This is not the first time someone called for the abolition of the youth council. Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino also wanted to abolish it under his term. However, four months before the end of his term in 2016, Aquino signed into law an act reforming the youth council. The law has not been put into practice yet, but the current Congress leadership is already eager to scrap it. Clearly, Alvarez’ call for its abolition has no basis.
Among the usual grounds behind the calls for its abolition are young people’s alleged immaturity and incompetence in assuming responsibilities, their vulnerability to undue influence of senior politicians, and the presence of other youth commitments, such as schooling. A closer look at these issues, however, would reveal the Philippine government’s outdated view of youth leadership.
For one, the alleged immaturity of the youth sector remains a mere perception of the adult society. In fact, it is a very flawed and traditional view that equates maturity with age. What these officials are failing to see is that the success of the Philippines, as a democratic country, relies on the wide participation of its citizens. As such, the government must be able to encourage every citizen to participate in its development. When they exclude young people, democracy is no longer at work. Policies, as a result, become exclusive.
The alleged vulnerability, meanwhile, is a reflection of the culture of victim-blaming in the Philippines. More often than not, the senior officials only want to look for someone to blame for the failure of their leadership. In the absence of a platform to voice out its concerns, the youth sector becomes an easy target for these blames. If the government is seriously considering to reform the system, why not remove those corrupt officials from power who are misleading young people? Why sanction young people for the problems they did not create? The government is barking at the wrong tree.
Lastly, the presence of other commitments should never be a reason not to provide young people with opportunities to lead. The leadership training the council can provide the Filipino youth is something they cannot simply get inside a classroom. Instead of limiting the avenues for youth leadership, the Philippine government should actually strive to create more platforms where young people may showcase their skills.
Nonetheless, the calls for the council’s abolition certainly contribute to the shrinking of the Filipino youth’s political space. The Philippine government certainly fails to recognize the benefits of having the youth sector as partner in development and not mere beneficiary of it.
I call on the Speaker, youth leaders and other stakeholders to sit down to discuss this matter.
Rejinel Valencia is a Filipino writer, human rights activist and Case4Space advocate. Follow him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/rejinelvalencia