DLSU College of Law (COL) Dean Chel Diokno and Kabataan party-list representative Sarah Elago spoke at USAP TAYO: A talk on the youth’s role on democracy and student’s rights and welfare, a talk organized by Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), last July 12 at the Philippe Jones Lhuillier Conference Room, 14th floor of Henry Sy Sr. Hall. During their speeches, Diokno stressed on current issues on Philippine democracy, while Elago provided steps to amplify and properly represent student engagement.

Grounds for impeachment?

Answering a query on the possibility of impeaching President Rodrigo Duterte, Diokno first clarified that removing the President is both a legal and political process. He declared: “From [a] legal point of view, I do believe there is sufficient ground to impeach the President. There are so many examples of how he has betrayed the public trust.”

He cited the President’s response to the recent Reed Bank incident as a primary example to back his claim, saying that the 1987 Constitution explicitly states that the usage of the exclusive economic zone is solely for Filipino citizens. He further asserted that the President’s duties should be to protect fishermen and the environment.

Welcoming the UN probe

Diokno also commented on the resolution passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council that called for an investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines. ”I’m very happy that the international community is really watching us because it’s about time that this government realized that they cannot do anything they want,” he stated.

Recognizing the possibility of the administration barring investigators from entering the country, the human rights lawyer explained that as a member of the United Nations (UN), the Philippines is obligated to respect UN agencies.

He assured that the human rights community will provide any assistance and information that may be required, positing, “We are a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We were instrumental in the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How can we turn our back [on] that?” 

Then and now

Diokno also took the time to narrate his experiences growing up during the martial law era. He brought up several restrictions imposed by the government at the time, which included a midnight curfew and a prohibition on assembling more than three people at once.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would lose democracy again,” he expressed, claiming that soon after Duterte took office, the alleged “killings” and “attacks on democratic institutions” began.

Tracing the events of the supposed attacks on democracy, the COL Dean stated that he found the arrest of Senator Leila De Lima as the starting point. This was then followed by attacks on the Commission on Human Rights, the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and the attacks on the media.

Promoting student, youth interests

In her lecture, Elago shed light on the youth’s rights and welfare. She raised concerns on the legislative efforts that directly affect the sector, such as the measure to have the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps program in Senior High School and the push to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

The lawmaker also emphasized the importance of passing the Magna Carta of Students in Congress, highlighting the need to organize the youth to act upon social and political issues. She listed some of its features such as guiding principles that declare the right of education, the importance of student organizations, and the need for student publications. 

Such a proposal has been in Congress for the past 30 years, she explained, alleging that “traditional politicians” have refused to pass the bill ever since. 

But when asked whether she believes the bill will be passed, Elago maintained, “Pagdating sa pagpasa ng mga bataskasi nakita na namin ‘nung 17th Congress—it’s possible,” citing the passage of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act as an example of how lobbying efforts can work in their favor.

(When it comes to passing laws—because we saw that already in the 17th Congress—it’s possible.)

The power of the youth

Diokno, meanwhile, acknowledged the Filipino youth’s strength in numbers and praised their potential in improving the Philippines. “This country is already yours…You own this country now,” he assured the audience.

Elago, on the other hand, conveyed that the youth has more power than they think and that they can sway policymakers and shape public opinion. She added that this could help give the next generation a chance to push for the “best possible present and future for Filipinos.”

Ganoon ka-powerful ‘yung mga kabataan at kitangkita natin iyan sa kasaysayan,” she stressed.

(That’s how powerful the youth are and we can see that in history.)

Jan Emmanuel Alonzo

By Jan Emmanuel Alonzo

Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

Contributor of University and Vanguard since TLS 58. Internal Development Manager in TLS 59. Currently designing the new website.

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