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Broken promise dims new graduates’ future

/ 12:10 AM April 26, 2017

More than 600,000 college students are expected to graduate this year. And their families, especially those in the lower strata of society, are most likely to celebrate this milestone. After all, since Ferdinand Marcos inked the Education Act of 1982, parents have borne the sole responsibility of sending their children through college even as generations of student radicals fought hard to fend off the profiteering schemes of capitalist-educators.

Notwithstanding the celebrations, graduates are apprehensive of what awaits them in the “real world.” Which is only normal to a graduate, unless he/she finished at least with a cum laude, or had been educated in a prestigious university and his/her family has connections and influence, or owns a business.

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Unfortunately, government statistics provide no comfort. The unemployment rate in March rose to 6.6 percent from a mere 4.7 percent three months earlier. Also, statistics show that unemployed youth comprise more than 20 percent of our almost 70 million labor force.

To recall, in March 2016, the Department of Labor boasted that 70,000 jobs were awaiting graduates. Weeks later, the Commission on Higher Education reported that 602,000 graduates had been added to the labor force.

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This gaping crisis of joblessness is what awaits this year’s graduates. Is this what they laboriously spent sleepless nights of studying for? Is this the “return of investment” for parents who selflessly invested in their children’s future without counting the cost?

Worse, their future has been made dimmer by a “graduation gift” from President Duterte. Last March 15, the labor department issued Department Order 174, saying this was the concretization of Du30’s electoral promise to end contractualization.

But the order does not in any way reflect the demands and interests of the workers—our parents. It does not direct employers to do away with their exploitative employment schemes. In substance, it does not differ from DO 18-A issued by the preceding Aquino administration.

Clearly, Du30 is breaking his campaign promises. The millions of workers and their families who voted him into power believing in his promise of “change” have obviously been shortchanged. A badly rehashed version of DO 18-A, Du30’s DO 174 merely bared his true colors; like the presidents before him, he is pro-business, not a socialist which he claims to be.

We do not need to finish our studies to claim that we are affected by this broken promise, as well as by government’s continuing tolerance of contractual employment. Many are already struggling just to remain enrolled. Our tuition and other expenses, such as for transportation, food, books and other school requirements, will still come from our parents’ measly pay for their contractual employment.

With our studies hanging in the balance, the Duterte administration’s reaffirmation of contractualization will only sentence our generation and those succeeding us to a life of destitution.

Continuing poverty—cheap, docile labor for crumbs falling from the banquet tables of the oligarchs—is not our version of change.

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The youth should lead the way in freeing our people from the idea that “change is coming” through the efforts of the Duterte administration, let alone of one person. Change can only come through collective action, perseverance and sacrifice—if necessary, even at the cost of our lives.

DIN PANGANIBAN,
member, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan,
[email protected]

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