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.