Should all SUC students study for free?

February 1, 2016. Should all [state universities and colleges] students study for free? This question was asked of several candidates for the Senate elections in a forum held last January 29 at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. Not all Senate hopefuls agree.

Many candidates rely on the often invoked mantra that justify tuition increases in state universities: “Rich students should pay,” or, “Those who can pay must pay.” These are all but familiar lines that are invoked by those who support and continue to support the current “socialized tuition scheme” in UP.

So should all students study for free? Absolutely, yes!

“Those who can pay must pay” is a farce. We fund university education of young Filipinos based on their potential to contribute to the advancement and progress of society. And that is not measured by ability to pay tuition, but by merit (measured by entrance exams, among other tests). So what if a student comes from a well-off family? If he has the aptitude to help in the progress of this country, subsidize him!

That we compel families to pay tuition in state schools, even if it is just a fraction of the cost of education, seriously puts students’ moral obligation to “give back” at great doubt. What are they to give back? At present rates of tuition in UP, students and their families practically pay for the education themselves. This becomes especially problematic when the university imposes return service agreements or contracts that mandate graduates of health sciences degrees to serve in the Philippines for a certain number of years on pain of penalty–which is a reasonable obligation if students were full scholars.

Now, if the problem is we want more youth from poor families to enter UP and other state colleges, the remedy is not “socialized tuition” which really is post-facto and seriously does not address the issue especially because of extraneous costs of education that are not covered by typical matriculation. In the almost three decades of “socialized tuition” in UP, has it increased admission from poor families? No, absolutely the reverse! It is an income generating mechanism and a scapegoat for state abandonment. Public basic education should be fully subsidized and improved so that all children are able to develop the aptitude for higher education regardless of economic background.

Read more: UP education: Burden of students or the state?

Learn how to cry!

January 20, 2015. After watching ‪Pope Francis‬’ speech in his encounter with the youth, I am even more amazed and inspired with his words and ideas. I hope the message is not trivialized or watered down because the message is actually a very strong criticism and challenge for many of us young students.

He did not speak simply of the love we are so used to. He was speaking of the love of Christ, through others, especially the poor. That is why he extolled that we have to “learn how to love and be loved”! Because we don’t! He even said it is the “most important subject we have to learn in a university” which is a strong criticism of how our universities are run. We are not being taught how to love others with true compassion. The focus has always been on becoming employable professionals for a ‘globalised’ future. We have lost our sense of community and compassion with society!

When he told us that we have to learn to cry, certainly hindi niya tayo sinasabihang maging iyakin. It is not an affirmation of young people’s propensity to cry when they are heartbroken. NO! It was his way of emphasizing his message of compassion, of feeling and suffering with the poor and the abused. We do not weep with the oppressed and the abused because we do not feel their suffering. That is what the Pope meant when we have to learn how to weep!

He actually criticized how many of us practice our brand of “compassion” through charity. The Pope said “It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives.” Hindi sapat na ‘tumutulong’ o nagbibigay lang tayo sa mga inaapi. We have to learn how to “cry” with them.

He actually criticized many young people with his words. He responded to “Ricky” after he narrated how he helped the poor with his project. Thank you Ricky, the Pope said, but he asked him “You give and give help but do you know how to receive?” The camera didn’t show it but Ricky probably answered yes to the Pope but the Pope gestured to Ricky not so say it but “answer in your heart.” Because the Pope knew that many young people today don’t know how to receive because we think we “need nothing” and that we are “self-sufficient”. He kept repeating these words throughout his speech.

Young students today are so used to occasional charity works and relief operations, which makes us feel good for helping others. But the Pope asked us, “Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?” The Pope emphasized this when he repeatedly told us the we “lack one thing” and that we have to “learn how to beg” and “become a beggar”. We keep giving and yet we do not “let ourselves be evangelized by those [we] serve”. It is so often that I see and hear to many young students with matapobre comments against the poor, na que sa tamad, na que sa puro bisyo, na que sa anak nang anak. But the Pope now challenged us, “Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.”

Let us go to the ‘peripheries’! Let’s learn from the plight of the marginalized and the oppressed. “Let us open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the corruption, social inequality, and the evil reigning in our society — and let us collectively and actively struggle against the system that perpetuates this.”

Blessed

January 18, 2015. I have a nagging discomfort with the word “blessed” and how its use has proliferated the past days. Others are unblessed?

And I pose this as a genuine question. I mean, the way we use “blessed” (ex. ‘I’ve been blessed with a good family, good education, with happiness, I’ve been blessed by the Pope, etc.’) like it was some special advantage from God. Eh ‘we are God’s children’ right? Maybe we shouldn’t call blessings things which everyone deserves. We make it sound like God plays favorites among us.

Bright Lights Dimmed

June 21, 2014This is an article I contributed to our fraternity‘s magazine regarding the issue of socialized tuition in the University of the Philippines.

Socialized tuition is far from socializing access to UP education. It has instead made access to the national university largely inaccessible to a wide number of the brightest college-age youth of the country. The present socialized tuition scheme is nothing more than a mechanism for systematic state neglect of higher education. It has always been part and parcel of any attempt to increase matriculation in UP, so a discussion of socialized tuition cannot be had without discussing the context of state neglect of the national university and other institutions of social and public service. One cannot be divorced from the other, and any attempt to do so, is merely parroting national government scapegoats.

Socialized tuition was introduced in 1988 and was used to justify the increase in tuition the year after. The 300% increase in tuition in 2006 also came with a ‘restructuring’ of the socialized tuition scheme. More recently, another ‘restructuring’ of the socialized tuition scheme required prospective and present students to answer an absurd set of questions pertaining to their family’s lifestyle and submit sets of documents to prove they deserve to be in a tuition bracket aside from Bracket A – which means that the University assumes that a scholar is capable of paying P1,500 per unit until proven otherwise.

The result is very telling. From 20% of students who were afforded free tuition (full subsidy) in 1991, it has significantly dropped to a mere 3% in 2014. For 2014, 54% of students are, correctly or not, made to pay P1,500 unit. This lends truth to an observation by many that the University has been overrun by ‘rich students’ who are, correctly or not, assumed to be financially capable to pay full tuition.

One of the basic premise of those who defend the socialized tuition scheme is that the Philippine government’s resources are not enough to fully subsidize its national university. The argument goes that since government resources are scant, UP should earn its income through other means, particularly through increased tuition and other fees, and by selling or leasing out its assets to private corporations. This argument goes further to say that UP should tighten its belt because resources are better directed at other state universities. When cornered with the fact that there is no direct correlation between state subsidy for UP and other state universities, those who use the argument will go further by saying that state universities in general should tighten their belts in favor of basic education. This is, again, wrong for basic reason that there is no direct correlation between subsidy for basic education and subsidy for state universities like UP. This is a classic tactic of pitting victims against each other so the culprit can go scot-free.

Consider these. The Philippine government spends almost P800 billion a year in interest and principal payments to services its perpetually increasing debt, much of which has not benefitted the people (which makes it possible and justifiable for the national government to negotiate them down). Current events have likewise reinforced the fact that billions of pesos of the people’s money are being siphoned off into the pockets of our politicians. Resources are not scant. The people’s money is not only misdirected, it is also plundered dry by our bureaucrats. Studies show that it only takes just an additional P 11.34 billion in state subsidy for all state universities, not just for UP, to make higher education tuition-free for all the nation’s state scholars. This is a drop in the bucket considering the hundreds of billions of pesos wasted on corruption-ridden projects of the government. This is subsidy that the government refuses to give, not because it can’t, but because it is not priority.

It is also important to note that state neglect of higher education is not a mere function of scant resources, but a systematic policy direction following neoliberal economic dogma, where austerity is imposed as a matter of national policy and where private corporations are allowed to penetrate into social service functions of the state for profit. This has been true for many of our public utilities and increasingly true for our social services such as health and education. For higher education, this is outlined in the higher education programs of national government administrations from past till present. From Ferdinand Marcos’ Education Act, to Fidel Ramos’ Higher Education Modernization Act, to Gloria Arroyo’s Higher Education Development Plan, to Benigno Aquino III’s Roadmap to Higher Education Reform. All of them harp on the same thing, decreasing state support for higher education.

We have to go back to the basic function of a state university. A state subsidizes the higher education of its brightest youth so they can contribute their talents in the development of the country. Neoliberal economic dogma, however, insists that higher education is a mere private good, which trivializes education into a mere private commodity for individual development. It purposely refuses to admit, to a large extent, that higher education is not only beneficial but necessary to any society. This is particularly very important for a country like the Philippines that has yet to achieve the national development it aspires for, which it can’t without producing the professionals and the technology it needs.

This addresses one of the main arguments of the other side. Is it reasonable to subsidize bright young men and women from rich families? Yes! Why not? We have established that resources are not scant, and that the basis of higher education subsidy is the development and training of young Filipinos so that they are able to contribute to national development. Such does not rely on whether one comes from a rich family or not. Class background is not a factor in the potential of a young Filipino to contribute to national development. Such potential is measured through the UPCAT, which should ideally be the primary, if not one of the only basis for admission to the national university.

Socialized tuition thus puts many iskolars ng bayan in an awkward position as they are being labeled as state scholars with moral responsibility to give back to the people what they received in scholarship once they become professionals, when after all is considered, today’s iskolars ng bayan are barely scholars with the amount of tuition they already pay themselves. What moral ascendancy does the government have then to implore us to serve the people?

My last point is this. Data from the past years have shown that 30-40 percent of those who pass the UPCAT, presumably the best and the brightest of Filipino college-age youth, do not show up to enroll at the University. We used to have a University where the only consideration for admission is academic competence. For decades, the best high school students from across the archipelago attended the University. A survey of the composition of our senior batches prove this—they come from all across the Philippines and come from a wide spectrum of background.

As Upsilonians, this should be a great cause for concern, and it is one of the tragedies that we particularly bear because of this socialized tuition scheme. Our wellspring of purposeful young men to recruit has not only shallowed but narrowed in terms of origin and background. That many of the best and the brightest of the Filipino youth from many parts of the archipelago do not enter UP means we are not able to have the opportunity to gather into our fold the brightest lights to scatter—light that our country most definitely need today more than ever.

Mayo Uno 2014 (Labor Day in Manila)

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May 1, 2014. It was the reportedly the hottest day of the year to date, and perhaps no other description can be more apt to figuratively describe the intensity of the passion that filled those who participated in the annual protest rally. Tens of thousands filled the plaza around the monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio in Lawton, as the same deluge marched the streets of midtown Manila to Mendiola to reaffirm the demands of the working class and other sectors of society for social justice.

Contradictions as a law student

March 16, 2013. There are times like this when I’m hating law school, not merely because it’s finals season but because it’s compelling me to be ‘selfish’ with my studies and restrain myself. At times when I’m enraged, I want to leave my books.

Gusto kong kumilos, magsulat, mag-organisa, sumama sa mga protesta ng tao.Punyetang gobyerno at sistema to. Pinabayaang magutom mga biktima ng Pablo, pinabayaan ang mga Pilipino sa Sabah, pinagkakaitan ng edukasyon ang kabataan, pinagpa-privatize mga public hospitals, pinapabayang dambungin ng mga dayuhan ang mga natural resources ng bayan, at napakarami pa.

Tinutulak ang mamamayang kumapit sa patalim, pumatay at magpakamatay. Paulit-ulit nage-eleksyon, deka-dekadang pare-parehas na trapo ang nagpapatakbo, walang pagbabago. I refuse to allow my future children and their children to inherit this system!

Charter change and further economic liberalization

July 13, 2012. Once again, our politicians and their patrons are peddling the lie that the only path to the economic salvation of the Philippines is through more intensified foreign intervention in the economy and a more intensified liberalization of “key industries”. It is almost like routine, from the administration of President Fidel Ramos, to Joseph Estrada, to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III, every year or two, the leaders of both Houses of Congress peddle the proposal of changing the economic provisions of the Constitution in order to liberalize the remaining sectors of the economy with “nationalist restrictions.” True enough, faithful to tradition, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte comes out today, a few weeks before the State of the Nation Address and the opening of the last session of Congress, to promote “charter change.”

This begs the question, is “free market” liberalization the only path to economic prosperity? A brief look at the economic history of today’s prosperous and developed nations will prove that the path to economic prosperity is paved by national industrialization with strong basis in state intervention through regulation and subsidies, and protectionism–quite the opposite of the neoliberal dogma most of these countries now peddle and force upon the throats of the people of the “third world.”

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So why do you wear jeans, use a laptop and a camera?

So, you believe in socialism, why do you use Facebook, your phone and laptop, why do you wear branded jeans or shoes or eat at fastfood chains, all “products of capitalism”?

This is a typical rhetoric, and a stupid one at that, I get many times from those who are just eager to try and discredit activists and leftists but refuse to engage in ideological tussle.

The first answer is, most often, necessity. So, what do you expect us to wear, loincloths? Second, just so they realize, “capitalism” did not manufacture those products. Industries and the labor of many workers in socialized production did in assembly lines across the globe. We do not owe our shoes, clothes, computers and cars to “capitalism.” Capital did not manufacture them, labor did. In fact, capitalists barely have any participation in production, it is simply by virtue of control and ownership that they appropriate the wealth created by production, and leave the rest scrounging for trickled down salaries and wages.

In a very basic sense, socialism is merely the rightful correction in the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation of the wealth. Instead of the creation of the “wealth of the few through the labor of the many”, it should be the “wealth of all through the labor of all”. Since products are produced in socialized production, why shouldn’t the appropriation of the wealth be likewise? The struggle for socialism, in the economic sense, is the struggle for the people’s rightful share in the wealth they create.

Third, to demand that leftists reject all products of commercial enterprises when all consumer goods today are produced in private enterprises is nothing but a ploy corner leftists to capitulate their struggle. Which is preposterous, because the entire point of being a leftist and an activist is to continue engaging the status quo, exploit available technologies and everything they need, and change society, not recluse from it. In other words, you cannot demand leftists to live by socialism when it has not yet been won.

Labor Day in Manila 2012

This is the Power I referred to earlier – a living, communal constellation of complex, intelligent, fair-minded civic interests most days rendered indecipherable and at times inaccessible by mass media’s atomizing officiating of hegemony passed off as reality. As if only mobilization and manifestation of struggle were, for the moment at least, really capable of displacing the reactionary capture and expropriation of peoples’ collective will. – Jonathan Beller, Labor Day Manifestation

An estimated 20,000 Filipinos trooped to the streets of Manila on Labor Day to demand a nationwide wage hike and to protest against government inaction on massive unemployment and poverty. Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

On China and Filipino leftists

Those who maliciously link present Chinese government to Filipino leftists are being dishonest. They should know very well that China abandoned its socialist project after the Cultural Revolution in the late 70’s and how the Chinese government has disowned and condemned local communists and persecuted leftists and activists in their own backyard.

If they’re looking for counterparts of Chinese leaders now, they only need to look among the revisionists and roaders and right-wingers among their colleagues. Chinese “communists” even claimed maintaining good relations with the trapo mainstream parties in the Philippines such as the Liberal Party of the Aquino administration.

These people should likewise make up their minds. In same breath they challenge us to follow China’s capitalist reforms and yet accuse us of being on the payroll of the Chinese “communists.” Nothing but malicious bullshit from those out to malign the persistent relevance of the Philippine Left.

LINKS:
* BAYAN: Assert Philippine sovereignty against China’s incursions and US intervention!
* ‘ZERO’ TIES WITH CPP: Chinese communist party says it has disowned local rebels
* Philippine Left condemns China incursions in Scarborough Shoal, says China capitalist country
* Ang China, US, Scarborough at Balikatan