Wednesday, 02 May 2018 15:27

Millennials take on DU30 and EDCA

THE Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI) has been accepting third-year college students as OJT interns (on the job training) for the past decade. We have been fortunate in having young people (aged 18 to 22 years), coming from different schools in the provinces, work with us for six to eight weeks during their summer break.

This year’s batch is the smallest. Craig Vincent Tibon, 19, Dennis Jay Paras, 20, and Nizle Caraballe, 20. They all come from Liceo de Cagayan University and will graduate with degrees in international studies or political science. Last year’s batch of four females and two males was outstanding: three finished magna cum laude with one a sobresaliente, and two cum laude. Craig, a sobresaliente himself, is on track for a summa cum laude this incoming schoolyear.

Both the CDPI and the interns benefit from these arrangements. The students get to learn to work in a real office environment and do field work on “political technocracy,” with schedules, assignments and deadlines, preparing them for an early professional life post-college. CDPI profits from this arrangement as the OJTs inject fresh insights and perspectives into our political institute; which brings me to this week’s article.

I wanted to mine the brains of my young colleagues, gauge the depth of their socio-political awareness, and for them to put to paper their take as millennials on the issues of the day. They were given less than a week to write a 400 to 800-word essay on their favorite issues with one or two suggested by CDPI.

Two out of three topics were about President Duterte while the lone female preferred the encroachment of the US bases in the Philippines.

What was evident is their predilection for sourcing news and issues almost wholly from social media. This could eventually spell the demise of the broadsheets as young readers migrate towards the exclusive use of internet platforms.

The choice of topics reflects how abreast they are with current issues. Craig’s take on the Deegong is straight, linear and bold: “…the most powerful person in the country, the President, is not exempted from being the center of the discourse…apparently, this set of millennials believe that Digong is an imperial president. They argue that the president destroys the democratic processes and institutions of the country. But there is an apparent cleavage of opinions between the pros and anti (Duterte). However, there are ‘passersby’ not (paying) attention on issues (not found) on their (FB) timelines. They are apathetic.”

Dennis on the other hand employs the Socratic method: Is Deegong a prudent and rational man or is he just another bad decision-maker? Machiavelli once said, ‘A prudent man never honors his words’…one could say that Deegong is indeed a prudent man due to his mood swings and his unique style of decision-making, which can be compared to modern artworks (complex, weird and unorthodox yet still has an appeal to the viewing public).”

Such declarations may provoke debate among the more articulate millennials, particularly those now working in various professions. Most, however, seem to be ambivalent and oblivious of the passion of the moment – the erratic behavior of DU30 – particularly those who are still ensconced within the comfortable and safe confines of their classrooms.

This is understandable as the millennials and the X Gen (40 +) barely have the firsthand memories of a dictatorship but only the lessons to be learned from books, essays and documents, mostly written by the baby boomers. The imposition of martial law and life within a dictatorial regime are alien to their experience. But the greater danger lies where lessons are not learned and the creeping conditions similar to those of the Marcos dictatorship will again descend upon us. We need to be mindful of George Santayana’s dictum.

Which brings me also to the short article of the lone female OJT on the Philippine-US relationship. Nizle’s take is that recent news signaled the sneaking intrusion of American forces into the country with the bilateral military exercise “known as Balikatan – happening next month (May 7-18, 2018). This caters to the US-Philippine arrangement in response to a recent crisis; but the cooperation and interoperability of the US and Philippine armed forces is the core of this exercise; (depicting) too the embodiment of diplomatic affairs on both sides.”

It will be recalled that past American administrations (Bush Sr./Reagan) were the champions of the Marcos dictatorship. In 1998, the US military bases in the country, were taken out, eroding US prestige in Southeast Asia. The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was signed between the two countries as a watered-down version covering the US military presence in the region, establishing the annual bilateral military exercises called Balikatan.

When the deadly Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines in November 2013, the US Marines were the first to arrive and give aid to the victims through the “disaster relief crisis response.” From this sprung the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the two countries.

Effective for an initial period of 10 years, and enforced yearly thereafter unless terminated by either party, EDCA allows US forces to operate out of agreed locations – facilities and areas that are provided by our government through our Armed Forces (AFP). Operational control of these facilities is with the US forces although the Philippines retains ownership of the “agreed locations.” The US government asked for access to eight locations in the Philippines. We agreed to five.

On April 18, 2018, the first “EDCA project broke ground at the Pampanga Basa Air Base for a ‘multi-purpose Humanitarian Response Warehouse.’ Defense Secretary Lorenzana said it will respond to the evolving security challenges and promote peace in the Asian region”

(PDI April 18, 2018)

Except for the remnants of the leftist groups in the country, these developments did not seem to disturb the equanimity of the millennials. With all media platform inundated by news about China’s illegal infringement on our territories in the West Philippine Sea, its bullying tactics, and Malacañang’s lame and inutile response, the millennials may be tolerant and even welcome the “return of the US forces.”

The perspectives of the millennials may be different from those of the past generations; and rightly so as they have one thing going for them today absent in our time – immediate and unfettered access to information. But with this rapid growth of technology, they are inundated with facts and “pseudo facts,” and a plethora of data, opinion and viewpoints. Do they have the sophisticated mind to separate the chaff from the grain allowing them to formulate their own views? The contribution of the interns manifested in their essays puts the answer in the positive. And labeling the President as ‘imperial’ and an unorthodox decision-maker; plus, their healthy skepticism about the continued presence of America in the country, they also have the courage to say it.

This specific characteristic of the Filipino millennial is crucial in the maintenance and furtherance of the country’s democracy. We are in good hands!
Published in LML Polettiques