Members and representatives of youth and labor groups convened last June 8 in the College of Education Theater of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman for a forum titled Ang Malansang Isda: Ang Alingasaw ng panukalang Mandatory ROTC sa Senior High Schools at pagpapatupad ng CHED Memo 20 sa Kolehiyo. Speakers from different aligned organizations presented lectures criticizing administration initiatives that they deemed were “anti-student” in nature.
Imposing mandatory ROTC
Last May 20, the House of Representatives voted in favor of House Bill 8961, which, if passed into law, would require Grade 11 and 12 senior high school students from both public and private schools to undergo the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. Students who fail to complete the said program will be barred from graduating.
Raoul Manuel, Secretary General of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), dismissed the ROTC program as another tool to use the youth as “bullets” in acts of government repression. Manuel described how abuse is instilled in the culture of the program. Cadets, he claimed, find themselves at the receiving end of hazing and sexual assault. Red-tagging of youth groups is also rampant, he added.
With newly-elected officials filling seats in Congress and the Senate, Manuel urged listeners to build up public clamor to prevent the passing of the bill. “Dapat iparinig natin sa kanila na ganito ang ating tindig [regarding the program],” he exclaimed. (We must make them hear that this is our stand regarding the program.)
In defense of Filipino
Crizel Sicat-De Laza, a UP College of Education professor, blamed the “neoliberal” mode of education that has become the precursor of Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum Order No. 20, which removes Filipino language and Filipino literature as core subjects for college.
The Tanggol Wika representative claimed that the economy’s foreign investment orientation powered the drive in shifting the language focus to English in expense of Filipino.
“Hindi niyo maihihiwalay sa politika at ekonomiya [ang wika],” she argued.
(You cannot separate language from politics and economics.)
Sicat-De Laza lamented the lack of appreciation for the language as a scholarly study. “It is not practical and economical,” she said in Filipino. She added that it is seen as a “backdoor entry” into UP, and alleged that in other universities where Filipino is not required, the subject ends up being a “tapunan ng mga hindi pumapasa.” Many Filipino departments, she narrated, have fallen apart, and seasoned faculty members moved to minor teaching roles.
(fallback for flunkers)
The professor emphasized that Filipino, as a young language, can only achieve complete “intellectualization” if its usage is expanded instead of being cut down.
Neoliberal, neocolonial attacks
Karlo Mongaya of UP Diliman’s Filipino Department argued that making ROTC mandatory and removing Filipino and Panitikan does not foster nationalism, and that their purpose lay in continued “imperialist domination” by foreign capitalist powers.
Mongaya, a native Cebuano, explained that the Filipino language can serve as a focal point for the development of other regional languages as well. “Hindi bangga ang pagpapaunlad ng pambansang wika at ang pagpapaunlad ng lahat ng wika ng Pilipinas,” Mongaya said.
(Developing the national language does not contradict developing all the national languages.)
He called the focus on the English language as a symptom of the “monopolistic chapter of capitalism” and lamented the supposed status of the Philippines as a “neocolony” of the United States.
Mongaya described neoliberalism as a “counter-offensive” by capitalist powers against efforts in gaining full independence. Neoliberalism, he narrated, inherently leads to fascism as its internal contradictions lead to its instability, necessitating the use of oppression to maintain order, which he claimed was what happened under the Marcos dictatorship.
Kara Taggao, League of Filipino Students spokesperson, railed against the apparent lack of concern by Department of Education Leonor Briones on the policies. “Baka mas malaki pa sa kwartong ito ang opisina niya,” she quipped in front of the theater audience, mocking Briones’ recent statements.
(Her office might even be bigger than this theater.)
Earlier, Briones alleged that Bacoor City High School teachers who were forced to convert a bathroom into a faculty room did so because it was more “dramatic”. She also stated that teaching was “not all about the money” amid calls for an immediate salary hike.
Like Manuel, Taggao warned against attempts in the Congress and the Senate to pass what she described were “anti-people” policies. An awakened youth, she explained, is instrumental in stopping neoliberal schemes in their tracks.
“Ang paglaban ng ating mga kabataan ay hindi naman talaga hiwalay sa paglaban ng ating bayan,” she said.
(The fight for our youth is not distinct from the fight for our country.)
Taggao urged the audience to remain vigilant, and to “arouse, organize, and mobilize” in support of mass-oriented organizations.
Quoting the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, Taggao remarked, “Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit pa sa malansang isda.”
(Anyone who does not love their language is worse than a smelly fish.)