CALL TO REMOVE STUDENT-RALLYISTS’ SCHOLARSHIPS ‘RECKLESS’: PALACE
MANILA — Malacañang on Wednesday thumbed down the call of National Youth Commission (NYC) chairman Ronald Cardema to remove state scholarships for student-rallyists, particularly those suspected to be members of the leftist movement.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo described the proposal as “reckless”, noting that there has to be “concrete evidence” to prove that students are members of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
“We cannot just dismiss or remove the scholarship from them just because we are suspecting them. What I am saying is, hindi tayo (we’re not) reckless,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“Di naman lahat ng estudyante na sumasali sa organisasyon alam nila na ganun. Ang iba nalalaman nila later on at tumitiwalag. Ang iba naman gusto nila yun, tumutuloy sila. (Not all students who joined organizations are aware of that. Some find out later on and leave. Others like it and continue),” he added.
Panelo said student-rallyists, who are only exercising their right to free expression, cannot be considered anti-government unless proven.
“We are a government of laws not speculations. Kung sinususpetiyahan lang natin, di naman pu-puwede ‘yun (If we’re only suspecting them, that cannot be the case),” Panelo said.
“Kailangan meron tayong ebidensiya na mga parte nga sila ng mga grupo na laban sa goberyno. Kung sila’y sumasama lang sa mga rally (There should be evidence that they are part of groups against government. If they’re only joining rallies), that’s a right–that’s freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” he added.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said “mere membership” will not suffice as evidence to cancel students’ scholarships.
“Mere membership alone will not suffice. You have to show us evidence that one, you did join because you want to fight the government,” Panelo said.
“If you just express your dissent to government policies, kasama sa demokrasya ‘yan (that’s part of democracy). If you use rallies to foment violence, to incite sedition that’s a different story,” he added.
However, Panelo said students may only risk losing their scholarships if evidence shows that they knew, from the very beginning, that the group they joined has intentions to overthrow the government.
“If there is evidence na alam mo (that they knew) from the very beginning that will concretize showing that you’re fighting the government, we will remove the scholarship,” Panelo said.
“Pag nakita ka na kasama ka sa mga plano against the government, nagkaroon ng raid tapos ikaw pala kasama doon, ang laking ebidensiya nun (If they see you joining a plot against the government, and there’s a raid, and you were there, that’s huge evidence),” he added. (PNA)
Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler