links of the 7th NYP President Niel Nino Lim, (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Niel_Ni%C3%B1o_Lim) with Youth Vote Philippines (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Youth_Vote_Philippines) which was said earlier to be in alliance with Akbayan Youth, SCAP, FTV & TAYO. Niel Nino Lim (http://incitegov.org/about-us/staff/niel-lim/) was also said to be an employee of InciteGov (http://incitegov.org/about-us/about-incitegov/) the NGO founded by the HYATT 10, which some of them were able to return to their original departmental positions in government, like Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles &Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.
Without the interview, this may had given an undue advantage to some of the applicants belonging to this group because no one would undergo oral verification. This left the selection under the panelists mercy or more so with the NOC. One source said that many of the applicants came from Akbayan, from the simple members of the youth arm or their networks to the prominent youth and student leaders linked directly or indirectly with this said group. As with the theory of actual domination would be difficult to prove unless the NOC would release the actual application forms to be under scrutiny of an independent body or even the public, the only thing could be proven were certain prominent youth and student leaders are currently officially linked to this political group. Take for example qualified applicants, Nikki Jane Isla and Gabriel Paolo “Heart” Dino.
Nikki Jane Isla was the former president of the Isabela State University Student Council and current VP for Luzon of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, (http://scapnational.wordpress.com/contact/), where she works closely and hand-in-hand with Commissioner Tingson in the executive committee (http://scapnational.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/stop-the-tyranny-in-our-schools/) & Akbayan Youth (http://akbayanyouth.wordpress.com/about-akbayan-youth/), while some of her fellow members of the Akbayan Youth Executive Committee were elected and appointed at the Youth and Student Sectoral Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (www.napc.gov.ph) , the anti-poverty think-tank of the government which permits members of the Civil Society to participate in policy reform for poverty reduction which includes the next person in question, Heart Dino.
Gabriel Paolo “Heart” Dino (http://www.facebook.com/HeartforChair/info) a young transgender, is the current UP Student Council President, was a former officer of Cerdana’s UP Babaylan, the Gender Committee Head of SCAP (currently headed by Commissioner Tingson) from November 2011 up to the present and a representative of Cerdana’s BABAYLANES and council member the National Anti-Poverty Commission Youth and Student Sectoral Council (NAPC-YSSC). It must also be taken into consideration that she is not the only member of the NAPC-YSSC coming from the Akbayan and affiliates network. The list provided by the official website of the National Anti-Poverty Commission for the NAPC-YSSC clearly shows her allies from SCAP and Akbayan Youth Executive Committee were also a part of the said Commission’s Sectoral Council (http://www.napc.gov.ph/SR%20and%20CM/PDF/srcm_ys.pdf) . It must be noted that the NAPC’s Lead Convenor (http://www.napc.gov.ph/structure.asp) is Joel Rocamora (http://www.napc.gov.ph/secretariat.asp), a former head of Akbayan.
Proving the situation at hand, we could draw several assumptions:
1) Akbayan Youth, like its main party Akbayan had a systemic and strategic planning in terms of achieving vital positions in government like Rocamora in NAPC, Cerdana andTingson in NYC and Roland Llamas (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Ronald_Llamas) Akbayan Founding President, the Political Affairs Adviser of the President of the Philippines, that probability could not be removed in the upcoming NYP, similar to what has happened to the NAPC-YSSC. There were also reports from a non-partisan watchdog in the University of the Philippines that there is an upsurge in the victories of student political parties affiliated with Akbayan that could be an example of a pro-active stance to be politically dominant even in politics in one educational institution, coincidentally – the Country’s National University . (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=361232530575890&set=a.182009695164842.42461.100000674385145&type=1).
2) The dual status of Akbayan as a national political party and a partylist in the COMELEC’s roster created a question of the real nature of the group in terms of representation of the “marginalized sector” when in fact its registry last 2010 elections were both a national political party in coalition with another national political party, the Liberal Party and its partylist nature. Since in power, it could be considered that the party did not to be representative of a marginalized sector which was the primary bias of the NAPC-YSSC and NYP.
3) There is a clear conflict of interest in the selection of some members of the NYP due to the close political and organizational relations between the NOC Head, Commissioner Tingson, Nikki Jane Isla and Gabriel Paolo “Heart” Dino. The plot thickens if there are more publicly unidentified qualified applicants, who belong to their political affiliations and alliances.
VI. Enigma Revealed: Nava’s hand in the 9th NYP Results
To explain the 3 press releases released by that day regarding the 9th NYP Results, 2 of which, posted at the GMA 7 News Online website were very inaccurate and the NYC results, one must go deep into the issue of the 2 GMA 7 News Online Releases. Some sources tell that it was under the orders of Commissioner Georgina Nava, that the results of the 9th NYP were released, without undergoing the process of the Commission’s En-Banc meeting (the general assembly of all the Commissioners), thus committing outright insubordination. It was said that she denied the allegations however, there were some evidence linking her to the said releases.
Why would she be in connivance with the NOC? The answer was their cooperation then during the time of Youth Vote Philippines, where TAYO, SCAP, FTV and Akbayan Youth were working together then in 2008.
What would Nava, Tingson and Cerdana get if they could secure this next 9th NYP to be under their control? Actually there are a lot to get. To get this batch completes once more the groups that launched YouthVote Philippines then. The Akbayan Youth or affiliated groups presidency will enhance the cohesive control over the discussion of the parliament. A prominent personality from their camp may become the next NYP president. This scenario gave Gabriel Paolo Heart Dino to be pushed as their caucus standard bearer, due to her recent exposures on national television as the first young transgender to win the Presidency of the UP Student Council. A better media stunt could be derived if she could win the Presidency of the Parliament. This would be beneficial as these members of the parliament have the mandate to advocate for resolutions biased to the candidates these groups want to support, primarily Liberal Party Senatoriables, like Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros. Even if they will not directly campaign Risa Hontiveros but as long as prominent youth figures from Akbayan Youth will be the face of YouthVote, it is as good as indirect campaigning.
Moreover, the actions of Georgina Nava were also said to be symptoms of her ambition to become the next Chair of the Commission as she proved to have control over some of the decisions of the NYC’s programs such as the supposed “decrease” of funds on the NYP and reallocated it to the SSYEAP and other campaign-based programs that were linked to the Akbayan Bloc of Tingson and Cerdana, therefore bypassing even more the Commission’s En banc, the highest policy- making body of the NYC. It was also said that because of this, the NOC of the NYP preferred to get facilitators from Naga, instead of using the pool of alumni of the NYP.
Ironically, it was also rumoured that UNICEF gave a handful of amount for the NOC to implement the NYP properly. So the question remains, if this were true, what happened to the money involved given by UNICEF? Moreover, the additional 20 qualified applicants in the last release of the NYC remained to be a mystery on who deliberately added the names of these applicants and the identities of these individuals remain unknown. They could be additional forces to secure the Akbayan Youth and affiliates victory in the NYP, who knows?
In addition, it was said that the recent extension of the SSYEAP application was also said to be her doing for some favoured individuals to apply for the program. With that it created a very tight schedule for the staff of the NYC to screen the applications. With these doings, could the staff love such imposing superior and former co-worker in the rank and file in the workplace? It was said that she had a bad record in the Civil Service Commission, from an aide to a former island commissioner; she became the chief- of-staff of a former NYC Chairperson then she went AWOL in the NYC when an employment with Senator Pangilinan became feasible. To the ones who are curious of this report, one could get in touch with the Civil Service Commission to verify these reports.
One can fully say after carefully scrutinizing this paper that corruption still prevails in the supposed groups and individuals who seemingly carry the citizen’s agenda. The Aquino III administration should be careful of those who it support. Political posts should not be treated as spoils of war given to allies for a job well done. Positions must be given to the deserving and not to the ones desiring the position for those who seek to serve first than to seek the position is the great leader. Once upon a time, people saw that in the Aquino III Administration, sadly- the heroes of yesterday are now the tyrants of today, hiding in facades and mere appearances. People, especially the youth should scrutinize carefully and be observant of the events and activities in their own environment.
According to one of the researchers of the World Bank, (http://www.iadb.org/regions/re2/consultative_group/groups/transparency_workshop6.htm ) there are many definitions of corruption that have been proposed, yet none fully satisfactory and comprehensive. Although it may be difficult to define corruption precisely, it is generally not hard to recognize. The World Bank settled on a straightforward definition—the abuse of public office for private gain. This definition is not original, but it was chosen because it is concise and broad enough to include most forms of corruption that the Bank encounters, as well as being widely used in the literature.
Public office is abused for private gain when an official accepts, solicits, or extorts a bribe. It is also abused when private agents actively offer bribes to circumvent public policies and processes for competitive advantage and profit. Public office can also be abused for personal benefit even if bribery does not occur, through patronage and nepotism, the theft of state assets, or the diversion of state revenues. Like most other definitions, it places the public sector at the center of the phenomenon.
On this scenario, it seems that bribery is not clearly seen but the mere political leverages done by these individuals provide social capital incentives to their individual and political parties’ interest, therefore there is a private gain in these activities. Let this be a warning in dealing with these individuals and the institution they represent for the time of genuine youth participation in governance has yet to come unless all the Filipino Youth will stop being careless and started to care more for their future.