The young and the restless
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2019 - 12:00am

The world is spellbound by the Hong Kong riots. Hong Kong was the Success Story, the Asian Tiger, the Miracle Economy. Today, its a city at a standstill with a crisis threatening to destroy its appeal as the center of Asia’s financial markets.

It started out as peaceful protest this June against an unpopular extradition bill that was inconsistent with the One China, Two Systems policy. Projected to the world were images of Hong Kongers’ amazing grace. But among protesters, acceptance of escalated action has increased. Whereas at the start, 69 percent felt the use of radical tactics was understandable “when government fails to listen”, that percentage has now ballooned to 96 percent. Blame this on the subway violence targeting protesters at Yuen Long MTR station last July 22. 

It has not reached a flashpoint where the people who remain at home begrudge the protesters’ actions. If half of them believed in June that radical action would upset the public, that figure has decreased to a third this August. They have not targetted the businesses, the stores, the private properties. As far as public structures go, there was the infamous sacking of the iconic Hong Kong Legislative Council building. This week, it was the International Airport, affecting the front lines and sending out new images to the world. 

But that situation may fast deteriorate. Right now rioters may look like a multitude but the silent majority still vastly outnumbers them. It’s nothing less than a ticking time bomb. What started as extradition hysteria has transmogrified into a laundry list of slights calling out the government. But they have not forgotten what they are ultimately fighting for. One China, Two Systems is not working for as long as people do not have a voice. At bottom, this is a pro democracy movement. A siren call for the “high degree of autonomy” promised at the 1997 handover. 

Field studies reveal the not surprising demographic that 74 percent of protesters have received tertiary education and that 58 percent of them are of the age 29 and below.

Youth is not wasted on the young. The tonsured Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa may have put on the wrong hat when he called out progressive groups for the young people they attract in universities, and the youth for daring to be attracted. He compounded this by calling for militarizing and increasing police presence in schools. The Senator was clearly thinking like a lawman. According to him, he was thinking like a father.

Government resources being used to fund enemies of the state? Not so, Mr. Senator. It is not the duty of universities to produce graduates who would blindly ingest a de la Rosa curriculum. Society is benefitted if the youth engage in the pursuit of truth. It is the first duty of universities to make this commitment to the search for truth and to test the same in the crucible of opposing ideas. If Senator de la Rosa and his company really stand for truth, their first duty is to welcome those who disagree with them.

Hitting the fan. The SOGIE – Sexual orientation gender identity and expression – equality bill is back. Thank you Chayra Ganal, a.k.a. the Janitress, and her miseducation on this issue of nagging public importance. Its all about dignity of persons and respect for human rights. These are the terms of the Constitution, itself, and of Congress in laws like the Magna Carta of Women. For the LGBTQ+ community, the equality due will not come easy. Hence the resort to the Congress for a measure of this protection backed by legislation. 

Inevitably, in the legislative process, convictions will surface and fears shall have to be overcome. We are hearing the different positions now from the Senators and Congressmen, for their different constituencies.  There are a lot of layers to this. In the aftermath of toiletgate, we should avoid making it a one dimensional issue. Public access to toilet facilities should not be the battle ground where it starts and ends. Discrimination comes in many shapes and sizes, none of which should be justified in any context.

But we are all learning more. Even the Senate President is asking questions. The happy consequence is that the firestorm of controversy is serving an educational purpose

The Rock Star. We waited for him for over three years. The globally respected Dr. William Dar is back at the Department of Agriculture. He has the training and bearing of an Agricultural Jedi Knight who will do what needs to be done. He is not just an expert, he is a master. I worked with him for four years while he was presiding officer of my Board of Regents at the Universidad de Manila, one of the several public service venues where he selflessly shared his experience to steer the institution through academic and administrative governance challenges. Thank you for the patience, Mr. Secretary.

With the economic downturn/slowdown/slump, explainers point to exports and imports decline and decrease in private investments. Agriculture contraction will enter the conversation. The immediate, pivotal reasons are acknowledged. The liberalization of rice imports, bad weather a.k.a. climate change, the ageing farmer population. Sec. Dar is hitting the ground running. The program to modernize and industrialize the sector is on track with Rice Tarriffication in place. He bids us acknowledge the need for crop diversification. Rice, corn and coconut are no longer enough. The demand for cash crops abroad is spiraling and we should take advantage. 

His mission is clear. In his own words, it is “to reinvent and reorient Philippine agriculture and guide or direct it towards the path of modernization and industrialization, with the aim of making it more productive, competitive, sustainable, resilient and inclusive. And let us not forget the aim of increasing the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk.”

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