Calls for active citizenship for various socio-political issues were elevated at the AKBAY Advocacy Summit at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium last June 26 as part of the Lasallian Enrichment Alternative Program.
The event featured talks on five advocacy pillars—social justice, media information and literacy, gender and human rights, poverty, and environment—from youth leaders and experienced professionals. Booths and an art exhibit also filled Pardo Hall at the fifth floor of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall last June 26, 27, and 29 to connect participants to advocacy organizations and showcase creative pieces on the volunteerism of the Lasallian community.
Labor leader Atty. Luke Espiritu zeroed in on how the fight for social change is undermined by the unjust justice system itself, illustrated through the inaccessibility of legal services in marginalized communities and with “almost 90 percent of laws” focusing on property instead of human rights. He argued that this handicaps lawyers in defending the underprivileged over capitalists in court.
Espiritu added that the government is designed to favor those who acquire property, citing the Maharlika Investment Fund as an example. “That P500 billion is devoted to those who are already wealthy, for them to promote their wealth accumulation as so-called investments,” he stated.
The Maharlika Investment Fund, which went through a speedy enactment period after being certified as urgent by President Marcos, is a controversial sovereign wealth fund that can be invested in key sectors such as foreign currencies, infrastructure projects, and real estate.
The LaSallian Editor in Chief Ana Mapa spotlighted media information and literacy by discussing the role of fact-checking in combating fake news. Mapa stressed the importance of accessing information from sources with fact-checking initiatives such as #FactsFirstPH. “We have to learn which voices to listen to and we have to use our voices to make people listen to us,” she shared.
Former Laguna Campus Student Government President Elle Aspilla spoke on the status of LGBTQ+ rights within the University and posited a call to action toward social change on gender and human rights. Aspilla, who was deadnamed on her recognition rites last June, recalled her experiences as a transwoman student. “I don’t want any Lasallian to experience the same discrimination and unfortunate circumstances that I experienced in the University, but we are moving forward with the help of the USG,” she expressed.
Socio-economic and environmental issues were also highlighted by economic development consultant Atty. Benedict Nisperos and Habitat for Humanity Green Chapter President Bea Vida.
Focusing on urbanization within Southeast Asia, Nisperos argued that the rapid expansion of urban cities, infrastructures, and private enclaves would hinder the eradication of poverty in these areas. As such, local government units (LGUs) should hasten their efforts in providing livelihood, social protection, and healthcare, Nisperos urged. He added that “urban areas need to recalibrate their approaches so that they could approach poverty as a main issue of consideration in their own [government unit].”
Vida addressed the lack of initiatives by LGUs in eradicating environmental degradation, overpopulation, land misuse management, and land grabbing. She related her own efforts to help with these issues such as her commitments to non-government organizations like Lokal Lab, which aims to ”empower the youth in order to be purpose-driven and create nature-based solutions.”
Addressing the interconnectedness of the five advocacy pillars, Mapa noted that such issues should be viewed as one “shared struggle” that calls for urgent action.
For Aspilla, the real battle for social change happens beyond the four walls of a classroom. She hoped that academic institutions become a safe space for students to confront socio-political matters.
“Kung sa school pa lang, hindi na ligtas para sa atin na i-call out ang admin, magkaroon ng organizations, at magkaroon ng mga protesta laban sa mga bulok na sistema, paano pa tayo sa tunay na laban?” she stressed.
(If it is already unsafe for us to call out the admin, form organizations, and protest against the unjust systems, how will we be able to fight in the real battle?)