Youth sector decries absence of youth agenda in electoral debate

“The fiasco we have seen transpired in national television is the reason why more and more members of the youth are becoming disillusioned with Philippine politics,” said one youth leader concerning the three-hour long COMELEC-organized debate which aired Sunday on TV5.

SPARK – Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan National Coordinator Arvin Buenaagua expressed disappointment over the outcome of the second national debate consisting of candidates vying for the position of President, as the event set the stage for mere “slander, mudslinging and name-calling.”

Buenaagua denounced how key issues concerning the youth, specifically education and the lack of regular jobs for newly-graduates, were left out in the debate. “Not even one candidate cared to bring up what they would do for the one million new graduates who are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed,” he said. SPARK expressed concern over the decreasing opportunities for regular jobs, as at least 75% of the work force in the Philippines remains contractual or casual workers.

“With the current policy of contractualization, made possible by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Order 18-A, the prospects for social mobility to be experienced by the youth become less and less,” Buenaagua said.

Youth organizations also expressed dismay with the presidentiables’ lack of a clear educational platforms or policy direction. “Year after year we experience tuition fee-related suicides from students of public universities, and with the current implementation of the K to 12 program, education is becoming increasingly expensive, especially for marginalized sectors,” said Joanne Lim of UP Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (UP KAISA).

“Adding to that, the past administration has proven that it is incompetent in providing assistance to those students who rely on scholarships in order to pursue their studies.” Lim cited the report by the Commission on Audit (COA) that P1 Billion worth of funds allotted for scholarships remained unreleased by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), citing several inefficient and dubious measures employed by the office.

Both student leaders decried the “rude and undignified” behavior of all candidates, as no presidentiable stood above the rest in how they related with each other and addressed issues.

“Only last week there was outrage over the alleged ‘impoliteness’ of a UP Los Banos student who asked one of the candidates a legitimate and serious question,” Lim recalled. “And yet, today we see how these bastions of courtesy scramble for attention and dominance at the expense of substance.”

Buenaagua found it disturbing that candidates could get away with glorifying extrajudicial killings and unrestrained outbursts in national television. “We must hold candidates to a higher standard. If society looks to the youth as its hope, it must look to its leaders and find inspiration, not fear or disgust,” he concluded.#