By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Anakbayan Ilocos and Kabataan Partylist Cordillera in separate statements scored National Youth Commission (NYC) chairman Ronald Gian Caderma for his statement associating youth groups criticizing the administration with the communist rebels.
The groups were referring to a statement posted on the Facebook Page of the NYC on Saturday, January 5.
The NYC chair and Chief Executive Officer called on the 400,000 Sangguniang Kabataan leaders in the country to do their part for the “whole-of-nation approach.”
In particular, he urged them to fight leftist youth organizations that he views as a “recruitment base” of New People’s Army rebels.
“Isa itong paraan ng pagpapatahimik sa mga ligal at progresibong organisasyon at dapat kondenahin natin ang paggamit sa SK para patahimikin ang mga kapwa kabataan na naghahangad ng tunay na kalayaan at hustisya (This is a means to silence legal and progressive organizations and should be condemned for using the SK to silence our fellow youth who aspire for genuine freedom and justice),” Anakbayan said in a statement.
The group’s secretary-general, Jennybeth Mariano, said there is nothing new with Caderma’s statement associating progressive groups to communist rebels, noting the government has been asserting this even before Duterte.
She underscored its grave implications, weaponizing the SK and pitting its officers against youth activists and their own constituents.
Caderma encouraged SK members to tell NYC about “all anti-government leftist propaganda” in their respective territories.
“It’s a classic divide and rule tactic, vilifying and red-tagging government critics in the hope that it will scare others to join organizations and organized youth actions to assert their rights,” Mariano said.
She also called Caderma Duterte’s “aso (dog)” and “puppet” and pointed that he has no right to lead the youth from failing to grasp the needs and problems of the sector.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist (KPL) Cordillera spokes Christian Dave Ruz said “Nothing seemed to change with rabid anti-democracy minions of the Duterte administration this New Year,” noting they still stick to the “old-fashioned red-tagging.”
He added that Caderma, echoing an old military line and Duterte’s accusations against progressives, comes at no surprise from someone who strongly supports the administration’s militarist thrust like the revival of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
Further, Ruz calls on the other leaders of NYC, SK and other youth leaders to “condemn the anti-democracy Chair of the NYC”, calling Cardema “a disgrace to the youth”.
The NYC website described Caderma as “a military youth leader,” citing his stint as head of the Maquiling High School Corps of Cadets and class president, and commander of the UP ROTC during the university’s centennial celebration.
Before the NYC, his identification is with Duterte Youth and the Kabataan for Bongbong, organizations supporting the president and former senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
He is also a military reservist with the National Capital Region’s Community Defense Group and among those who strongly lobbied for the return of ROTC.
Youth against tyranny
Anakbayan counseled the SK not to fall for the government’s scare tactics and to be steadfast in asserting their rights.
“Tayo ay hindi lamang mga hamak na mga kabataan kundi tayo ay mga pag-asa ng bayan (We are not just youth but the hope of the country),” Mariano said.
She also reminded her fellow youth of their responsibility to learn the root of social unrest and stand with the people’s struggle for social justice.
For his part, Ruz underscored the importance of imbuing “the essence of being pag-asa ng bayan amid the continued attacks on our economic, social and political rights and not to be mere mouthpieces and apologist of this fascist administration”.
The KPL spokes pointed out the administration is spreading the red-scare to hide the reality that “they tremble in fear with the ever-growing unity of the youth against tyranny and dictatorship.”
He also cited their successful battle against the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) for a similar case.
“The public apology given by BCPO P/Ssupt. Director Eliseo Tanding last November 28 in a dialogue at the City Council’s regular session is a testament of the legitimacy of our organizations and their recognition to the probable danger and risk of red-tagging,” said Ruz. # nordis.net