Rep. Barry delivered his solidarity message for the 9th Congress of the Student Council of the Philippines (SCAP) on June 21, 2014, at the Central Philippine University, Iloilo. Read full text of speech below.
First of all, I want to thank the SCAP officers who invited me to speak on this important occasion. It’s wonderful to be here and it’s wonderful to see all these outstanding young leaders and students gathered here today. This just affirms that, unlike what some people think that this is a #selfie, apathetic and self-absorbed generation, that the Filipino youths of today are just as engaged and as active in our nation-building. And this is important because, no matter how cliched this statement is, I firmly believe that the young leaders gathered here today will shape the future of this country, and with the impending ASEAN integration, the future of this region.
I know a lot of you here are excited to learn and find out the extent of success of our collective campaigns in the halls of Congress. While I may not be able to speak for the Senate, I am happy to share with you what we have we have achieved, so far, at the House of Representatives. But before I proceed, I would like to apologize for not being able to attend the session this morning. I was supposed to be a member of the panel, along with Marlon and Gio, to discuss the young progressives’ education platform.
At this point, I would like to commend this assembly for recognizing the need to reform and its proactive involvement in creating a new direction in the country’s educational system. In a world where education is now the currency for economic mobility or professional success and the crucial tool in developing well-informed citizens as meaningful participants in the democratic processes, it is essential that we continuously adapt our educational system according to the needs, the condition and the progress of our times.
But crucial to the achievement of this goal, we recognize the need for a system where the civil and political rights of the students are respected, protected and promoted. Of course, we have laws like RA 6728 for the students of private educational institutions, and RA 7722 for the students of public higher learning institutions. In reality, however, discriminatory policies, inadequate student services, lack of student representation and participation, imposition of unnecessary fees and unjust disciplinary sanctions continue to exist within educational institutions.
The suppression of the rights and welfare of students is furthered by the weakness in the state’s ability to regulate the private institutions in the provision of education, as a result of the deregulation of the education sector. As a result, the enforcement and application of policies have become skewed and there is a need to correct that. This has been one of our unifying objective, one that has led to the creation of a bill that we continue to work hard and push for in Congress.
The Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) bill that we drafted together, which seeks to protect and promote the rights and welfare of the students, was successfully filed as House Bill 4435 last May 18. I was joined by some of our student-leaders from UP Diliman, Manila and Ateneo during the filing where we also had a short press conference, thereafter. The bill is now referred for deliberation under the Committee on Higher and Technical Education. We are optimistic that the deliberation will happen soon after the session resumes. Right now, there are similar bills also pending for deliberation under the Committee such as HB 102 filed by Cong. Grex Lagman and HB 2870 filed by Cong. Diosdado Arroyo. (There’s also HB 1098 filed by Cong. Ridon)
As students and young leaders of your respective colleges and universities, everyone here understands the importance of this pending bill in our common struggle to protect the civic and political rights and welfare of the students. And making sure that there is fairness and equity on how each student is treated is right. Your active involvement and vigorous participation throughout the process will remain crucial as we work harder for its immediate passage.
But as crucial as protecting the students, I also commend this organization for its proactive leadership in helping the youths, in general, create a dent in the country’s political affairs and contribute in nation-building.
One of the legislative initiatives that paved the way towards our closing relationship is the Sangguniang Kabataan reform bill.
I’m happy to give the news that the deliberation for our proposed SK reform legislation has started rolling in the House. The Committee on Local Government, of which I am a member, is undertaking its deliberation. Last Wednesday of this week, the Technical Working Group (TWG) set to consolidate the different versions of the SK reform bill has already convened. While I was not able to attend, as I was in another TWG where I served as the Chair, some of you here were present during the meeting and I must commend you for that. With your unwavering commitment, I am optimistic that we could succeed in ensuring that your voice, the voice of the youths, remains represented and relevant in government’s policy-making and decision-making.
Further deliberation of the bill was already set on July, with the primary objective of deciding whether the consolidated Senate version shall be adopted by the Committee or not. And I’m already set to attend the next meeting. Until then, we expect your continuous partnership with us in pushing for the passage of the bill.
The other campaign we’re working on is the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which, until now, is under deliberations at the Sub-committee level. Developments are a bit slow in here and we (the authors) have been working hard to fast-track the passage of the bill. Actually, even before deliberations of the bill has started, we have been strategizing. Last Monday, another meeting was organized to confront the continuing slow progress in the deliberations, and to ensure that an approved consolidated FOI bill will finally emerge from the TWG as soon as possible. Of course, as in the other two bills, your active participation and continuous lobbying for the bill are crucial in generating popular support. And hopefully, as a consequence, will generate greater pressure for the House and the Senate to act immediately and effectively on the bill.
There is still a lot of works that we must undertake to ensure that this set of bills will finally pass Congress. We are confronted at all fronts by various challenges, aimed at reversing whatever gains we have made. But with your enthusiasm and continuous support, I am positive that we can move forward from these setbacks. Through patient and persistent effort, we’ll witness more milestones in our shared goals.