Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Before Kabataan Partylist, there were 17 youth groups which tried (but ultimately failed) to clinch representation in Congress through the partylist system. What is the ‘source code’ of our success?

Kabataan was founded by the country’s leading youth organizations: National Union of Students (established in 1957), College Editors Guild (established in 1931 which makes it the country’s oldest existing student group), League of Filipino Students (frontrunner in the successful campaign to revive student organizations during Martial Law), Anakbayan (‘Abolish ROTC’ lead convener), Student Christian Movement, and Karatula.

These groups have nationwide presence, broad constituencies, and a sterling record of fighting for student and youth rights.

The founding leaders of Kabataan were mostly student activists of the 1990s whose political consciousness was shaped by the ideological debates within the Left. They were joined by our generation who actively participated in the historic Edsa Dos event. The decision to join the partylist race was partly inspired by the phenomenal victory of Bayan Muna in 2001.

Kabataan (Anak ng Bayan) garnered 212,000 votes; or short of 40,000 votes to reach the 2 percent winning threshold. If the current formula in determining the winners in the partylist election were used in 2004, Kabataan would have secured a seat in the 13th Congress.

After the 2004 polls, Kabataan leaders were ‘veterans’ of the anti-Estrada movement who were already by that time greatly disappointed and angered by the mutation of erstwhile ally Gloria Arroyo into a ferocious political monster. Meanwhile, its younger members were becoming the most determined oppositionists and dissentients to the Arroyo government which was re-elected into power with questionable mandate.

When the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal was exposed in 2005, Kabataan and its network became an active voice and presence in the ‘Oust Gloria’ and ‘Katotohanan’ rallies. During the 2007 elections, Kabataan was already known as an anti-administration or Opposition partylist group.

Kabataan’s victory in 2009 was a milestone in the youth and student movement. For the first time in the country’s history, an elected youth representative is sitting in Congress. After years of defining and articulating the youth agenda in schools, communities, and in the streets, Kabataan was given the opportunity to bring this fight inside Congress.

The first decade of the 21st century was a period of intense and creative experimentation on how to tap and unleash youthful idealism and patriotism. Online activism and volunteerism became popular among the educated youth. Kabataan made some useful contributions by showing how to kickstart a cybercampaign or promote volunteerism (especially during disaster relief operations). Furthermore, Kabataan was consistent in reminding the youth that change and nation-building require long-term commitment, engagement, and even sacrifice.

Despite being denied of its right to serve a full term in the 14th Congress, Kabataan went on to receive almost half a million votes in the 2010 elections and was given a seat in the 15th Congress. The election victory was achieved even with scarce resources, the proliferation of partylist groups (187 groups competed in 2010), the red-baiting and harassment of the army, and the relative inexperience of our campaign coordinators (composed mainly of teenagers, college students, and individuals in their early 20s).

In 2010, Kabataan was still seen as an anti-Arroyo partylist group. But the rise of Noynoy Aquino also inspired our members to warn against deceptive populism, pseudo reformism, and landlord conservatism.

We dedicated our victory to members and supporters who became victims of extrajudicial killings and other state-sponsored violence during the Arroyo regime.

As youth representative, Kabataan pushed for the legislation of its core youth agenda. But more than this, it sought to disprove the accusation that young leaders can be easily co-opted by the corrupt bureaucracy.

Since last year, Kabataan has entered into a transition phase when it elected new officers and nominees who will lead the group in the 2013 elections and beyond. This is a new generation of Kabataan leaders and members – all of them became politically active after 2001 since they were too young during the Edsa Dos years. In other words, their political activism was influenced by the ‘war on terror’, the global financial crisis, and the ‘Gloria Resign’ campaign in the past decade. Meanwhile, its younger members are part of a generation whose exposure to progressive politics, unfortunately, is limited to the feel-good reformism of Obama and Noynoy.

Through its campaign paraphernalias, Kabataan has announced that it intends to ‘level-up’ the engagement of the youth in parliamentary politics, and Philippine politics in general. The challenge is to maintain its legislative work while participating in bolder campaigns to restructure the flaws of the country’s political economy.

It has to be wary against the rising bureaucratization of youth politics in the country. Or the tendency of some youth formations to simply demand some token membership in some minor agency of the state or its local satellites.

It has to be battle ready in the information warfare. The challenge is to continuously attract youth involvement at a time when everybody is always distracted or hypnotized by the dizzying freeflow of realtime data. Fortunately, Kabataan can simply review its tactics in calibrating online/offline activism and elevate it into theory.

The Aquino government is a master of truth manipulation. It can easily twist or spin an issue to improve its public image. The next three years is crucial to once and for all unmask its evil core.

Related articles:

Committed generations
Lost generation
Kabataan legislative output

One Response to “Kabataan Partylist: The Next Generation”

  1. Mahusay na artikulo. Malinaw na inilatag ang mga hamon na kinakaharap ng mga kabataan sa panahong ito. Gayunpaman, nababahala ako sa usapin ng ‘information warfare’ na para bagang ito ang kabuuan ng pakikibakang dapat lahukan ng mga kabataan. Palagay ko, mahalaga pa ring isa konkreto ang pakikibaka ng mga kabataan at makita ito sa buhay na karanasan ng mga mamamayan. Ang makiisa sa buhay at pakikibaka ng mga batayang masa na, kung kanino, matagal nang nakatambad ang mga kasinungalingan ng gobyerno ni Penoy.

    Rain

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