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The Filipino Youth and the Struggle for National Freedom and Democracy: What is to be Done?
"Filipino-Canadian Youth Looking at the Past for the Future,"
By Cherry B. Clemente
Vancouver, BC, Canada. November 21-27, 2005.

MABUHAY and warm revolutionary greetings to all!

I would like to thank the Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance for inviting me to speak today on a topic that is most important to me and to every Filipino youth in and out of the homefront. You have been effective organizers and gracious hosts of this event. We praise and salute you for having this political and social event of a lifetime. Thank you very much.

I am most pleased to participate in your "Ipagpatuloy: Living the Storm" First Quarter Storm Campaign here in Canada. It brings me great pleasure to take part in this gathering of fellow Filipinos and fellow youth that aims to uphold, celebrate, and learn from the revolutionary spirit of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 in our homeland.

This celebration of triumph of the First Quarter Storm propelled so many significant victories for the Filipino youth and for the Filipino people in general. The revolutionary spirit of FQS paved way and set the stage for the revolutionary undertaking of the Filipino people to carry out and wage a national democratic revolution of new type, set on high steam the movement for the removal of the US military bases in the country and the ouster of two puppet presidents and regimes in 15 years, further weakening the ruling system controlled by US imperialist and their local agents and paid hacks in the Philippines.

Such commemoration is most urgent and timely. Not only because the economic, political and social crises, which were the active context of the First Quarter Storm, remain today, but because Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo back home is not only mimicking but is trying to outdo and surpass the brutal records of then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and the horrifying accounts of the US-backed dictatorship and authoritarian rule 33 years ago when Martial Law was imposed to stop and spoil the rising tide of revolution raging in the countryside against the system of semi-feudal and semi-colonial landscape.

Faced with mounting protests and calls for her resignation and eventual ouster from Malacaņang, Ms Arroyo is resorting to Martial-Law repression and is completely engaged in perpetual massacre of people's sovereignty, political, economic and social rights and all-out murder of national patrimony in the name of her ruling political syndicate in Malacaņang, please the US imperialist power and the corporate lords of World Trade Organization and imperialist globalization and preserve class rule of the exploiting system.

In the face of the United States media's depiction of our country as without hope or future, you come together to look back at our militant past to advance our fight as a people for a progressive future. Indeed, we are not only a suffering people. We are a fighting people. Let us shatter their image of our victimization with our revolution.

I have been tasked to speak today on the topic "The Filipino Youth and the Struggle for National Democracy and Freedom: What is to be Done?" I will start by describing the plight of the Filipino youth in the country today. Then, I will try to present the role of the youth in the struggle for national democracy. Finally, I will enumerate and explain what the Filipino youth in the homefront view as the most pertinent tasks facing the Filipino youth at home and abroad today.

THE SITUATION OF THE FILIPINO YOUTH UNDER THE U.S.-ARROYO REGIME

The Filpino youth believe that of all Philippine presidents, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo surpasses former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in electoral fraud, human rights violations, and corruption and anti-people economic policies. She was the certified and undisputed no.1 puppet president of all the US puppet presidents our country has ever had since the American colonialization of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century.

The joke circulating through text messages is that while the US had its disaster in 9-11, the Philippines continues to have its disaster in 4-11 - alluding to the height of the president who has however dwarfed her predecessors in being disliked by the people.

The US-Arroyo regime witnessed record levels of poverty and mass hunger in the country. In a recent survey, more than 9 million Filipinos say that they sleep at night without food in their stomach. One out of three children is malnourished. There are studies that show that for the poor, eating galunggong - which used to be the staple food of the poor and now costs P75 a kilo - is now glamorous. Poor Filipinos survive eating instant noodles, which cost P5.50 a pack. That is how hungry our people is.

The government tries to cover up poverty with its manipulated statistics and glossy and grossed tales for deception. The National Statistics Office reports that only 40% of the population of the country can be considered poor. This is deceptive: according to the government, an average Filipino family composed of 6 members can survive with a meager P38.00 a day. This is belied by more scientific studies, which show that the average Filipino family needs P620.00 a day to live decently. Clearly, the P280 (US$5/day) daily minimum wage does not suffice.

Trying to please the imperialists and local reactionaries, Arroyo pushed for the approval and implementation of the Expanded Value-Added Tax or E-VAT Law, which continues to raise prices of oil and basic commodities in the country. In its proposed 2006 national budget, the regime proposes to cut the budget for social services including state colleges and universities by P200 million. This could only mean more and higher fees for the people and the students - which is called "commercialization", an attack on our right and right to education.

At present, there is a growing clamor for Ms Arroyo to step down from power or be ousted in the tradition of People Power 1 and People Power 2 on charges of election fraud, corruption and betrayal of public trust.

Ms Arroyo was charged of stealing the people's mandate in the last May10, 2004 national elections by spending billions of state funds to orchestrate the biggest fraud in the history of Philippine elections. She and her gang of plunderers in Malacaņang led by her husband Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo were accused and charged of raiding national state funds and public treasury including billions of pesos allotted to small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries. The husband and wife and team of Mike and Gloria were also accused of rigging government contracts for their own selfish interests.

The cheating president and her minions and cohorts in the military and police were also charged of orchestrating a systematic, well-planned campaign of state terror and vilification campaign against political leaders and mass activists belonging to legal national democratic organizations currently in the frontline of the Oust Gloria Movement.

From January to October 2005, Ms Arroyo's military killed 122 political activists and their supporters mostly from militant party list groups and members of people's organizations. The regime is currently being tried the Citizen's Congress for Truth And Accountability (CCTA), an independent body formed by various concerned groups to make her and her gang accountable for their high crimes against the people.

Trying hard to stay in power, Arroyo has imposed repression upon the people without formally declaring Martial Law. Militarization in the countryside intensifies, in the regime's vain attempt to terrorize people to submission without addressing the root of the people's war. Since Arroyo's ascent to power, over a hundred political activists and activist leaders, lawyers, church workers and journalists have been slain.

The "maximum tolerance" policy towards rallies has been replaced with "calibrated pre-emptive response" or CPR. Prior to this, the military generals of Ms Arroyo had been showing the document Knowing the Enemy, a master list of progressive and militant organizations tagged by Malacaņang and its' loyal generals as fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF, whose leaders and mass activists should be subjected to political liquidation by armed agents and elements of the state.

Arroyo continues to scuttle the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines by unilaterally suspending the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG in violation of earlier agreements. She has continuously lectured and warned media not to air issues and comments against her.

She has harassed opposition figures with threats of legal cases or actual legal cases, while opening secret doors for bribing her opponents. Violating the 1987 Constitution and further exposing "checks and balances" in the government as a sham, she issued Executive Order 464, which prohibits officers of the military and the cabinet from appearing in investigations held by Congress and the Senate. She has been bribing the US government as well as top military and civilian officials to remain loyal to her.

According to the latest survey, Arroyo enjoys the highest distrust rating of 55% because of the issue of electoral fraud surpassing that of Estrada with 30% and Marcos with 36%. Also, 79 percent of the Filipino people believed she committed electoral fraud, 71 percent want her impeached by Congress, and 51% said they want her ouster in case the impeachment process failed to indict and serve verdict to Ms Arroyo on charges of electoral fraud, plunder and massive violations of people's human rights. More protests are still to come.

The Filipino youth is an active political force and component of the broad movement to oust Ms Arroyo and most importantly, a potent political bloc and force needed in waging the national democratic revolution in the country. The Filipino youth comprise a significant force in Philippine society. In 2002, more than 30.2 million or more than 40% of the country's population belong to the youth sector. A big bulk of this lives in the countryside. The Filipino youth belongs to different classes. Most of the youth come from the worker and peasant classes. A considerable number are from the petty bourgeoisie where students, employees and professionals with meager income belong.

Severely affected by the anti-youth and anti-people policies of the regime, the youth only has deep disgust for the Arroyo regime. Outraged by the blatant and brutal cover-up of electoral fraud and the killing of the impeachment case in Congress, the youth marched in the streets, challenging and defying CPR as well as the "No Rally in Mendiola" policy. It is the national-democratic organizations of the youth, which first rallied, in huge numbers to defy these policies.

The youth is fighting for the ouster of Arroyo not only because she committed electoral fraud in the 2004 elections, but because she has continuously attacked the rights and interests of the youth to education in favor of the imperialists and the local exploiting classes. The youth is fighting for her replacement by a transition council where oppressed classes and sectors will have their representatives and which will deliver the pro-people reforms reneged on by Arroyo and which will organize a national elections.

Poor and exploited - this is the situation of the majority of Filipino youth under a system dominated by US imperialism, big comprador bourgeoisie and the landlord class. Many of the youth go to work even before they reach the age of fifteen (15) - which, according to the government, is the minimum age of employment for a person. In 2002, about 13 million Filipino youth are working in cities and countryside in the Philippines.

Young workers are exploited by the owners of factories. The wage received by workers are less than half of the needed minimum amount needed by the average Filipino family to live decently. Young workers - those seventeen (17) years of age and younger - receive even less than this. Usually, they work as apprentice, casual or contractual employees. They have to strictly abide by harsh company rules so that they will not get laid off.

Young farmers are exploited by the landlord class. Their major problem is the lack of land or scarcity of arable land. As tenants, they are victims of high land rent, usury and free service for the landlord class. As part-time or full-time agricultural worker, they receive a small amount or part of the harvest in exchange for their work. They are forced to work under difficult conditions.

Even the youth belonging to the petty bourgeoisie suffers from poverty and are threatened with sliding into further poverty. The meager salary that young employees and professionals get cannot pay for the increasing prices of basic commodities and the increasing burden of taxes. Young students are always finding ways in trying to pay for their enormous tuition fee at school, aside from providing for their basic everyday needs.

A vast majority of the Filipino youth does not enjoy the right to education. Education in the country is highly commercialized, sold like a commodity to only those who can pay. The government continues to renege on its responsibility of funding education in the country, decreasing the budget it allocates for education every year. Schools that are privately owned are run like business ventures, with increasing student fees every year.

Education in the country is colonial, shaping the Filipino youth to become skilled and docile workers of imperialists and the comprador bourgeoisie. The Filipino youth is bombarded with a decadent culture through various means and media in the Philippines. They are taught to become selfish, superstitious, obedient to foreigners and the ruling classes. They are taught that poverty, exploitation and repression are normal. They are taught corrupt vices from which officials of the government, police and military profit.

Like the Filipino people, the Filipino youth does not enjoy its democratic rights. The democratic right of the youth to organize and to free expression are denied or attacked by the ruling classes. In both cities and countryside, nationalist youth organizations calling for change are always targeted for intimidation, harassment, and attacks of the fascist state.

It is clear to the Filipino youth and people that ousting Arroyo is not enough. Replacing her with a transition council composed of progressives and reactionaries is also not enough. We struggle against anti-youth and anti-people presidents to accumulate strength so that we can change not only presidents, but the rotten semi-colonial and semi-feudal system. Only the national-democratic revolution with a socialist perspective can effect lasting and meaningful changes that are pro-people and pro-youth.

THE FILIPINO YOUTH AND THE STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY

Let me first mention a popular line in one of the poems of Emanuel Lacaba -- one of the many young martyrs of our revolution. In his Open Letter to Filipino Artists, he illustrated how a young petty bourgeois intellectual like himself has embraced the struggle and made himself one with the oppressed people. "Awakened, the masses are Messiah. Here among workers and peasants our lost generation has found its true, its only home."

Youth, it is often said, is the fighting age. And for good reason. The youth have played a crucial role in our people's struggle for national freedom and democracy throughout our country's history by deeply involving, integrating and engaging themselves in the people's overall struggle for national freedom, democracy and liberation.

In our country, youth from worker, peasant and petty-bourgeois classes possess dynamism in thought and in body. As a new force experiencing exploitation and oppression, they have an open mind towards change and the revolutionary struggle for national freedom and democracy. They have the resoluteness, militance and fearless dedication that are being harnessed in the struggle. They are interested and ready to struggle to bring an end to the ruling system and create a better future for the people.

Indeed, our country's history has shown the revolutionary vitality of the Filipino youth. Filipino men and women in their late teens, twenties and thirties compose the majority of the leadership and membership of the revolutionary army and other nationalist movements against Spanish colonialism, US imperialism and Japanese fascism. The same is true of the nationalist movements against the puppet regimes of US imperialism.

They also composed the majority of rallyists at the peaks of the legal democratic mass movement in the country. A cursory survey of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the mass uprisings that toppled the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986 as well as the corrupt Estrada regime in 2001 would show that the youth played a prominent part in the rallies before and during the decisive confrontations in these key events in our history.

Those who played a major part in the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968 were also in their youth at the time led by then First Quarter Storm leading figure and revolutionary Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines. They launched the first rectification movement against the revisionism and opportunism of the old merger party. The youth enthusiastically welcomed the second great rectification movement in the early 1990s within the CPP and the movement for national freedom and democracy. In this, they also criticized and repudiated revisionism and opportunism of various types.

At present, the youth contributes to the various forms of struggle for national freedom and democracy. In increasing numbers, the Filipino youth have gone to the countryside and have joined the New People's Army or NPA in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the millions of peasant masses. They participate in armed struggle, implementing land reform and building the mass base. They take part in building the people's democratic government even as the reactionary government continues to hold power in Manila.

They also actively participate in the legal forms of struggle. They lead and participate in mass campaigns and struggles on basic long-running issues and on the burning issues of the day. Through these, they help advance the rights and interests of the youth and people, educate the latter on their rights and interests, and expose the anti-youth and anti-people character of the ruling regime and system. They also participate in various levels in the peace negotiations and in elections held by the reactionary government.

Indeed, where the youth will side in the struggle between the Filipino people on the one hand and US imperialism and its local allies on the other is decisive in the outcome of this struggle. A generation of docile youth can only be the canon fodder of US imperialism in its wars against the Filipino people and other peoples of the world. The youth must take its place in the struggle for national freedom and democracy. To take the posture of neutrality is actually to become an appendage of the stronger force.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?: THE TASKS OF THE FILIPINO YOUTH

The Filipino youth both homeland and overseas must inherit and continue to victory the struggle for national freedom and democracy against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. Only through this struggle can it experience and enjoy genuine development in the economy, politics and culture of our country. Only through this struggle can it build a society where it can fully contribute its talent and energy for the interest and improvement of our people.

1. "The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge." - Mao Tse Tung. We must recognize the primary role of the basic masses of workers and peasants to decisively bring about change in our country. Thus, we link the youth's political and economic struggles to the over-all struggle of the Filipino people and other oppressed peoples of the world.

2. So that we Filipino youth can locate ourselves in our country's history and society, determine what course of action to take, and contribute to our people's revolutionary struggle, we have to study. We have to undertake political education on our people's continuing struggle for national freedom and democracy against US imperialism and its local allies composed of the big comprador bourgeoisie and the landlord class.

As for our youth compatriots in Canada and other foreign lands, political education about the country's current situation and ongoing struggle waged by the Filipino people in the Philippines should form the core of its advocacy. Our Canadian youth should continue the tradition of its' historical political involvement in the Philippines by carrying, propagating and advancing the fight of the Filipino people before the international community of nations in the spirit of international solidarity anchored on our collective interest for national liberation.

The political education involves the study of the economic, political, cultural and social history in its past, present and future conclusion. All of us must learn the most important aspects of the national-democratic program: national sovereignty and the essence of democracy for the worker and peasant classes. We have to study Philippine society and revolution in concentrated sessions of two to three days, or weekly in study meetings. The book Philippine Society and Revolution by Amado Guerrero still gives us the sharpest framework for such a study with which we can combine the writings of progressive and nationalist Filipino authors.

We should study to comprehend the character of modern imperialism as soon as we can. It is the main enemy of the Filipino people, as well as the people of numerous countries in the world. With the people of our country and of the world, we have to vanquish this evil. So that we may persevere in both the national-democratic and socialist stages of our revolution, we also have to study the neocolonial cooptation of our country's independence and modern revisionism's betrayal of socialism from within.

There are also advanced studies for the Filipino youth, in which we can learn dialectical materialism, historical materialism, the political economy of capitalism and socialism, and revolutionary strategy and tactics. We should read on these topics, ask comrades who are more knowledgable about these matters, and learn how to discuss issues.

3. "Only through militant struggle can the best in the youth emerge." We must continue to assert and fight for people's democratic rights through tireless mass campaigns. We should maximize every opportunity to expose the rottenness of the present social system in our country and defeat the oppressive imperialist hegemony. The Filipino youth in the Philippines, in Canada and other parts of the globe should actively participate and launch mass campaigns dealing with issues and concerns affecting their sector, the basic sectors and other oppressed peoples in the country. History has proven the potency of the youth as propagandists. The youth's open- mindedness, capacity to lead and passion for change is effective in educating and arousing people to act and unite with the oppressed.

Launching mass campaign is highly essential in our advocacy work for national liberation. It is our political instrument to inform people, organize them into collective groups and mobilize them for collective actions against imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism and the evil they breed and impose against the sovereign and collective will and interest of the Filipino people not only in the homefront, but as well in foreign shores.

The Filipino youth in the Philippines have been launching their own sectoral campaigns, as well as mobilizing their ranks for other issues, concerns and struggles in the multisectoral levels ranging from peasant's fight for land rights and emancipation from feudal bondage to workers' war against the oppression of capital and for just wages and decent living conditions. The youth in the homeland are very much active in the fight against imperialism and colonial and repressive education.

Our youth comrades and compatriots in Canada, in the United States and other foreign lands are doing the same things what their youth comrades do in the Philippines, and we highly recognize and put big premium for your political work because these efforts largely contribute to the conduct of our overall struggle in the country. Let us all keep this brilliant and patriotic tradition and pursue the mastery of such noble work for the victory of the Filipino people in soonest time possible against imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism.

4. We Filipino youth must be constantly reminded that while we are an important and effective force in the struggle for national freedom and democracy, we cannot carry out this struggle to victory by ourselves. We have to integrate ourselves with the lives and struggles of the basic masses of workers and peasants, as well as of fishermen and urban poor. The willingness to integrate with the life and struggle of the basic masses, and the act of doing so, distinguishes the revolutionary from the non-revolutionary youth.

Specifically for this task, we ask our Filipino-Canadian youth compatriots and comrades, as well as our other political colleagues in the other parts of the world to undertake a basic masses integration program in the Philippines. This is not only to situate us, but more importantly help us concretize and realize the importance of our tasks and firm up our commitment for the people and to our historical mission of liberating the Filipino people and other oppressed peoples and nations of the world from the global system of oppression and repression perpetrated by the imperialist camp, their puppet governments and the local exploiting classes.

We are very glad to have met many young Filipino-Canadians who have gone to the Philippines and integrated with the Filipino masses both in the cities and the countryside to discover and learn first-hand about our struggle as a people.

We hope, in the near future time, we would see an avalanche of Filipino-Canadian youth going to the Philippines for a productive political mass work and integration activity with the Filipino peasantry, workers, urban poor and fishermen.

5. We must organize. We must enjoin the youth in the countryside, in factories, schools, urban poor communities, and in every place where there is a concentration of young people, even in shopping malls. We must share our organizations to millions of Filipino youth who are sick and tired of the rotten system that deprives them of living to the fullest. At present, Anakbayan is the broadest youth mass organization where youth from all walks of life may affiliate themselves with. There are also other youth organizations and alliances to cater to their varied interests and concerns such as LFS, Karatula, SCM, Gabriela-Youth, NNARA-Youth, CEGP and NUSP among others. At the forefront of legal national-democratic youth organizations in the country are Anakbayan, the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Student Christian Movement (SCM), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and the Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA).

These groups are currently engaged in organizing youth Filipinos found in schools, factories, peasant and urban poor communities. The national-democratic organizations of the youth in the country are essential in mobilizing more masses of youth and working people against anti-people policies and actions of US imperialism and its puppet regimes.

Our youth compatriots in Canada and in other foreign lands should persevere in their painstaking organizing work abroad. They should form themselves into national democratic youth organizations abroad, strive coalition and alliance work with other groups and concerned parties on the basis of their advocacy emanating from the Philippine situation, experience and struggle and against imperialism.

Filipino migrant youth can carry out these tasks and contribute to the struggle for national freedom and democracy that we are waging. It is important that we learn why many Filipinos got caught up in the diaspora, which is really an exodus. It also important that you organize yourselves and link up with national-democratic organizations here and at home. And it is most important that you contribute directly in whatever way to the struggle. You are most welcome to come home to the struggle.

Meanwhile, the underground Kabataang Makabayan (KM) recruits Filipino youth who are willing to support in various ways the armed struggle being waged in the countryside by the New People's Army. It educates members on the NPA and encourages them to join the latter.

6. The Filipino youth in the homeland and their comrades and compatriots in foreign lands should actively support and coordinate in building a strong linkage for international solidarity and ever increasing network for political support and network in connection with the Filipino struggle.

The Filipino youth groups led by Anakbayan shall undertake a political mass campaign and advocacy work on issues affecting the economic, political and socio-cultural life of their Filipino youth compatriots and other Filipinos abroad. This will form part of the comprehensive international solidarity work program of the Filipino youth groups in the homefront for their compatriots abroad that includes basic integration program for their youth counterparts abroad, regular exchange of information, ideas and opinions.

As for the Filipino-Canadian youth and other youth activists abroad, their task along the political framework of international solidarity is to carry the banner of the Filipino struggle for national democracy, freedom and emancipation by taking into account the issues in the homeland and pursue a comprehensive advocacy work with and before other groups in the international community in support to Filipino struggle in the homefront, as well as their own present struggle in foreign shores.

SERVE THE PEOPLE, FIGHT WITH THE PEOPLE:

Generational rejuvination and molding the youth is a question crucial to both reactionaries and revolutionaries, and to classes engaged in struggle. I call on my fellow Filipino youth here: Together, let us stand on the side of our revolutionary kababayans. Let us dedicate our fighting age to serving the people, not the imperialists and the local reactionaries. Each of our wasted time embodies a victory for the enemies of our people. So let us not waste time: Let us serve and struggle for the Filipino people to our fullest.

It is we who shall inherit our country. It is our future that the imperialists and local reactionaries are destroying. I therefore echo the question popularized by activists of the First Quarter Storm: "Kung hindi tayo, sino? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan?" Indeed, what better agent of change than we Filipino youth united with our people! What better time to fight for change than now! This realization makes the success of this forum a contribution to the victory of our people's struggle for national freedom and democracy.

Mabuhay ang Kabataang Makabayan sa Pilipinas, Canada at sa buong mundo!

Kabataang Pilipino, paglingkuran ang sambayanan! Sumanib sa masang anakpawis!

Ibagsak ang rehimeng US-Arroyo!

Ibagsak ang imperyalismo, pyudalismo at burukrata-kapitalismo!

Mangahas makibaka, mangahas magtagumpay!

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