Youth group stands behind harassed UPLB student in Duterte forum
DAVAO CITY – The youth group Anakbayan has strongly defended a student of University of the Philippines Los Baños - who questioned presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte during a recent forum there – from alleged harassment by supporters of the politician.
The student asked Duterte, who is the current mayor of Davao City, about his priority should he wins the presidency and questioned the 70year old lawyer over his plans to equip security forces with modern weapons over fears that the government education program would be affected by spending more for guns.
In defending the student, Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said there is nothing wrong with questioning a candidate’s budgetary priorities. He said the student’s critical questions on education spending and the national budget are legitimate regardless of the form, adding, these are articulated and should be seen as an opportunity to explain the candidate’s stand on the issue rather than as an offense.
“Under the Aquino regime, UP has seen chronic budget cuts and tuition and other fee hikes. We thus understand the UPLB student’s concern about a presidential candidate’s budgetary priorities for the next six years,” Crisostomo said.
He said more students should ask political candidates these questions given how the high cost of education under Aquino administration which has pushed many students to desperation, like UP Manila student Kristel Tejada and Jessaven Lagatic who committed suicide after losing their scholarship.
Crisostomo assailed Duterte supporters for bullying the UPLB student, saying it is alarmed at how death threats are easily thrown against those who harbor contrary opinions to their own.
“If anyone should be insulted, it is the students and parents who day after day are being insulted by the commercialized system of education under Aquino. Walang pinag- aralan? Paano ka makakapag- aral eh pinipuwersa ka ng gobyernong hindi makapag- aral sa taas ng mga bayarin,” Crisostomo said.
Crisostomo said Anakbayan asserted that threatening the life of a student just for asking questions is out of place in a democracy. "This only dampens critical thinking and perpetuates impunity among those in authority by discouraging individuals to raise questions out of fear of harassment," he said.
Duterte, for his part, appealed to his supporters to stop harassing those who do not agree with his opinions, saying, everybody has the right also to express their own views.