File photo shows the youth in a rally inside the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
Guevarra: NYC move restrains youth's freedom of speech, expression
Kristine Joy Patag ( - February 20, 2019 - 3:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — State universities and colleges should take pride in socially aware students and should not drop them from school, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, hitting the proposed move of National Youth Commission chair Gian Cardema.

“WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, such proposal, if adopted, would effectively restrain the youth’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression,” Guevarra told reporters in a text message.

Emphasis on statement was provided by Guevarra.

This is in reaction to Cardema’s request to President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order to strip students deemed to be “anti-government” off scholarships.

The youth group chair specifically identified students linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

FROM INTERAKSYON: ‘Duterte Youth’ member and National Youth Commission chair are taking aim at youth scholars

The 1987 Constitution champions every citizen’s freedom of speech and of expression, and to peacefully assemble and petition the government to redress of grieveances.

Cardema also serves as the head of so-called Duterte Youth Movement that claimed there were incidents of government scholars being caught as armed rebels.

Socially aware students must be lauded

But the Justice chief pointed out that state universities and colleges should take pride in students who are socially aware and delving into matters that involve the country.

“Our state universities and colleges, instead of taking it against militant students by dropping them from the roll, should be proud that they are producing young people who are socially aware and concerned not only about themselves but also about the nation,” he added.

Cardema failed to get support from the Palace as presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo stressed: “We are government of laws, not of speculations. If that’s only a suspicion, that’s not allowed.”

He, however, qualified that if evidence is shown that a student is involved in a group that aims to overthrow the government, “we have to do something about it.”

The Anti-Subversion Law, sought to punish those who affiliate themselves with the CPP or any subversive association, has long been repealed.

Rights groups have time and again called on “red-tagging” or the practice of publicly classifying individuals and organizations cirtical of the government as communist terrorists, state enemies and subversives, as it endangers lives.

RELATED: Inventory of ACT members similar to red-tagging, says CHR

The National Union of Students of the Philippines said that Cardema is acting like a “tyrant” and should step down from his position.

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