Refusing to recognize the increase

These past days, some of my friends and I have also gone around Mass Comm and had discussions with fellow students regarding the passage, albeit deceitful and ‘illegitimate’, of the tuition increase proposal. Much have been argued about it, and I’m still as against it as I ever was.

My contention now is on how it was passed by the Board of Regents last December 15. The sudden change of the meeting’s venue proves that the Board is bent on avoiding public scrutiny. Hell, even Congress sessions are open to public. Second, the meeting was done in such a haste. Such a significant proposal passed in less than half an hour? Oh, come on. Third, the meeting was done with the deliberate exclusion of the two regents with actual constituency representations. And as for transparency, the administration, up to now, refuses to release the minutes of the meeting so we can actually have a glimpse of how exactly the closed-door meeting transpired. How difficult is it to honestly transcribe a half-hour meeting? It’s been more than a month now.

And because UP Diliman’s website simply serves as a propaganda tool of a university administration bent on railroading this tuition and other increases proposal, I’m publishing some of the various open letters I’ve been coming across, which university administration websites and newsletters will, obviously, refuse to publish.

Eroded Integrity of the UP BOR and Administration
MARCO M. DELOS REYES UP
Student Regent (2004)

I was once a member of the UP Board of Regents. We were the group of people who voted to seat Dr. Emerlinda Roman as the UP President to replace the retiring Dr. Francisco Nemenzo. That was in 2004.

I criticized the structure of the BOR. Along with the UP community, we sought to democratize decision-making in the beleaguered University of the Philippines by advocating democratization through the passage of the unit assemblies in the UP Charter. We believed that the BOR is far less accountable to the University because of its skewed composition (with six Malacañang appointees, including the CHED chair) and representation (only one Regent for student and faculty).

The erroneous decision of the UP BOR on December 15, which approved the proposed 300 percent tuition increase, manifested the indifference of the Board of Regents to the constituency they were supposed to represent. It came as natural as raindrops because of the inherent structure of the board.

But that is not my main argument and point of reflection here. Let me still work inside the framework of the Board. The BOR I knew was cautious and careful so as to build a sense of legitimacy in its decisions. This is important in an academic community where legitimacy comes from the ability of board decisions, policies, and actions to withstand highly adversarial and intellectual public scrutiny and debate. I realized that principle more when we elected the next UP President (that is, Dr. Roman ). I remember President Dodong Nemenzo ‘s reminder to the members of the Board then: come the time that we are to decide on the UP Presidency, we should be in no less than a perfect attendance. Meaning: twelve members present and voting. That we did. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the present BOR leadership. Leaving the Student Regent and Faculty Regent behind, seven (7) members of the BOR convened covertly at the UP College of Law, after an abrupt and unannounced change of venue, and approved without objection the 300 percent tuition increase proposal. 20 minutes were all they needed to discuss and approve the proposal. CHED Chair Puno and Pres. Roman made JDV’s con-ass effort an LRT compared to their Maglev.

Dr. Roman has just given a new operational definition to the word railroad. The BOR and UP administration cannot only withstand public scrutiny and debate; they refused and evaded public scrutiny and debate. In the past years, the BOR has been barricaded in its meetings at UPLB, UP PGH and even at Quezon Hall, UP Diliman, and they faced the community squarely. But recently, they hid behind a bush and even barred those that they thought do not belong to the click.

Certainly, there is no legitimacy in their shrouded act. The fact is, they cannot look at the iskolars ng bayan in the eye because their actions disregarded social responsibility and universality of education — principles that UP kept in its last 98 years of existence. Education in our country has all the more become the right of the few.

Now, my enthusiasm to the Centennial of UP in 2008 has gone. I expect grand pomp and pageantry, but the meaning has lost. Despite of this, I still have hope for the students, and selfless faculty and employees who continue to spread their arms like Oblation. Indeed, they are the true carriers of what we know as “UP”. Tuloy ang Laban!

THE FULL FORCE OF DEFIANCE
RAFFY JONES G. SANCHEZ
Student Regent, University of the Philippines System

Thieves in the Night. I call for the full force of defiance. Roman’s Neo-Liberal Regime deserves nothing less.

Great is my belief that, contrary to the apparent objective of this Regime when it submitted the tuition increase for approval last December, our bold resolve which stems from our genuine concern to uphold the Filipino Youth’s right to accessible quality education has not faded in the course of holiday merrymaking. Recharged and energized, we are now prepared to confront our adversaries, Dr. Roman and her cohorts in the Board of Regents who stepped on our right to education in a manner that only the stealthy thieves of the night do.

Let us not forget December 15. While your Faculty and Student Regents came prepared to the official venue of the Board of Regents’ meeting an hour earlier than the appointed time of 3:30 pm, the scheming Roman Regime transferred the venue of the meeting without proper notice, one which came minutes after 3:30pm. When I got hold of the days-ago prepared change of venue memorandum, I immediately called the attention of the Secretary of the University to this breach of protocol. The Board, through the University Secretary, responded that it was of the opinion that the breach of protocol came from the demonstrators’ end for allegedly preventing the Board from meeting. Why, pray tell, would the demonstrators preclude the Board from meeting when it is only by letting the Board meet that they could achieve their desire to have the proposal junked, or at the very least, deferred? Dr. Roman’s flimsy excuse that, “the meetings of the Board of Regents are never a public spectacle” demonstrates the fact that the concepts of transparency and good governance escape her. Even the meetings of the not-so-distinguished men and women of Congress are done in public. Perhaps Roman was concerned that her habit for digression during meetings would not prove entertaining for the demonstrators present in Quezon Hall.

What we are interested in is the tuition increase proposal, a matter that will affect the character of this University. Why can’t an administration, that so highly prides itself on the greatness of its proposal, afford to discuss and decide on it in a transparent manner? The administration’s change of venue, like the increase in tuition itself, was premeditated. The memorandum on the transfer of venue which cited “Security Concerns” was, in fact, already prepared even days before the Board Meeting. It was no less than Dr. Roman who admitted this. This is a clear showing that it is this Regime itself that cooked up the conditions to come up with supposed “security concerns”, so as to make their escape from the protesters’ legitimate call to meet in public appear valid.

The memorandum is an insult to the Faculty and Student Regents and the sectors they represent. Between the Faculty Regent and myself, it was clear that the administration was hell-bent on approving the proposal immediately. Had we proceeded to the College of Law, we would have simply been used to perfect the delusion of legitimacy that they want to concoct in the light of their railroading. Had we decided to join the illegitimate meeting at the College of Law, we also would have been part of a deluded audience in their grand play entitled “Security Concerns”. Such an action on our part would have forsaken the legitimate call of the protesters. Thus, we stood our ground.

Like thieves in the night, Dr. Roman and her partners in the conspiracy lurked away from public view as they consummated their act of betrayal to the students, the University, and the Filipino People. After so doing, they escaped through a secret passageway just like trained professionals.

Divide and Rule. Traitors have long tested the Divide and Rule Formula. The Roman Regime also made use of this to pacify the agitated student body. For unexplained reasons, the Regime cancelled the traditional Lantern Parade. By so doing, it intended to hit two birds with one stone, that is, prevent the participation of students in the mass action and at the same time discredit organizers by blaming them for the cancellation of the event. But students did not let this crass tactic succeed. Many still participated in the parade which pushed through under the watch of the University Student Council. Even in campaigning for popular support for the tuition increase proposal itself, the Regime utilized the Divide and Rule tactic by purposely spreading half-truths about a better compensation package for the faculty, and about how only the rich will pay more, among others.

When the incident in Malcolm Hall took place, the Regime was quick to spot an opportunity. That is one of the few talents of our administrators. I am glad to have heard from the Law Student Government (LSG) for the first time. It is unfortunate, however, that it should be under these circumstances. At the very least, the LSG Statement has clarified its attitudes and perceptions of the incident which were not very clear to me during what it puts as a “5-minute, initially adversarial dialogue” with me.

After reading the statement, I have realized that there are a number of facts that must be clarified with the Student Government. I will welcome a dialogue with its members in the soonest possible time. An official statement from my Office on this regard will also follow. As I have done in the dialogue with the LSG Chair, I sincerely apologize for the damages in property and the emotional stress obtaining from this incident. Any destruction in property and infliction of emotional stress must always be averted. These, however, were never the intention of the protesters. But, to me, the outrage of the students instigated by the approval of the increase in tuition and the manner by which it was handled is completely justified. I am sure that the Law Student Government can look beyond the reductionist assessment that the vehement opposition to the increase in tuition and other fees is merely “my agenda”. The presence of the Student Regent with the crowd outside the Board Meeting which he is supposed to attend is compelling enough a reason to be disturbed. Even the so-called “veterans” of mass actions always remember that protest actions go hand in hand with table negotiations. The abandoning of table negotiations, in this case shown by the forced absence of the Student Regent from the Board Meeting, is only resorted to in extreme cases characterized by outright disregard of rights–when order, propriety, and rule of law become but so much flowery words, if not, ink on paper.

The outrage witnessed by the LSG and some law students, who were also not completely aware of the occurrence of the Board Meeting in their College, is symptomatic of a disruption in normalcy which has roots that are surely deeper than an isolated release of some students’ temperaments. It is an outrage that may only be instigated by an institutional disregard and trampling of the students’ collective rights.

I enjoin the LSG to take a second objective look at the matter and share some of its time with me for a better appreciation of facts behind the incident. The real culprits behind this incident, among others, may not be very proximate for they are hiding in their ivory towers. With their true colors exposed, the supposed sacred cows of this University are turned into scared cows. But their continuous attempt to hoodwink the scholars of the people will not succeed. We will defeat this Regime’s Divide and Rule Tactic.

Parroting the Master. The brazen manner by which the increase in tuition and other fees was approved gives a clear case in point of the undemocratic and non-representative nature of the Board of Regents. The Board has 12 members. It is headed by the Chair of the Commission on Higher Education who is an appointee of the woman who calls herself the President of the Philippines. It has 2 members from the Legislature, 5 Palace appointees, the UP President, and the Alumni, Faculty, and Student Regents. Clearly, it is a Malacañang-led Board. That is why it is easy to understand why the approval of the increase in tuition found passage amidst the strong opposition.

An increase in tuition is part of the scheme to make State Colleges and Universities “self-reliant”. In other words, they must be able to generate income on their own in lieu of, and in line with, the furtherance of declining state subsidy. Parcel of the GMA-backed Long Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP) is the design to make 70% of (SCUs) collect tuition that is at par with their counterparts in the private educational institution. LTHEDP was the Philippine Government’s show-piece of sincerity to rapist Daniel Smith’s country, the Imperialist U.S., that it would be able to pay its IMF-World Bank debt by decreasing subsidy to social services, particularly education. Thus, it is not difficult to see the hand, nay, the partnership of the U.S., GMA, and Roman Regimes in seeing to it that U.P., being the guinea pig for anti-student, anti-people educational policies, gets a tuition hike. With this done, it will be easy to convince other SCUs to follow the “trend”. Roman and her Board are simply parroting the master.

Full Force of Defiance: Our Answer. Let us show the Regime that we will persevere in getting justice. The next Board of Regents’ Meeting will be on January 26, 2006 at the University of the Philippines Extension Program in Pampanga. This will be a crucial meeting as it will be venue for the Regime to cement the legitimacy of its questionable actions. I call on all student councils, student organizations, fraternities, sororities, and individual students along with the entire University Constituency to heighten the level of our protest actions. We must inform the broadest number of students about this blatant disregard of our right to accessible quality education. Everyone is enjoined to be a part of various activities and formations that are and will be launched in line with this endeavor.

The Office of the Student Regent along with the Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa U.P., the Ugnayang Multi-Sektoral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon, the University Student Council of Diliman, and the Defend Our Collegian Alliance will be forming the Aklasang U.P. to spearhead the high caliber protest actions that we will make a part of the this Regime’s daily schedule until and unless it admits and undoes its crimes to the student body and the Filipino People.

Aklasan, which will be the design of our mass campaign against the illegitimate approval of the tuition and other fee increases by the Board of Regents, is a higher form of protest which is the ideal response to the more blatant form of disregard to our rights that this Regime inflicted. This Regime deserves nothing less than the full force of our defiance. Aklasan na!

USC STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE LAW STUDENT GOVERNMENT OPEN LETTER

Last December 15, 2006, the Board of Regents railroaded the passage of the 300% increase in tuition and other fees. This illegitimate BOR, without the two most important regents, the Student and Faculty regents, approved the ToFI inside Malcolm Hall. Led by Pres. Roman, the UP administration changed the venue in the last minute citing reports that students and faculty have barricaded Quezon Hall and prevented them from conducting their meeting.

The students and faculty led by the Student Regent and the USC marched towards Malcolm Hall to assert that the BOR holds its meeting in the presence of the students. Unfortunately the students were prohibited from entering the building and even the student regent was not allowed to enter Malcolm Hall.

When the crowd got unconfirmed reports that the illegitimate BOR railroaded the passage of the ToFI, the students decided to militantly assert entry inside Malcolm Hall. As the students searched for the venue of the BOR meeting, the crowd thought that the meeting was being conducted inside the Malcolm Theater. Let it be clear that the USC apologizes to the student who was allegedly “pushed” by the students; it is not the intention of the crowd to hurt anybody not even the traitors in the BOR and the oppressive UP admin. Definitely, no plans or commands to hurt anybody or destroy any property were implemented. From the start, organizers and participants of the mass action knew that any move that would trigger chaos would not be beneficial to the students. On the contrary, the UP admin could just use these acts to label some students as terrorists and divide the students. Such divisiveness would be quite advantageous to those who want the tuition increase proposal passed. Some statements made by the LSG need to be answered and clarified.

It is not true that the USC chair was not present inside Malcolm Hall. The USC chair was there, and in fact he was the one who commanded the crowd to go outside when it was clear that the BOR had already escaped. When USC chair Paolo Alfonso saw that the Student Regent and a student of the College of Law were already clearing things up, he saw no need to participate in their discussion and he deemed it more necessary to pacify the students and then lead them outside.

It is also untrue that members of the USC present did nothing to pacify the emotions of the students. As a matter of fact, College of Education representative Vanessa Faye Bolibol was calming the students using the portable public address system while standing on one of the elevated structures outside Malcolm Theatre.

What is disturbing is the LSG’s notion of holding protest actions or rallies. In its statement, it automatically surmised that all rallies with high emotions will ultimately lead to mob rule. Let it be clear that despite the very high emotions of the students who attended the protest action that day, there were no instances that the students could be described as an angry mob.

All in all, we are just the same victims of the UP admin’s deceitful and treacherous maneuvers just to have its way of advancing UP commercialization. First, the UP Admin attempted to prevent mass actions last December 15, it created its own terror scare and cancelled the yearly Lantern Parade. It then tried to pin the blame on the faculty and students holding the protest action in Quezon Hall. It is of no surprise then that the LSG statement, seemingly towing the line of the UP admin would land right in the UP Diliman Webpage.

Just recently, the UP admin through Vice President Marvic Leonen tries to spread half-truths just to discredit the students who oppose the tuition increase. In a text message, the UP admin even tries to revive old issues like the egg pelting of Hello Garci General Esperon just to project militant students as rowdy and dangerous. The UP admin, in order to hide its devious schemes, even pits students against fellow students. The LSG as fellow activists together with the rest of the UP Community should stand together to denounce and condemn the railroading of the tuition and other fee increases.

We should hold the UP admin responsible for disregarding the right of the Student and Faculty Regents to participate in the BOR meeting. This sham BOR trampled all notions of order, propriety and rule of law in its effort to eliminate all opposition to its grand design to commercialize UP.

Furthermore, the LSG together with the rest of the UP Community should fight the intensifying efforts of the UP admin to further divide the UP students. Thus, we enjoin the LSG and the entire UP Community to be one with us in the quest to overturn this illegitimate, sham, and anti-student action of Dr. Roman and her Board of Regents. Let it not be said that, at this very crucial point in history, the UP Admin succeeded in dividing us when our unity is needed the most.

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