STAND-UP: Defend student rights, uphold human rights!

There is no room for indifference or fence-sitting, especially when doing so only bolsters a status quo where the rights of many are sacrificed at the altar of narrow interests.

The University of the Philippines sits at a unique juncture in history. This year, we, Iskolars ng Bayan, have witnessed the turning points in both the local and the international arena; turning points that have introduced rapid changes that rippled across the country and into the university. From the Wall Street meltdown to the UP centennial, these shifts define the juncture in which the Philippines and UP is imbricated, and in this decisive moment, the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights – UP (STAND-UP) reaffirms and invigorates its principles — to serve the students and the wide majority of the Filipino people.

This year calls for nothing less than the most steadfast commitment to the students’ rights and the larger interests of the people. But while this tumultuous year draws to a close, the critical hour of dissent is far from over. In its centennial year, UP has much to be proud of. Within the university’s grounds, cries for social transformation have propelled the politicization of entire generations, giving birth to a social movement that tirelessly clamored for national emancipation from the Marcos dictatorship and from neoliberal policies. It is this tradition of critical dissent which STAND-UP continues to uphold, leaving no room for neutrality or passivity.

Yet, in the same year, the UP Administration introduced commercial and repressive measures that constitute an attack to the principles that form the university’s mandate — academic freedom and democratic access to education. Despite the severe economic hardship of the Filipino people, the 300 percent increase in tuition has yet to be reversed. And as UP tuition is pegged to the inflation rate, which will inevitably increase next year, the tuition is bound to increase further. The UP Administration remains blind and deaf to the people’s woes as it continues to banner the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) as a guarantee for democratic access, twisting the logic of socialized from a system that provides for all into a system that provides for none.

Also, this centennial year was marked by the approval of the UP Charter. Among the UP Charter’s many contestable provisions is the requisite on referendum for the Student Regent (SR) selection. STAND-UP sees this provision as an attack on the students’ right to representation. The requisite on referendum has a dangerous implication for the SR institution — the failure to reach the majority vote of the entire student population system-wide may remove the only student representative in the highest policy-making body in the university, the Board of Regents. We cannot neglect the instrumentality of the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) in the historical campaign to reclaim students’ democratic rights. This year, it arranged a series of dialogues between the UP Adminsitration and the Ugnayan ng mga Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon (UMAKSYON) resulting in a handful of concessions in favor of the students.

Finally, never to neglect the connection between university issues and the national setting, STAND-UP condemned the Gloria Arroyo regime for the sorry state of Philippine education. They sought accountability from the highest office, which lavishly squandered national resources on debt servicing, military spening, and corruption, while failing to provide enough funds for education and other basic social services. This critical hour of dissent can never be over until the balance of power is shifted towards the students and the wide majority of the Filipino people.

There is no room for indifference or fence-sitting, especially when doing so only bolsters a status quo where the rights of many are sacrificed at the altar of narrow interests. Let us persist in our call to roll back the 300 percent tuition increase, to defend student representation and the Office of the Student Regent. Let us continue to wager the fight against the regime’s flagrant implementation of neoliberal policies at the expense of the people. Let us reclaim our democratic rights, and those of other sectors, as inherent and inviolable.

Education is a right! Roll back the tuition!
Defend our student rights! Defend student representation! Defend the Office of the Student Regent!
Stop the anti-student, anti-people US-Arroyo regime!
Oust GMA!

Retro Fee-ver

We held a cultural protest action in Palma Hall as part of our alliance’s Martial Law week commemoration. The protest was also part of our ongoing call to junk the Tuition and Other Fee Increases policy by the UP Administration, among other repressive policies.

STAND-UP Retro Fee-ver!

We were supposed to hold our program at AS Lobby but we were cut off with electricity just when we began. Fortunately, our friends from All-UP Workers’ Union had their mobile sound system at the hall’s steps, so we proceeded with the protest outside.

The protest was also UP students’ prelude to the multi-sector mobilization the next day for the anniversary of the Marcos Martial Law implementation. Marcos at Gloria, walang pinagkaiba! The way it is right now, Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Arroyo are no different. The current president has even been proving herself to be much worse.

STAND-UP Retro Fee-ver!

Spies and government surveillance

A month or so ago, news broke of suspicious surveillance being conducted with a certain and specified van with plate number UDU 234 on students of UP Diliman, particularly on students of the College of Mass Communication. Various instances of the van’s suspicious activities (parking near informal student gatherings/assemblies, following or parking near locations of student activists) on different parts of the Diliman campus have been reported over the months. The CMC Student Council and a couple of organizations in Mass Comm went on to have a press conference condemning such surveillance in light of the fresh implementation of the Human Security Act.

Last Tuesday, we saw the particular van with dark-tinted windows, with plate number UDU 234 parked on the driveway of Vinzons Hall–the seat of the University Student Council, the Student Regent and a traditional tambayan of activists. Together with some of my colleagues and Shan Abdulwahid, present Chairperson of the University Student Council, we approached the van with the intention of confronting the persons inside.

While I took pictures of the van, my colleagues and Shan tried to peek into the heavily-tinted windows of the van, and tapped the vehicle for a couple of minutes to call the attention of whoever were inside.

We were being ignored for quite a while, which was weird. The typical reaction by innocent people to what we were doing was direct confrontation. Instead, we were being lead to frustration and into believing that no one was inside. We couldn’t be too sure, since the van was heavily tinted and we could barely see through the windows. After a few minutes, the front passenger window rolled down a few inches. A man then asked what was wrong. We asked the man to come down and talk with us. He refused. What’s even more suspicious was that he refused to be recognized by hanging a dark jacket between him and the window. When we jokingly asked him to show us his face, he ignored us. When he was asked what he was doing there, and why he was violating a verbal agreement not to roam around UP, he gave a lame excuse that he and his companions (who we never got to see) were picking up someone from the College of Law–which, by the way, was three blocks away. Without prolonging the confrontation too much, we allowed the man and the van to leave. From Vinzons Hill, we watched the van go towards the direction of the School of Economics. Contrary to his reasoning earlier, however, the van eventually went past the College of Law and went straight out of UP.

Surface Karen and Sherlyn!

Press Con on First Anniversary of the Abduction of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen EmpenoThis day marks a year since UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan were adbucted by alleged members of the military in Bulacan. I went to a press conference in Palma Hall regarding the anniversary this morning. Listening to the two students’ mothers can be heart-wrenching. A group of UP students and visiting students from different countries in Asia, together with Karen and Sherlyn’s mother, went to a military base in Balanga, Bataan the day before. When the military men were asked if the two UP students were at the base, they neither denied nor affirmed the accusation.

The mother of Sherlyn talked first. She expressed a slight hint of gratitude with reports of sightings of her daughter. Sherlyn was two months pregnant when she was abducted, and her mother believes that now, her grandchild is also held in detention. Karen’s mother was more in grief however, because there had been no reports of sightings, and she fears that her daughter is already dead. It was particularly tragic when she wept and said, “kahit katawan lang ng anak ko ilabas n’yo…” This commemoration of the two UP students disappearance prove to be more relevant in light of the incoming implementation of the “Human Security Act” in a few weeks.

Gloria’s similar pattern

People fortunate enough to live in democratic regimes must remember that the rights and privileges they currently enjoy were extracted by force””either by them or by their ancestors””from ruling elites who refused to give up their powers and who, in fact, fought, slaughtered, and resorted to manipulation to keep these. They must forever be conscious of the need to limit the power of those whom they choose to gift with the power to govern. History’s Lessons by Rene Azurin

I have linked to a longer version of this piece before. It basically recalls how similar the pattern of ascent dictators Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Ferdinand Marcos used. “first, an outwardly constitutional process is used to increase the powers of the executive by adding law-making powers; second, the executive uses these new powers to write new laws that consolidate the executive’s powers even more and suppress the powers of other democratic institutions (like the press); and third, the executive nullifies many of the fundamental rights of democratic citizens and effectively becomes dictator.

What with the previously implemented Presidential Proclamation 1017 and Executive Order 464, the intensified push for Charter Change and the Anti-Terrorism Bill, libel-charging spree of the First Family and the continued persecution of oppositionists. History lessons are indeed, important. Vigilance, people. Oppositionists and activists aren’t “crying wolf” for nothing. Related blog entry: Shall she stay?

Political killings intensify

Yesterday morning, two left-leaning activists and a journalist were assassinated. You know, the assassinations of almost 700+ civilians with the same political leanings and affiliations within five years under one president can not be just a coincidence. They can not simply be unrelated and isolated incidents as some people would like to believe. The seeming indifference, the lack of action, and even the joyful reactions of some government and military officials are indicators of who are behind all these.

On the abduction of two UP student leaders

Two student activists from the university were abducted almost two weeks ago in Bulacan. They are Karen Empeño, a BA Sociology student of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, and Sherlyn Cadapan, an award-winning triathlete from the College of Human Kinetics and was its representative to the University Student Council a few years back. They remain missing up to this moment. Witnesses, who are now in hiding for security reasons, and who were also present during the abduction, claim that vehicles used during the capture were military vehicles. The army denies these accusations.

However, General Jovito Palparan, popularly labeled as a butcher of leftists, issued a statement saying that these women were better off gone because they were New People’s Army members who extorted money from the townsfolk anyway. What the hell? These two ladies were simply volunteer researchers for a peasant group. For the sake of argument, let’s say they were NPA members, does it justify that they be abducted helplessly? Who knows what have become to the two right now. If they were indeed NPA members, then file charges against them! Abduction is never justified.

Gloria Arroyo’s administration hark the “rule of law” and “due process” everytime accusations and cases are hurled against her and her allies but whenever an activist gets assassinated or abducted, everything just gets shrugged off! Nothing can justify enforced assassinations or enforced abductions! This administration is really bent on crushing not only the New People’s Army, but all other legitimate groups expressing legitimate dissent.

Karen and Sherlyn are two new additions to the growing list of hundreds of abducted, arrested, and assassinated activists since President Arroyo came into power five years ago.

Tuition increases and military surveillance

Some campus issues at hand, or I’ve come across recently. A proposal by an Ad Hoc committee formed by UP Pres. E. Roman to increase UP’s tuition fees from P 300 to P 1,000 per unit in UP Diliman, UP Manila, and UP Los Baños and from 200 to 600 for UP Baguio, UP Visayas, UP Pampanga, and UP Mindanao, has been submitted to the Board of Regents (for approval?). The Board of Regents are to meet tomorrow in UP Los Baños.

Also, it has been found that more than a quarter of the Special Service Brigade, civilian men hired by the university as an additional security force (those guys wearing reflectorized orange vests with yantok sticks roaming around the Academic Oval day ang night), are actually marines and army personnel in disguise. Tsk, tsk.

The enemy is…

June 18, 2006. Cheers to Karl for a great first issue of The Philippine Collegian this academic year. I especially liked the editorial where it asserted on what it will stand for for the rest of the year:

The true journalist, clearly, is now deemed an “enemy of the state.” And rightly so, for in the context of a regime brazenly maintained by a widening spectrum of intensified violence, the only option is to resist. These turbulent times expose the limitations of writing–the kind that proclaims to be “pluralist” and “non-partisan.” For pluralism is impossible in a society wracked by economic inequality and political domination, conditions that make it downright unjust to wield a “neutral” pen, which ultimately sustains the status quo.

[…] The path of defiance is paved with the blood of fellow journalists and activists who did not compromise even in the face of death. It is the path of those who articulated the discourse of the marginalized: the workers, peasants, women, students and national minorities. It is the path of those who stood firm in their advocacy but did not live to see the fruit of their cause. Their deaths will not be in vain. If being an “enemy of the state” means taking a stand for the marginalized and demanding what is just, then this Collegian shall indeed be an adversary.

I’ve always believed media institutions should carry and declare their interests and their bias towards an ideology (there’s nothing wrong with that, for me) instead of pretending to be full-proof objective and neutral.

Rebelde ka na, terorista ka na rin

Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Section 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.

Section 18. (1) No person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations.

from the BILL OF RIGHTS, 1987 PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION

Arroyo lifted PP 1017 but arrests have still been going on left and right. Her administration continues to monitor media outfits. Her minions have been digging and fabricating cases and filing them against her opponents. She shouldn’t quell legitimate dissent by whipping oppositionists with rebel, terrorist or communist labels and having them arrested on these basis. In the first place, whose standards are and will the army and the police use in determining who rebels or terrorists are? We don’t even have an anti-terrorism law to clearly define what terrorism in this country is. Which leaves the police and the military to interpret its definition however way they find it necessary to please their commander in chief. And what lawless violence are they talking about? I think she’s stretching her constitutional limits to become a full-pledged dictator now.