December 22, 2012
December 22, 2012

“I vote YES in behalf of ALL young people, especially those coming from poor families, who stand to benefit the most from the passage of this bill into law. Specifically, it addresses the right of young people to access relevant information, education, and essential health services.”

These are the words of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino when he cast his vote on the second reading of the RH Bill, in representation of the youth, “especially those coming from poor families”. As I was watching the nominal voting on the RH Bill on the midnight of December 12, I groggily pondered on exactly who it was that these partylist representatives actually represent when they vote on matters of prime public policy such as this.

A student activist friend once told me of the fact that “majority wins and the minority loses” is the burden beauty of democracy. Win some, lose some. Hence, if I felt contrarily about whatever law Palatino’s voted yes to, it would be my loss if most of my fellow youth believed otherwise.

I guess Palatino felt very strongly about representing the marginalized youth, the youth that does not have access to a university education, the youth that have children before they hit 18, the youth that is not sufficiently educated about reproductive health and family planning, the youth that cannot afford basic health services, the youth that see no future but the one on the streets. He believed that these youth would benefit most from his YES vote to HB 4244.

Despite being part of a group that had sent him a petition voicing my concerns on this particular bill, his privilege speech did not even acknowledge our presence, nor our researched opinions. And it is precisely because I believe in the youth’s right to relevant information, a good education, and free essential health services that we are not in favor of his vote, and feel misrepresented. But our arguments against the bill are beside the point.

Making blanket statements like “I vote YES in behalf of ALL young people” can be very misleading, because I, and a lot of other youths that I know, felt misrepresented during that crucial vote. But maybe, again, it’s our background, and the fact that we aren’t ‘marginalized’. The majority of the minority wins. I just wonder if he will still claim to represent all young people when a new incarnation of, say, HB 6330 enters the House discussions in the future.

Eerily similar was the manifesto authored by the Legislative Assembly near the end of September, almost four months ago. The USG sent a letter to President Aquino stating that the student body of De La Salle University was for the passage of the HB 4244. I suppose the times had called for their resolution on the bill as urgent, just as President Aquino had recently declared HB 4244 as urgent, on the same scale as a public calamity or emergency.

During that time, I read the letter from the LA’s Committee on National Affairs when it became public, and I had some very clear objections to what had been written. One of my chieftest objections was their appeal to a morality not foremost guided by the Lasallian character and values of faith, service, and communion, but on “moral standards not dictated by any sector, religion, or cultural group”, despite the University’s supposedly clear sectarian identity.

I understand that it should not be ‘dictated’ by any sector, religion, or cultural group, as we all believe in free informed choice, but then the question is begotten: where does Lasallian identity explicitly fall into this manifesto? Where is FSC? Where does our Lasallian formation integrate with what has been written? Not even the social doctrine of the Church, which the Brothers hold so dear and is most associated to this critical present issue, was mentioned in the bill representing students receiving Lasallian formation.

By virtue of a student ‘democracy’, the LA Reps decided for potentially dissenting constituents like me, and consulted among themselves first, only to pass this manifesto and go straight to the President afterwards. It was very efficient, I will guarantee that; it reminded me of the Liberal Party congressmen who wished to impeach the Chief Justice Renato Corona earlier this year, and how cohesive political will is the tree that bears fruit.

Besides efficiency, one of the people behind the resolution assured me that there was sound research, in the form of data and statistics and student polls, which went into the formation of the stance. I read the resolution calling for the passing of the manifesto, and myself have some questions again, about the research listed in that resolution (although I have yet to see the actual tally and results of the student polls).

But, again, by virtue of a student democracy, I can no longer do anything about the manifesto, which represents my stance as a DLSU student, because the USG is the “sole, unified, autonomous and democratic representative of the student body”. I guess that I, as a student, just didn’t feel so united with the USG in that action passed by the LA then. As a member of the minority, I felt marginalized.

To clarify, I’m not against the people who formulated the resolution: I know some of them, and they are kind, amicable, and intelligent people. What I am against is the gravity of their manifesto, and how the blanket statement has painted me as part of their decision, which I, as an individual, strongly disagree with, and believe is disadvantageous for the state and the Filipino people.

Then again, if this is what I feel for issues outside the University, just think of the instances when other students within the University might feel that they too are being marginalized, during instances less popular than the RH Bill. Are they considered in this majority-takes-all system we call democracy?

Think about them. The students who take time off their Saturday to attend incentivized activities with the desire to actually learn more about the topic, but get the same bonus points as those who sign in for the event and leave.

Those students who don’t cut class, and actually engage their professors in productive discourse, and get the exact same grades as those who sleep in and don’t participate.  Those students who have to file a grievance against a professor just to prove that he or she cares about the integrity of the teaching system and not just a mere increase in grade.

And those students who quietly answer their final exams even as the class is abuzz with blatant ‘consultation’, passing around test leakage when the professor leaves the room trusting that the class is above academic dishonesty.

These are all occasions of marginalization within the University that have led me to question whether the majority is really always right.

I acknowledge that the legislative system, whether in Senate, Congress, or during LA sessions, has many advantages. Lex majoris partis, or majority rule by consent of the governed, effectively operationalizes public consensus. After all, Thomas Jefferson, the genius behind American democracy, did say that  “it is the multitude which possesses force, and wisdom must yield to that.”

My only question is if that force has wisdom, coming from our own experience and identity, and if that force is guided by it. Because if it clearly does not, must we continue to yield to it, and be swayed by the crowd?