There are various successful efforts in civic and political activism in the Philippines. As what you have learned from the previous modules, the Philippines has an environment that is conducive to the development of civil society organizations. Similarly, the Filipino youth are being encouraged to participate in civil and political activities, whether through formal (institutionalized mechanisms in the government) or informal (volunteerism) means (David 2013). Thus, the Filipino youth are called to participate in civil and political activities, apart from joining mass protests and rallies, and engagement through information and communications technology (ICT).
The Philippines stands out among its Asian neighbors due to the presence of a diverse set of opportunities for youth engagement. Such avenues may vary from large-scale institutionalized organizations in the government, to small faith-based ones that encourage volunteerism among high school and college students. Similarly, the government has implemented a system of representative governance for the young people including the Sangguniang Kabataan, the National Youth Commission, and several youth sectoral councils in different commissions in the government (Hutter 2008, in David 2013).
The Legal and Institutional Environment
Youth participation in the Philippines is recognized in various legal frameworks including the 1987 Constitution. For instance, Article II, Section 12 provides that “…The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” In the same article, Section 13 specifies that “the State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”
The youth’s participation through a party-list representative in the Congress is also stipulated in Article VI, Section 5, paragraph 2 of the constitution. As such, the youth is given a chance to be represented in the halls of the government as among the marginalized sectors in the country. The out-of-school youth are also recognized in the constitution, specifically in Article XIV, Section 2, paragraph 5: “the State shall provide adult citizens, the disabled, and out-of-school youth with training in civics, vocational efficiency, and other skills.”
Apart from these general provisions in the constitution, the Congress also ratified Republic Act No. 8044 or The Youth in Nation-building Act, which created the National Youth Commission and established a national comprehensive and coordinated program on youth development. This program is based on the following principles:
- Promotion and protection of the physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being of the youth
- Instilling in the youth the values of patriotism, nationalism, belief in the sanctity of life and dignity of the human person, conviction for strength and unity of the family, adherence to truth and justice, and other desirable characteristics
- Encouragement of the youth in character-building and development activities for civic efficiency, protection of the environment, productivity and development, and participation in policymaking and program implementation to reduce poverty and accelerate socioeconomic development
- Mobilization of youth’s abilities, skills, and talents for people’s freedom from fear, hunger, and injustices
There are also several institutions or agencies that deal with the issues of the youth. The Department of Social Welfare and Development is the government agency tasked to look at welfare issues of the youth. There are also other support institutions like the Youth Sectoral Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the National Youth Parliament, the National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency, and the Sangguniang Kabataan under the Office of the President.
Some Cases of Youth Engagement
Hutter (2008) identified a typology of youth civic engagement in her study on young people’s civic engagement in East Asia and the Pacific. The youth’s community service and volunteering come in a variety of ways:
Formal, long-term service – 20 hours per week of service for three months or longer
Part-time volunteering – anything less than formal, long-term service but more than two hours per week for two months
Occasional volunteering – anything less than the above
Service-learning – [is] a teaching method that enriches learning by engaging students in meaningful service to their schools and communities. Young people apply academic skills [in] solving real-world issues [and in] linking established learning objectives with community needs. This can be either school or [nonschool] based.
International volunteering – volunteers offer services to communities in countries other than their own
Mutual aid – providing assistance and support to others within the same community or social group; the distinction between the volunteer and the beneficiary may be less clear
Governance – representation to, and lobbying of, government bodies to monitor government policies, services, and programs
Advocacy and campaigning – raising public consciousness or working to change legislation
Youth media – video, radio, film, newspaper, or other [forms] of media production [being utilized] by young people; audience may be other young people or adults
Social entrepreneurship – creating innovative solutions to social problems by designing products or offering services
Leadership training and practice – mechanisms for learning and exercising leadership skills, including workshops as well as participation in volunteer activities
The youth civic participation programs in the Philippines, both at the national and the local levels, also fall within the categories in this typology. The following is a list of some of these activities (Hutter 2008, Innovations in Civic Participation, n.d.).
The representation of the youth sector in the Philippine House of Representatives is a widely acknowledged form of political engagement. The Kabataan party-list is an example of youth representation in the legislative branch.
The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) is a youth government mechanism where young people aged 15 to 18 can be elected to the local governing SK. Together with the SK-Youth Council, it works to establish community projects and serve as an avenue through which young people gain leadership skills by serving as leaders of their communities.
The National Youth Parliament, established in 1993, is a program created by the National Youth Commission (NYC). It meets every two years and brings together youth leaders for three days to talk about youth development issues and come up with a guide that could direct the government’s policy making programs.
The Sangguniang Kabataan Organizational Leadership and Reorientation Program (ISKOLAR) is another program of NYC, which provides a two-step training program for SK officials.
The government also engages young people with the integration of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) in the higher education curriculum in 2001. University students are required to complete one of the three components—Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS), Literacy Training Service (LTS), or Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)—before graduation.
There are also several civil society and private sector initiatives, local or international, that aid in the project of youth civic engagement in the country. The following are some of them (Innovations in Civic Participation, n.d.):
The Ayala Young Leaders Congress brings together university students throughout the Philippines and engages student leaders through a series of workshops, which aim to make the participants catalysts for change in the country.
The Palawan Conservation Corps, established in 1999, focuses on environmental consciousness and community development. It empowers out-of-school youth from rural areas to develop conservation skills, work ethic, and leadership qualities through community development efforts.
Save the Children, an international organization, spearheaded the Adolescent Friendly Reproductive Health Services, which provides civic participation opportunities for public health and community development. The organization allows young advocates to serve as peer educators for sexual and reproductive health, and health and nutrition awareness campaigns.