THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - February 22, 2019 - 12:00am

In the eyes of this particular government official, students are prohibited from engaging in any form of government criticism. In so doing, he is asking President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order withdrawing the scholarships of those engaged in activism. He even asked fellow students to report to the government those engaged in the same. These are statements by the chairman of the National Youth Commission (NYC), Ronald Cardema.

Senators immediately criticized his lack of knowledge of the law, calling his statements unconstitutional, and asking him to resign. DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that withdrawing scholarships just because they criticize government would be curtailing freedom of speech. Several students groups denounced Cardema, calling on him to step down. Duterte himself has said that criticism of the government was not enough to merit withdrawing scholarships. Only if they actively “destroy the government” then that is another story. It seems everyone knows the Constitution, the law, except Cardema. Nobody seems to be defending him as well

This is the problem with just appointing people to different agencies in the government, without a basic knowledge of the law, or the Constitution. Ridiculous statements such as these are blurted out, without really thinking about them. Just like the ridiculous statements from another official, who is no longer part of the government.

From what I know, Cardema led the Duterte Youth Movement, which was enough to gain him a position in government, perhaps as a form of gratitude from the president. So this is probably his way of earning points with the president, by persecuting his known enemies, even students.

Cardema should remember that these scholars are funded by the government, the people’s money, and not from the personal account of the president, or his Cabinet. Calls for him to step down, or for him to be removed from office are rightly so, as it is obvious he is not into the advocacy of helping the youth, but to deify the president. Duterte knew better than to heed Cardema’s advice and instantly turn into a despot.

But in the aftermath of the firestorm of criticism Cardema received, he clarified that only the scholarships of those who join the NPA or CPP should be withdrawn, and not those participating in protest actions. Still, practically everyone called him out for his statements. It must be hard studying in State Universities and Colleges these days.

First, schools were asked by the PNP to list those teachers who are members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in an obvious attempt at profiling. Now, the chairman of the NYC wants scholarships of those involved with the NPA or CPP withdrawn. He is even asking fellow students to act as spies for the government. Scholars now have to contend with being spied on, on top of everything else? What’s next, the return of the ASSO (arrest, search and seizure order).

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