October 5, 1996
THE majority of our population now consists of the youth. This large and amorphous sector, surveys tell us, is growing rootless and wild, alienated in the Filipino diaspora. Their parents and other relatives have been leaving the country in droves in search of work, leaving them behind to shift for themselves, under the feeble hand of doddering grandparents and indifferent relatives.
It is becoming evident that the youth of today are very different from their immediate predecessors, the generation known as the Martial Law babies—the last generation of Filipinos to experience a trace of traditional upbringing. They are now old enough to get married and produce children of their own, even as a yet younger generation emerges whose mores puzzle even those just a few years older.
This alienated an alien generation—baptized by advertisers as Generation X or even post-Generation X—has social workers ringing the tocsin. Alarmed parents and school officials have done what they can to help, but that seems to be little.
This is sad but unavoidable.
But politicians, being the opportunistic species that they are, have been quick to sniff opportunities in our burgeoning youth electorate. They have plied them with parties and cash, discos and basketball courts, in the process of courting their votes. It doesn’t need a genius to see the correlation between the politicians’ eager mining of this electoral lode and the deepening disillusionment of the youth, and a far worse cynicism than even their elders had despite the corruption they witnessed in their time.
Now comes Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, with scheme to enlist schoolchildren to spy on grafters. His latest pet project was revealed during a “preconference dialogue” (government jargon for a simple meeting) attended by 40 student leaders. Speaking to representatives of the National Student Consensus, the Student Alliance for National Unity, and a representative of the UP Student Council, Desierto rumbled that “The junior graftwatch program seeks to revive old Filipino values and traditions and a sensible formula to prevent graft and corruption.”
Spying an old Filipino value. Only if you are a Macabebe.
At any rate, his suggestion was seconded by a lackey who said that students participating in the junior graftwatch will serve as the Ombudsman’s “eyes and ears.” Meaning, they will all have their backs turned to him so they can’t see what he is doing.
The idea of having children spying on adults has Orwellian implications—which should keep us from laughing off his idea the way people chuckled over the Kabataang Barangay, the movement of lumpen young that Marcos thought would be his Hitler Youth.
In the first place, having children ratting on their parents and relatives—or worse, the parents and relatives of schoolmates they do not know well but happen to dislike—smacks of communism.
And what will they rat about? How children in short pants, or mere teenagers in high school and college, are supposed to determine cases of graft and corruption hasn’t been explained. Neither has it been clarified how the children are supposed to report any wrongdoings—will there be Maoist-style “struggles”? Uproarious meetings during which children will finger their elders?
And what sort of values will be fostered by having children snooping around during class hours? The virtue of studying hard? The virtue of respect for elders? The virtue of telling the truth?
We can only see the Ombudsman’s idea leading to the propagation of certain types of behavior that are, indeed, very Filipino—such as cowardice, treachery, envy, issuing in behavior that has shamed generations of Filipinos.
Behavior that marked the most shameful and tragic periods of our past, from the stool pigeons and balimbings of the era of Marcos, to the Makapilis of the Japanese Occupation, to the Macabebe Scouts of the Filipino-American war, down to the traitor who assassinated Diego Silang and the chieftains who sided with the Spaniards.
We can only see duplicity being more ingrained in schoolchildren. We can only predict an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia coming out of the Ombudsman’s little plan. This is no way to bring up the youth.
Haven’t we seen the Kabataang Barangay mutate under the present dispensation into the Sangguniang Kabataan, training ground for pork-barrel cadres? And this is only one example of the way greed can be institutionalized; this is bad enough, but training in scholastic espionage is the limit.
What we shall end up with are not just the shiftless and empty-headed youth of today who can no longer read or write, but amateur spies who will dare to scribble gibberish as their reports on the conduct of the neighbors. This isn’t just evil. It is pathetic.