Press Release
August 20, 2019

De Lima tells gov't: Respect student rights to activism

Emphasizing that activism is not a crime, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima said the government must allow students the democratic space to organize, express themselves freely, and petition the government for redress of grievances.

De Lima, a known human rights and social justice champion, issued a statement in support of the "Day of Walkout and Action" spearheaded by University of the Philippines (UP) students scheduled today (Aug. 20).

"Thank you for taking a stand. Thank you for standing your ground. Kung kayong kabataan ay hindi tumitigil sa paghugot ng aral sa lipunan, buong puso pa ring yumayakap sa mga aping sektor, matapang na lumalaban sa isang sistemang paulit-ulit na lang tayong niyuyurakan, ano ang karapatan naming mga matatanda para sumuko na lamang?" De Lima said in a statement read during the event.

The lady Senator from Bicol lauded UP students for taking a united stand against the Department of the Interior and Local Government's plan to review an agreement with state colleges and universities which, among other, prohibits the deployment of policemen in the campuses without permission of their administrators.

It specifically is looking at UP and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) which are reportedly considered as the hotbeds of student activism and the fertile grounds for recruitment to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

"Puwede namang hindi na lang makialam. You can just enjoy life with all the comforts that this age can provide to young people like you. But you chose not to. You chose not to allow the culture of fear and impunity to permeate deeper into our core," De Lima said.

"Just like in Hong Kong, young people are sending a strong message to their governments. They are ready to stand up for their right to freely express their thoughts about the abuses of this current administration," she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol also denounced the police's plan to gain access to school campuses, saying it is tantamount to martial law and could lead to the curtailment of the students' right to free expression and to peaceful assembly.

"Nakababahala na parang pati karapatan ng ating mga estudyante na maglabas ng saloobin sa mga maling polisiya ng pamahalaang ito ay gusto na rin ipa-tokhang," she lamented.

In her recent message during the International Youth Day celebration last Aug. 12, De Lima encouraged the Filipino youth to serve as instruments for positive change to society amid the enormous challenges facing the country.

She said that as the country's future leaders, the Filipino youth should be given a chance to succeed and to live in a society founded on the principle of humility, compassion and selfless public service.

The former justice secretary expressed belief that the Filipino youth can play a key role in shaping the democratic discourse and in bringing about positive transformation to a just and humane society.

On Aug. 20, UP students across the country stage a "Day of Walkout and Action" to protest the growing police and military intrusion into their schools.

According to a memorandum by the UP Office of the Student Regent dated Aug. 14, the students will use the system-wide gathering to assert their right to academic freedom, to organize, and to protest.

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