Youth leaders from all over the Philippines gathered from February 22-25, 2019 in simultaneous youth camps, not only to commemorate the days of EDSA People Power Revolution but also to wield a new kind of people power – youth power in the 2019 National Elections.
As the nation remembers the four day historic EDSA revolution, youth camps were held simultaneously across the country to give the youth a platform to connect, collaborate and create. The camps were organized as avenues for critical discourse on pressing social issues, and to formulate, exchange and nurture creative ideas, innovations and concrete solutions for societal concerns and develop strategic actions towards nation building.
According to Active Vista Executive Director Leni Velasco, “It is in gatherings of young people like this camp for human rights that keep the spirit of EDSA alive. People Power was never about the colors or personalities that were in Edsa. It was about ordinary people doing the extraordinary thing of toppling down the Marcos tyranny.”
The Youth Camps were held as the youth’s response to the call of the times – to fight together for a future that their generation deserves and to wield a vision of a Philippines where rights and freedoms are upheld, guaranteed and protected, and where democracy works to benefit the lives of the citizens.
“As we confront a plethora of the continuing human rights violations, persistent attacks against our democracy, and unrelenting efforts to undermine our rule of law, the involvement of youth in these issues are crucial. Our youth has the highest stake on this; they are the ones who shall take brunt of the national trauma our current political and societal turmoil bring,” underscored Hermz Gacho, coordinator of DAKILA Iloilo Collective.
The simultaneous youth camps gathered around 175 youth leaders and were held in North and South Luzon and in the Visayas.
The Visayas leg was participated by around 50 youth leaders from Cebu, Negros, and Panay Islands. It was held in Mambukal Mountain Resort in Murcia, Negros Occidental over the long weekend.
The youth camp discussed an overview of the national and regional human rights situation for the youth leaders to craft a human rights based youth agenda that they will campaign for and demand for candidates to adapt as their platform.
The camp was also a venue for the youth participants to affirm commitment to stand in solidarity as a sector against attacks on the people’s rights, freedoms and dignity.
Micheline Rama, DAKILA Executive Director, shared that “the youth camps are just a start of a series of activities that the youth sector has lined up to consolidate its power as potent social force. History has proven that it is the youth that shapes the nation.”
According to DAKILA, there are around 20 million youth voters in the upcoming elections and the youth vote has the power to change the landscape of the elections.
“The timing of the youth camps could not be more perfect. It reminds us that in times of inequality, oppression, and injustice, it is constantly the youth that steps up to be at the frontline of the battles for the people’s rights and for our country’s liberty. From struggling against the colonizers to toppling down the Marcos dictatorship, the youth has time and time again proven their irrevocable role in the struggle,” Rama stressed.
The youth camp program was built on the proposed agenda and campaign crafted by the Heroes Hub Youth Empowerment Summit, a conference attended by 250 youth leaders that was held late last year during the commemoration of Bonifacio Day and the celebration of the 70th Human Rights Day.
The campaign also launched a youth survey to reflect the youth’s positions and stands on vital national issues, such as; EJKs, Charter Change, and Martial Law. The survey and youth agenda shall be presented to the public on April 9, Araw ng Kagitingan and it will kick-off the 32-day campaign for a rights-based youth agenda in the 2019 National Mid-term Elections 2019.
Velasco further said, “Our Filipino youth is not apathetic. The large turnout of registered youth voters has proven that. In fact, youth involvement has taken many forms, not only in the streets but in virtual spaces like their social media accounts.”
“We have to realize that the youth, with its very nature, shall never be confined to traditional forms of involvement. And that is precisely why those in power and those who are trying to control, twist and revise our national narrative should beware,” Velasco emphasized.
Moreover, Gacho also shared that the “tempestuous awakening of this generation shall be a force to reckon with. The People Power in EDSA that toppled a dictatorship did not happen in those 4 days we commemorate nor was the Philippine Revolution forged overnight but was a product of many years of struggle of unsung heroes, mostly the youth who courageously fought for our nation to be free. Youth Power should never be underestimated. As youth is their weapon, theirs is the power to truly make change happen.”
The Youth Camps were organized as a multi-organizational endeavor of the artist-activist collective DAKILA through its Active Vista Center, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network-Philippines (SDSN), and the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) with the support of the CHR-GOJUST Human Rights Project — a joint endeavor of the European Union (EU) and the Spanish Government through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
Two more youth camps shall be held in Metro Manila on February 28 to March 3, and in Mindanao in April. The Youth Camps are part of an extensive project that aims to develop a rights-based youth agenda in the coming midterms polls. With 20 million youth voters, the youth takes up one-third of the voting population.