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‘Review Citizen Service Act framework,’ student leaders say

Student leaders demand for a discussion of the framework of the ‘Citizen Service Act,’ a bill which is proposed to amend or repeal the Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program Law by making the Reserve Officer Training Corps mandatory.

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Student leaders demand for a discussion of the framework of the ‘Citizen Service Act,’ a bill which is proposed to amend or repeal the Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Law by making the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory.

The Citizen Service Training Course (CSTC) consolidates all 32 House bills on mandatory ROTC which requires grades 11 and 12, and college students to undergo a combination of military and non-military training.

During the Committee on Higher and Technical Education’s hearing at the House of Representatives on Feb. 24, 2020, National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel stressed the need to discuss the framework of the proposed bill rather than its contents first.

“We wanted to know what service would be required from the students,” Manuel said.

Promoting nationalism and patriotism, as well as youth involvement in disasters, is a goal for the student leaders as well. However, Manuel believes that the provisions of the bill can be done under the NSTP Law of 2001.

“[B]efore we can proceed to amending or introducing new bills, we have to justify why it has to be changed in the first place,” Manuel said.

“Some of us here are undergoing NSTP, some have already finished, and we are looking for ways to be of service to our nation…[W]hat remains to be seen is how the state can systematically make use of the youth,” he added.

University of the Philippines (UP) Board of Regents member Isaac Punzalan believes that the bill imposes the removal of choice from the students.

Academic freedom, according to Punzalan, should not be only exercised in UP but in all universities.

“This kind of bill…[w]ould compromise academic freedom, because it really tries to take away the choice, the free choice of the students,” Punzalan said

He emphasized the need for the students’ liberty to choose on “what kind of way” they would give back and serve the people.

“We really stand that UP, SUCs, and universities should remain zones of peace and academic freedom,” Punzalan added.

Added burden to students

Student leaders believe that the mandatory ROTC will require time and effort from the “already overburdened” students.

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Mandatory ROTC, according to James Candila of De La Salle University, will affect students not only physically and mentally, but also financially.

Expenses like uniforms, gears, and other additional contributions will be “a heavy burden” to families living on a tight budget. “[I]t is something that we should consider given the fact that it will still be an additional cost to our parents,” Candila said.

Students also questioned the lack of study in the effectivity of the NSTP Program.

“When we have these certain questions at hand, then, shouldn’t we still focus on these concerns rather than bring up another procedure that we aren’t even sure if it works,” Jaeanne Maranon of Ateneo de Manila University said.

The proposed CSTC bill according to her, has no material evidence to prove that it will “better” the current conditions of the Philippine youth.

Personal testimonies of Senior High School (SHS) students said that the frameworks of the previous programs offered to them do not generate any valuable learnings.

“[T]hey would share to us that they would just stand in line, and they would just march and do horseplay,” she said.

Maranon stands firm on continuously “critiquing and focusing” on how to improve the existing NSTP program instead of introducing another bill.

On passing the bill

Kabataan party-list representative Sarah Elego stressed the need for the House of Representatives to proceed with caution in terms of passing the proposed CSTC bill.

The ROTC, according to an exclusive interview with Elago, has had a long history of abuse, corruption, and discrimination. “We should not allow any such abuses to continue inside our school gates.”

Elago emphasized the need for a grievance mechanism that would respond to cases of abuses. She admittedly found reports of victim blaming on the part of the students alarming.

“[Y]ou know the victim blaming is very rampant… [h]indi dapat ganun, Kung may report ng abuso na dapat tugunan, dapat ma-ensure na may mananagot,” she said.

Elago believes that the ROTC program is rigged with “misogyny, sexism, machismo, and chauvinism.” These issues, according to her, must be properly addressed and perpetrators should be held accountable. Jayziel Khim Budino

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CHR, Church opposes Duterte’s call to revive death penalty

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

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Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

“We believe in the need for a comprehensive approach in addressing drug sale and use, as well as other crimes anchored on restorative justice,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement. 

While the commission agrees to punish crimes, de Guia stressed that it should not result in further violations of human rights. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Commission on Prison Pastoral Care chairman and Legazpi bishop Joel Baylon and Balanga bishop Ruperto Santos cited that studies proved that capital punishment does not deter crimes. 

“The country will also lose the honor of one of the nations which condemned death penalty if capital punishment is revived,” Sorsogon bishop Arturo Bastes said. 

According to CHR, Duterte’s vow to uphold human rights above all does not coincide with restoring death penalty through lethal injection. 

The Commission also cited that it would breach the international agreement to abolish capital punishment, which the country ratified in 2007. 

“[A]ny moves to reinstate capital punishment in the country conflicts with the tenets of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” de Guia said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday, July 27, said the revival of death penalty for drug-related offenses now has a better chance of being passed in the 18th Congress. Raheema Velasco

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‘Have we really achieved acceptance?’—gender lawyer

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination.

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Screengrab from #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality webinar

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination. 

“[J]ust last year, Metro Manila Pride recorded 70,000 attendees. For the most part we thought that it’s a sign of society’s increased support for the community…[b]ut have we really achieved acceptance?” Atty. Claire de Leon said yesterday, June 27. 

The Gretchen Diez incident last year, according to Atty. De Leon, “drastically” shifted the perception of the public toward the LGBTQI+ community and the ongoing fight for the SOGIE Equality bill. 

Misconceptions surfaced after the incident that was followed by a “massive” misinformation campaign against the bill. 

“[N]akakalungkot na marami ding nagbabangga ng mga karapatan natin sa karapatan ng ibang sector. Nakakalungkot na ang ibang tao iniisip nila na this bill would take away rights from heterosexuals or cisgender persons,” Atty. De Leon said. 

However, she stressed that protecting the rights of a marginalized sector does not take away the rights of another.

“[I]f you think that allowing a sector to exercise their rights would take away the rights of others, [then] we must rethink how we see rights [and] how we understand rights,” she said. 

Anti-discrimination ordinances in LGUs

The lack of SOGIE-based national laws pushed LGBTQI+ groups to fight for anti-discrimination ordinances (ADO) within the local government units. 

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro announced last year, June 29, the passage of the city’s ADO during the Metro Manila Pride March. 

Quezon City on the other hand passed on November 28, 2014 the Gender Fair Ordinance, which was authored by Councilor Mayen Juico and was signed by the then-mayor Herbert Bautista.

Despite having implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) and ordinances, Atty. De Leon said that the process is not entirely implemented and effective. 

“May council [at] may members of the council pero walang office…[N]a-highlight lang nito na hindi natatapos ang lobbying, hindi natatapos ang laban natin sa pagpasa ng ordinance,” De Leon said. 

“Kailangan nating ma-push na meron IRRs at also kailangan nating ma-make sure na nai-implement talaga ang mga ordinances na ‘to,” she added. 

De Leon said that laws and initiatives against anti-discrimination, whether from the national government, LGUs, or private sectors, are necessary to build a more inclusive community.

“Discrimination still occurs and as long as discrimination under the basis of SOGIE persists, we need a law that would give us protection…[p]rotection must be available and accessible to each of us regardless of our SOGIE,” she said. 

SOGIE and Anti-terror bills

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According to Atty. Eljay Bernardo, the “vagueness” of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill can directly affect the LGBTQI+ community as a marginalized sector fighting for SOGIE bill. 

“If we request government, demand government of our rights, it could be construed as terrorism, as destabilization,” Atty. Bernardo said.

The imprisonment of the Pride20, according to him, uncovered how the law can be “twisted” against freedom of speech and assembly. 

Last Friday, June 26, 10 members of LGBTQI+ rights group Bahaghari along with eight from other progressive groups, and two drivers were detained at the Manila Police District. 

They were being charged with disobedience of persons in authority in relation to Republic Act 11332, or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Disease and Batas Pambansa 880, or the Public Assembly Act.

Atty. Bernardo said that the bill could put burden in LGBTQI+ groups, which could be an excuse to put the members of these groups under the surveillance of an anti-terrorism council. 

According to Atty. De Leon, the Anti-Terror bill could “silence all of us,” especially the marginalized sector. 

“[F]or us when activism is the only way of asserting our narratives, this can further render us voiceless. It seems like wala naman siyang direct effect, pero the dangers of it ay nararamdaman na natin ngayon,” she said. 

The webinar #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality was hosted by Pat Bringas and was organized by Metro Manila Pride.

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Human rights lawyers pan anti-terror bill’s ‘vague’ definition

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Prof. Judy Taguiwalo said that the “new normal” today is somewhat similar to the Marcosian “new society.” 

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Screengrab from the Martial Law Noon, Terror Bill Ngayon webinar

Human rights lawyer and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares put emphasis on the vague definitions included in the Anti-Terror Bill in an online forum held Saturday, June 6.

These broad definitions, according to Colmenares, could be dangerous, especially that Section 26 requires the formation of an Anti-Terror Council (ATC). 

“[I]t’s an executive body eh at ang mga members niyan ay mga executive officials, mga bataan ni President Duterte. Puwede kang i-designate na terorista,” he said during the Martial Law Noon, Terror Bill Ngayon webinar.

The Section 29 of the bill, as explained by Colmenares, will allow the ATC to “issue a written authorization that allows the police to arrest an alleged suspect” and detain him up to 24 days. 

“Ang term nila sa batas written authorization, but essentially it’s a warrant. It grants the police the power and the authority to arrest you eh…[H]indi naman judiciary ‘yun,” Colmenares said. 

Lawyer Tony La Viña believes these provisions to be “unconstitutional” and could go after legitimate movements and actions and be colored or linked to terrorism.

“‘Yung terrorist, ‘yun ‘yung nagbobomba, nagpapatay ng walang kahulugan. The violence is simply intended for chaos, simply for destruction of the society. The old definition [in Human Security Act] did not respect that distinction. Mas lalo na ngayon [sa Anti-Terror Bill], 

“Nagdagdag ng mga crimes tulad ng inciting to terrorism, support of terrorism, proposal to commit terrorism—lahat ‘yan are all acts that we can actually do on a day to day basis sa pakikibaka…[P]uwedeng kulayin at kulayan ng gobyerno at sabihing ‘terrorism ‘yan’ or ‘inciting to terrorism ‘yan,” La Viña said.

The judicial authority in the Anti-Terror Bill, according to La Viña, is “much less rigorous”  in safeguarding on abuses, rights to privacy in communication, personal security, and unreasonable searches and seizures. 

The bill will also remove the jurisdiction of the Commission on Human Rights to prosecute human rights-related crimes. 

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Colmenares sees the recent protests against the passage of the bill as “reasonable” despite being in the middle of a pandemic, as it shows the disapproval of many Filipinos to the bill. 

“[T]andaan natin na sa kasaysayan natin, ang pinakamalaking tagumpay ng sambayanang Pilipino ay nakamit natin sa gitna ng pinakamasidhing krisis. Kaya tama lang ang ginagawa nating paglaban. Resonable ito [upang] maipanaig ang pagtutol ng sambayanang Pilipino na maisabatas itong new Terror Law,” Colmenares said.

Marcos’ ‘new society’ now the ‘new normal’

Martial law survivors warned the public of the parallelism between the provisions of the Anti-Terror Bill and the abuses during the martial law period in the Philippines. 

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Prof. Judy Taguiwalo said that the “new normal” today is somewhat similar to the Marcosian “new society.”

“[Sa] new normal makikita natin [ang] mas matinding kawalan ng trabaho, mas matinding kakulangan sa kalusugan, mas hirap sa edukasyon, at milyong mga OFWs ang babalik. So paano ‘yan haharapin?,

“[N]andyan na [ang] undeclared martial law…[N]gayon kahit walang kaso hinuhuli, ikinukulong,” Taguiwalo said. 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Chairperson Dr. Karol Araullo said that the bill intends “to silence criticism, critical thinking, and opposition.”

“Ayokong tawaging Anti-Terror Bill eh kasi sa totoo lang, it is a bill intended to terrorize the people into submission sa mga patakaran na hindi makabubuti sa kanila,” Araullo said.

To avoid the repetition of the 1972 martial law, Araullo said the limitations in the imposition of martial law was included in the 1987 Constitution.

“[T]hey want to carry out ‘yung ganyang klaseng panunupil on a wider scale which they are unable to do under the current laws…[S]o inimbento nilang itong Anti-Terror Bill,” she said. John Aaron Pangilinan

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