The Controversial Letter of Mike Francis Acebedo Lopez: Philippines' National Youth Commission (NYC) Is A Big Failure?
I am constrained to report to the Filipino people, particularly to my fellow youth, that the Officials of the National Youth Commission have not served the greater interest of our people, for the following reasons:
1) This is a Youth Commission whose Leadership has cases at the Ombudsman, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) and the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), along with a severely damaged reputation, being subject to numerous complaints from various youth circuits and circulating in e-groups across the country and abroad. This Youth Commission has ganged up on me for my opposition, insisting that we are a collegial body and should therefore be united and agree on everything. But I believe in unity in diversity (there is a reason why the NYC was created to have several commissioners) and upholding truth and justice over everything else. They do not understand that I oppose only those decisions that I know will tarnish our individual and collective reputations, ultimately affecting the credibility and integrity of our agency. They do not understand that we each represent the NYC and our government, and our actions can and will affect the credibility and integrity of the Office we represent. At a time when corruption and hopelessness pervade, our credibility, I believe, is the best gift we could give our country and our fellow young Filipinos.
2) This is the same Youth Commission that has bullied the alumni association of the SSEAYP (Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program), an organization of passionate and dedicated alumni of the Japanese Government's SSEAYP program. (The NYC is mandated by law to implement the SSEAYP in the Philippines). The NYC Leadership supported the creation of a different alumni association to divide the current SSEAYP leadership in the Philippines, apparently to get back at them because the group pressed charges against the Officials of the Commission. These cases filed emanated from the Commission's decision to choose one of its own as National Leader of last year's SSEAYP delegation (the first time its ever happened) to a two-month all-expense paid cultural cruise across Japan and the ASEAN region. Worse, the Commission went through the motions of a search for applicants even if the NYC's Leadership had already promised the position to the interested Commissioner. So what initially was just an issue of delicadeza became an issue of deception, a betrayal of public trust.
Genuine leadership seeks to unite, not divide the efforts and convictions of young people. When it does, it's apparent that it is for no other reason but to perpetuate one's stay in power or to secure an otherwise insecure position in society or government.
3) Many youth leaders across the country perceive NYC as using every crisis in the Arroyo Presidency as yet another opportunity to "kiss ass". This has lead to the moro-moro and incompetent management of our international programs. Slots for foreign trips, scholarships, and exchange programs are given to friends of the officials, with an unwritten, internal arrangement that only those who are pro-administration will be chosen. Take the SSEAYP for instance: its guidelines, which have been in place for several years, were unilaterally changed last year to accommodate an alleged relative of the President. In fairness to the President, I do not think that she is aware of these happenings, nor has she given such order. The irony is that the alleged relative did not apply last year, but the damage has already been done against the integrity of the SSEAYP selection process. And all this after we require applicants of our programs to accomplish so many difficult requirements and submit long essays. These officials have no respect for the efforts of the young people whose interests we all swore to uphold and protect.
4) We've all heard about issues concerning our national procurement law, discussed in length at the Senate's hearings on the NBN-ZTE issue. Unfortunately, corruption in the bidding process is nothing new—not even to the NYC. In the middle of 2006, during an Executive Session in our Regular Commissioners' Meeting, and in the presence of our previous legal officer, I was so shocked when two of our Commissioners started accusing each other of securing kickbacks from their management of the agency's BAC (Bids and Awards Committee). The NYC Leadership did not even conduct a formal investigation on the matter.
5) The NYC Leadership ordered for the delivery of computer units despite the advice from our Admin and Finance Division (AFD) that the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) had already denied the release of funds for the project. The project was supposed to be funded by the Presidential Social Fund, but Malacañang denied the release of funds after discovering that there were violations in the bidding process that the NYC leadership approved. For over a year, the supplier of the computer units were not paid and they almost resorted to legal action had it not been for the steps taken by our AFD Division. (I hope the NYC Leadership did not use the computers for an election bid as president of an association of law students, the computers having been distributed to the law school beneficiaries before the association's election. It's too much, really, to sacrifice the agency's reputation for that.)
6) There are fresh reports of a certain Commissioner who allegedly falsified a DILG Memo Circular, forging no less than Secretary Ronaldo Puno's signature to endorse his SK seminar cum business venture. The falsified DILG Memo Circular endorsed this Commissioner's training of SKs, an activity unknown to the NYC and its staff. Maybe he preyed on the SKs knowing that they have the funds to participate in his seminars and falsified/forged the signature of the Cabinet Secretary to make sure that they are obliged to join (according to reports, these cost at least Php 5, 000 per participant; with possibly over a thousand SKs in that province who can participate – well, you do the math).
Despite the humiliation and indignity caused by them, many of these Officials still have the nerve to seek reappointment; worse, one is even starting to lobby for the Chairmanship of the NYC. To reappoint or promote anyone from this crop of NYC officials is like sentencing young people in our country to a fate worse than death.
Look who's talking
There is a long litany of issues (Yes, there are more) that I hope can be resolved in the proper forum. While there is an ongoing debate for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan, what about looking at the activities of the National Youth Commission and the apparent failure of its officials to protect its credibility, having been embroiled in scandal after scandal? How can the SKs look up to the NYC as a guide when the Commission has lost the moral ascendancy to lead them or to even propose reforms in the SK?
To whom much is given, much is also expected. But how can the NYC live up to the high standards young people expect of them when, adding insult to injury, some of its officials have been reported to engage in scandalous sexual and amoral behavior in some of the NYC's official programs? Complaints from some youth volunteers allege that, in a number of instances, a Commissioner asked them to look for prostitutes for him. Our young people are talking about these debauched activities of a highly decadent Youth Commission, an agency that could have been considered the final frontier, the bastion of integrity and righteousness in the government.
The Officials of the National Youth Commission have failed our country's youth. Even the hardworking staffs of the agency appear to be demoralized. (The agency's staff's turnover rate in the past year is the highest in the NYC's history)I would rather go down with my integrity intact and my head held up high, than keep up the pretense of integrity where there is none. And I call upon each young Filipino to help me wage this war. Mayday, mayday… I need back up. Let us seize this moment, fight the good fight, and define our generation - and we will soon discover that for our country, and ourselves - the best is yet to come.