Crowned as the hope of any nation, the youth should partake actively in the nation’s quest for peace. In September 2012, famous personalities like Anne Curtis, Gerald Anderson and Aple de Ap overwhelmed the launching of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) “I am for Peace” campaign. President Aquino led it himself, applauding the stars’ readiness to serve as national peace ambassadors geared for promoting peace and raising public awareness about the ongoing peace process with the Muslim community.
On October 28-31, 2012, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched the first National Youth Leadership Summit (NYLS) in Davao City participated in by more than 600 youths from all over of the country. AFP Chief of Staff General Jesus Dellosa said that NYLS was their “invitation for all Filipinos to take active part in winning the peace for our country and succeeding generations.”
First, the stars in the world of entertainment. Next, the common youth. Does the government think peace is achievable when endorsed by famous personalities? Are the youth really the AFP’s new army for peace or its mere instruments in waging peace against peace itself?
The Filipino youth has a progressive and militant tradition in the struggle for national democracy. From the 1986 Philippine Revolution until today, hundreds of thousands of youth took up arms and participated in the armed struggle. Kabataang Makabayan (KM), founded on November 30, 1964, organized and mobilized large number of youth in the cities, workplace and countryside – actively involving students, young workers and peasants. As the crisis ripened during the ‘70s, thousands of youth had risen in dissent. State oppression and repression intensified when Martial Law ruled the country. But the youth persevered, constantly educating themselves with revolutionary theories and strengthening their ranks by immersing themselves in the actual struggles of the masses. The country witnessed wide mobilizations and mass actions of the youth fighting for and determinedly advancing not only their rights, but as well as the rights and interests of the basic sectors.
Looking back further in history, the Filipino youth had taken part in fighting against Spanish colonialists, American imperialists and the Japanese fascists. Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto and Gregorio del Pilar were in their youth when they took part in and shed their blood for the revolution. It has been long and arduous struggle and even demanded giving one’s life when and as necessitated. Actively participating in the youth movement does not mean enjoying the bright lights, shaking hands with the President or mingling with the stars.
There is nothing wrong with peace-building efforts. The question, however, should always be: for whom? For whom is the peace that the AFP strives for? Is it for the greater number of the populace, which are the poor or is it for the wealthy, ruling elite? Does AFP’s NYLS aim to teach the youth to be critical thinkers or does it inculcate conservatism that intends to maintain the status quo and thereby keeping peace itself at arms length?
During the launching of the OPPAP’s “I am for Peace” Campaign, Aquino said: “Talaga naman pong may katiyakan ng katahimikan kung lahat tayo nakikialam at, sabi ko, ’Kung ganito ang kalibre ng mga kasangga nating natutulak ng kapayapaan, paano tayo hindi magtatagumpay?”Lalo na kung maghihikayat tayo ng mga bagong miyembro; nandito po si apl, sinamahan pa ni Noel, at siyempre ’yung ating platinum awardee na si Anne Curtis-baka maghahandog ng awit habang naghihikayat tayo sa lahat." Are these the words that the youth deserves to hear from Aquino? Is peace as fashionable as the latest fad diet and dazzling as the stars themselves?
A nation where rights are protected and respected, a nation where justice is present and peace is but as common as breathing fresh air – this is the kind of society in which the youth should invest. But the youth should be forewarned. Peace as a concept shall not be simply achieved through imagination nor is rooted in the romantic. The actualization of peace requires hard work and more than freewill it means assuming formidable tasks to attain social justice. Peace without it is impossible. And justice shall only be achieved by opposing violence employed by the reactionary government and the ruling class to quell social dissent with violence itself.
It is fitting when Comrade Mao Zedong said: “We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.”
The youth is a potent force for social change. They possess that beautiful youthful spirit that is made even more meaningful when fused with the struggles of the toiling masses. Confronted with the ever-worsening world capitalist crisis, the youth should never cease to fight against the oppressive system that aims to waste them. We enjoin the Filipino youth, take up arms and join the armed struggle!