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Ninoy Aquino, the SONA and our youth

By Ching Jorge
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:12:00 07/26/2008

Filed Under: State of the Nation Address (SONA), Personalities, Youth

?The Filipino today is facing an everlasting crisis. Never in history has he suffered from greater political and economic wants. It is time for every Filipino to help in the quest for that elusive national unity which is imperative for the nation?s survival.? ? Ninoy Aquino, 23 June 1983

Twenty-five years later, Ninoy Aquino still remains relevant, particularly for our youth. In fact, the Foundation for Worldwide People Power (FWWPP) is producing another landmark documentary called ?BEYOND CONSPIRACY: 25 Years after the Aquino Assassination? to bring this point home. (Appropriately, this documentary will be telecast on National Heroes? Day. You can email FWWPP executive director Butch Hernandez at butchhernandez@gmail.com for more information.)

Ninoy?s statement still rings true today, as we continue our struggle for national unity and economic stability. The upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) is supposed to answer and give us hope amid the many issues we face today. But after seven years, the state of the nation remains the same.

The Former Senior Government Officials

The (FSGO) has an alternative SONA. (Ninoy would have been right at home with this group.) The group proffers seven issues: (1) a country unable to feed its people; (2) worsening poverty and increasing inequity; (3) deteriorating basic social services; (4) the cancer of corruption; (5) wanton abuse of presidential power; (6) an illegitimate president; and (7) a nation robbed.

The FSGO statement presents a sober view of the real situation of the country.

It reaffirms the need for reform not just in view of the current state of the country but also in each and every sector of society and government. It is especially highlighted by the fact that in less than 22 months the country will be facing a change in governance and leadership. And despite the current state of the nation, it tells us that we continue to have the strength of a democracy and that together we can re-imagine the nation as something better for the Filipino people.

As the countdown begins to the 2010 elections, many groups are surfacing in search of the perfect leader. There may be the perception that the current set of presidential aspirants may be lacking, but there is hope that a dialogue and the mobilization of the youth and civil society can bring about the change that the nation is looking for?this whether under a leader coming from the current set or someone emerging as an alternative candidate.

In a youth conference, called YouthVote 2010, held earlier this year with select delegates from the ranks of student leaders and young decision-makers, one of the survey questions asked was whether or not they felt represented by the current set of presidential aspirants. The results showed that 76 percent answered ?No,? while 24 percent said ?Yes.?

During the mock elections conducted, only one candidate got 25 percent (the highest) while 14 percent indicated no preferred candidate among the given choices.

Do the youth have the numbers? Studies tend to show that if all the youth register and vote in 2010 they would carry 56 percent of total votes. Conceivably, the youth vote could determine the presidential victor.

Many youth organizations have begun pushing their plans for voters? registration and first-time voters? education. Just recently, a number of groups (which include the Young Public Servants, Youth Alliance Philippines, YouthActNow, TeamRP, Ayala Young Leaders, Akbayan Youth) have agreed to work together for voters? education. More youth groups will be joining in the coming weeks. This call for collective action and collaboration is a move to address the need to educate and empower the youth through knowledge and information in order for them to learn to make the right decisions and to be firm and more discerning in electing the next president. In the dialogues organized among different organizations and civil society groups, there is the consensus that with aligned objectives and unified efforts, there may be a chance to discover or reaffirm true leadership.

The Third Way is one such organization, and the Leadership Forum will be a series of discussions with an objective of increasing and organizing the constituency for reform. Though the game may have already been set for 2010, if this perseverance for true leadership and reform continues and if the people and civil society remain steadfast in their fight for Good Governance, then we may yet see a new nation emerge in 2016 and beyond.

We may have different criteria for or opinions of a great leader; and in all the dialogues the underlying question that remains is ?Who is our Ninoy now, and who will break us free from our struggle?? History will show that it will have to be all of us.

Ching Jorge is the lead convener of Young Public Servants (www.yps.org.ph), the director for Programs and Research of the Bato Balani Foundation and the chair of the Research Committee of the League of Corporate Foundations. Email at chingjorge@gmail.com

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