Photos: September 8, 2011

Law class meeting Class president Aquino (yes, we have our own President Aquino in class) discusses our collective proposed schedule of exams. It usually doesn’t get approved or followed a hundred percent.

Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino at a Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino at a Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino at a Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino at a Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino at a Kabataan Party-List Rep. Raymond Palatino at a Law class meeting

Earlier, Kabataan Party-List Rep. Mong Palatino gave a talk at a students rights forum in UST, hosted by the Central Student Council. That week, the student councils of UST launched its renewed campaign for the approval of the long-stalled “UST Students Code”.

Abusing the people’s tragedy

For a while now, I’ve been at loss as to what to blog. Scenes of devastation and the actual loss of life and property to millions of Filipinos were overwhelming. It didn’t feel right blogging about anything else where almost everything else will pale in gravity. Guilt perhaps, the very fact that I am able to blog in convenience indicates that, unlike majority of Filipinos who are poor, I am “unaffected.” For a while, blogging in the time of crisis reeked of insensitivity. Some people say blogging and online social media networks played a crucial role in the relief and rescue operations. I agree. But then again, the people who need the relief aren’t online, and prolonged online “involvement” seemed to me like a convenient excuse not to immerse with the people and get dirty with the actual operations. Posting and re-posting relief and rescue operations has to translate into actual relief and rescue operations. Many times, especially during the immediate days after the typhoons, they do, as proven by the thousands who flocked to organized relief operations. With an inept and inutile government, private citizens and civilian organizations needed to fill the vacuum in social services. But for how long? Especially when all those volunteers go back to their schools and to their workplaces?

During and after our relief operations, we still have to expose the ineptitude of the government and its causes. We, after all, pay taxes by force of law and thus maintain the system with almost every consumption we make. If the cost doesn’t translate to social services, especially in times of calamity, and worse, makes life more miserable for the masses, why maintain it? I’m posing that as a serious question. Even worse, calamities are often abused by the government and policy-makers to intensify the prevailing order by implementing unpopular and anti-people policies. Naomi Klen calls it the “Shock Doctrine” where government use “the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks ““ wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters – to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.”

A few days ago, I attended a Congress committee hearing on what we all thought to be was a junked proposal to tax SMS messages. Without as much attention as the previous hearings, and with the public focused largely on the relief operations, pro-tax congressmen actually revived the proposal, and even had the gall to use the calamity to justify the additional tax. Other congressmen who opposed the tax tried to junk it altogether to no avail. When more and more observers and media were coming in the meeting, the leadership suddenly decided to suspend the hearing and re-convene in executive session some other time, without all the observers and the media, and the other congressmen who weren’t members of the committee.

Another thing I’d like to point out is the excessive media exposure of American troops in their relief missions. This assistance, I’m telling you is far from selfless. It is a motivated and concerted action to ‘win hearts and minds’. I’m willing to bet that all these will be used to justify the continued implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. It’s all a big public-relations stunt. I’m not discounting the help they have probably extended. Yes, thank you, but it’s not worth our sovereignty. These are but a few government policies that are being rammed into implementation at the wake of the people’s tragedy. There will be more.

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Tulong Kabataan is continuing its relief operations for the victims of tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng. We’re going to have a Balik Eskwela drive where we would do campus clean-ups and other intensified youth volunteer work to mark resumption of classes in storm and flood hit areas. Click here for more details.

A temporary relief for state universities and colleges

Last Wednesday, the sub-committee hearing the budget of state universities and colleges (SUC’s) unanimously committed to restore the budget to its 2009 level. It means to say that the proposed P3 billion budget cut by the President and the Department of Budget & Management is rejected at the sub-committee level, and the budget for the country’s 110 SUC’s would be back to around P24 billion.

Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino remarked that this is imperative, as the proposed budget has barely any allocation for SUC’s capital outlay. How then can SUC’s affected by the recent calamities rebuild their schools? A few days earlier, the DBM released a statement defending the budget cut in response to several protests launched by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).

They claimed that the proposed P21 billion budget is sufficient to sustain the services of SUC’s, as they are anyway allowed to generate their own income. What they didn’t say is that this forced income generating policy is done at the expense of students, through tuition and other fee increases. The statement only proves that our analysis as correct, that budget cuts and tuition increases are state policies that harm the future of the youth and the nation.

The motion to restore the P24 billion budget drew cheers from the attending university officials and employees. One state university president, however, remarked that though he was elated by the motion of the congressmen, he feared that it may be another disappointment. Apparently, congressmen, the politicians that they are, have for the past years committed to similar promises of budget increases, only to disappoint SUC’s once the General Appropriations Act is passed. Hopefully, the attending congressmen stay true to their word and maintain the P24 billion commitment–insufficient as it is, is better than the P21 billion budget proposed by the Executive.

It must be stressed, however, that this relief is temporary, as though the sub-committee approved the increase, the same must also be approved by the Committee on Appropriations and the House of Representatives in plenary session. It also has to get the approval of the Senate. Needless to say, it is too soon to be glad about the development.


 

Tulong Kabataan‘s relief effort for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy is still ongoing! You may drop off your donations at any of the donation centers in schools across the Metro. You may also donate via Paypal. Or you may go to our headquarters at 118-B Scout Rallos St., Quezon City for volunteer work. The HQ is near GMA Network’s main offices along Timog Avenue. With your help, Tulong Kabataan was able to hold soup kitchens in some communities a few days ago.

Yesterday, we joined Makabayan’s clean-up effort at Tumana, Marikina. Hand in hand, volunteers helped the residents fill up two garbage trucks of debris. Today, there will be a medical mission in Malate. This weekend, if the weather permits, we will push through with the centralization of all relief goods collected from the donation centers and do repacking and distribution to several affected communities.

Tulong Kabataan: More help needed by Typhoon Ondoy victims

Students are encouraged to participate in the concerted effort to help victims of typhoon Ondoy. They may drop off their material donations at their respective student council’s offices. Many of the universities and schools are conducting their own donation drives. In UP Diliman, for example, the centralized relief operations is at the Church of the Risen Lord, near the UP Chapel and the Shopping Center.

On Friday and Saturday, October 2-3, there will be a centralized collection of all relief goods at the Headquarters of Kabataan Partylist at 118-B Scout Rallos St., Quezon City (near Timog Avenue and EDSA). We will be needing volunteers in the sorting and the re-packing of the supplies.

On Sunday, we shall be distributing the first batch of material assistance to several communities hit hard by the deluge. Assistance from youth groups and individuals is most welcome. You can contact me through this blog, and leave your contact number so we can keep in touch with you.

Also, here is an update on the fund drive being conducted by TxtPower. In a span of 24 hours, from 3:25 PM of September 27 to 3:25 PM of September 28, TXTPower received almost P500,000.00 for a grand total of P581,436.89.

As soon as these amounts are credited to the bank account, TxtPower will immediately turn them over to the Philippine National Red Cross in the form of manager’s checks. They will make the donation for and in behalf of all the donors who contributed via Paypal, SmartMoney and GCash. You may continue contributing to the fund drive by donating through Paypal here. Let us keep this up, friends!

Tulong Kabataan: Help victims of Typhoon Ondoy, donations & volunteers needed

Filipinos now need all the help they can get, especially those hit hardest by rampaging tropical storm Ondoy (international code name Ketsana).

The storm made landfall yesterday in Luzon, bringing endless rains and spawning huge floods in Metro Manila and many parts of Luzon.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos are now homeless and an hundreds are feared dead. News of two more storms in the next weeks does not bode well. TXTPower and Kabataan Partylist urges its members, supporters and friends abroad to make donations via Paypal.

You may also donate via SmartMoney (5577-5144-1866-7103) or GCash 09266677163 or 0917-9751092. All donations coursed through the hotlines will be sent to the Philippine National Red Cross. You may start donating by clicking here.

Donations can also be sent to Kabataan Partylist Headquarters, 118-B Sct. Rallos QC.

For more information please contact 0926-6677163 or kabataanpartylist@gmail.com. Volunteers are also welcome. Series of disaster relief activities will be held during the following weeks. Please leave a comment if you’re willing to help in any way.

National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) led the way and is now calling on all student councils to help with the relief drive. For UP Diliman students, you may drop off your donations and other supplies at the University Student Council office in Vinzons Hall. For UP Manila students, you may bring them to the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council office.

[photo above courtesy of Reuters]

Budget cut in state universities means added burden to students

As the national government continues to cut down spending on the country’s 110 state universities and colleges (SUCs), students carry the burden of the steep cost of higher education, Kabataan Party-list Representative Raymond “Mong” Palatino said. In the proposed national budget for 2010, allocation for SUCs will be slashed by 13 percent or a whopping P3.2 billion, thus forcing SUCs to generate income mostly from students.

Based on the 2010 National Expenditure Program, bulk of SUCs’ projected income of P10.2 billion will be sourced from tuition fees (P4.59 Billion) and other income from students (2.23 billion). Palatino said “SUCs are being forced to rely less on government subsidy and more on internally-generated income in the form of tuition and other fees and privatization of assets. Unfortunately, the burden of financing tertiary education is placed on Filipino students, many of whom will be unable to afford it,” Palatino said.

The young solon said trimming the SUC budget would be “sadistic and ultimately anti-student,” especially since more and more students are flocking to SUCs. For school year 2009-2010, CHED enrolment data show a “migration” of students from private higher education institutions (HEIs) to SUCs mainly as a result of the continuously rising cost of education in private tertiary institutions amid the economic crisis.

Palatino said the government’s Medium Term High Education Development Plan, which directs SUC’s to “rationalize tuition by implementing the full cost of education in public HEIs” is to blame. “It is clear that the government is in the framework of eventually relinquishing its responsibility to subsidize SUCs and public HEIs. It is abandoning its obligations to provide education to the Filipino youth,” he said. “State schools are being treated no longer as national agencies entitled to sufficient government subsidy, but as income-earning and commercial entities. Students and the youth are no longer seen as future nation-builders, but as mere clientele for capitalist educators,” Palatino said.

Palatino vows to push for greater state subsidy for education in the ongoing budget deliberations. “Again, the best and most well-meaning resolution for this would be to re-channel funds for some items in the Office of the President’s budget to education,” Palatino said. As an example, he cited that the P1 billion alloted for the Telecommunications Office, an agency different from the National Telecommunications Office, would be put to much better and significant use if allocated instead to SUCs.

Budgets, budgets

The past week had been spent largely reading through the 2010 budget proposals of the government and its various departments and agencies. It can get frustrating and confusing, for someone who’s not used to reading accounting sheets and pages full of numbers. After a few days of flipping through the pages and scrutinizing the items, one will eventually get used to it. It is imperative, too, to look at the budget figures over the past years and at government policy declarations, to track the trend of government priorities as reflected in the money it is willing to spend on certain services and projects.

I was focused on writing a budget briefer and interpellation guide for the budget of the state universities and colleges. I wrote about some of my observations in a brief blog entry yesterday. It’s pretty disheartening when one realizes how much money the President has at his/her disposal and discretion. It now becomes more clear to me why politicians are willing to spend billions, even kill, to be President. So much money, so much money.

This week, the budget deliberations in Congress continues. The 2010 budget is a budget that will not primarily be used by the Arroyo administration, since it will end by June 2010. I’m not sure what to make of the enthusiasm then, of pro-Arroyo policy makers and congressmen, when they defend the budget proposals. Do they still think it is their budget? That will only happen if, by some peculiar chance the administration ticket wins, or… I don’t know, some plot is executed to preserve the ruling administration.

Lobbying through blogging

It was our simple “day-off” together. Some of my co-staff members and I, together with Congressman Mong, went to the opening day of the Cine Europa Film Festival in Shangri-la Mall. We caught the screening of Just Another Love Story, which contrary to its pleasant name, is actually dark and engaging Danish thriller film. Having watched it made me miss the days when almost all I did for school, as a film student in UP, was watch non-mainstream movies in class and write papers about them. After the movie, we just had some snacks at the food court before parting ways.

Later that afternoon, I met up with some students from UP Manila who requested for an interview with regard to my opinion on lobbying through blogging and online social networking. Airah was also there to help me answer the queries.

Our first answer was that, there’s no such thing as “lobbying through blogging.” At best, blogging is only a complement to a lobbying campaign in the largely traditional arena of Philippine politics. The primary force in the shaping of public policy is and should always be the mass movement. I conceded, however, that money and economic influence often contest this in the present style of politics that we have. But no matter how slick the grease is, once policy makers are confronted with “people power,” there’s little that can stop the tide of public pressure.

There’s also, of course, strategic alliance building, speaking directly to and persuading congressmen to support or oppose certain legislative measures, building alliances with like-minded groups or organizations with similar advocacies and stands.

Petitions, press releases, media and propaganda actions also work, but none solely by itself. Blogging and online social networking can only be effective if it translates into and aids in creating another form of action such as those previously mentioned, and if it ultimately leads to a concrete mass movement. I added, tens of thousands of pledges in Ako Mismo or in a Facebook Cause page will not win the support of the President or even a congressman. Thousands of warm bodies complemented by other forms of concrete actions, however, will.

Lastly, I believe there can be no effective lobbying through blogging and online social networking because the Filipino “blogosphere” or internet community does not reflect the true sentiment of the Filipino masses, majority of whom do not have regular, if any at all, access to the internet. It is at best, the voice of the privileged middle class, influential but not decisive.

For someone who’s been blogging for almost a decade, it might sound shameful of me to seem to be belittling the political power of the internet, but really, one has to recognize the limitations of the virtual medium in order to achieve the fulfillment of an advocacy or cause beyond virtual reality. By all means, blog about your cause, as I do too, but do not limit yourself to it.

Anyway, after the interview, I invited the students to visit us in Batasan one of these days and witness plenary sessions themselves. Actually, if you want to watch committee hearings or sessions just message us, and we’ll find time to show you around.

POST-SCRIPT: To clarify, I think there are some causes where online lobbying can be highly effective. These are causes that are specific to groups which are technology savvy, like private school students, and issues that are relevant to information technology and communication concerns. For example, an advocacy to scrap internet censorship bills can be coursed successfully with great part through online campaigns.

Panata ng Brownman Revival

Our friends at Brownman Revival are helping us promote the Panata 2010 campaign to encourage the youth, not only to register for the 2010 elections, but to actively participate in the elections and in the campaign the change the course of how our country is governed. We went to one of their gigs last Thursday at 70’s Bistro to shoot some footage for a campaign video we are making for Panata 2010. Last week, we were able to shoot support footage from Kamikazee.

Panata ng Brownman Revival Panata ng Brownman Revival Panata ng Brownman Revival Panata ng Brownman Revival Panata ng Brownman Revival Panata ng Brownman Revival

Snapshots of our Batasan office

I attended a committee hearing yesterday with soaked socks and squishy shoes. It was raining hard and I, unfortunately, stepped on a deep puddle while walking towards the Ramon Mitra Building in the Batasan complex.

I spent the rest of the morning till some hours after lunch at the hearing of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education. They were able to pass a couple of local bills, but the controversial Magna Carta of Students was remanded back to a technical working group because of the vehement objections of A TEACHER Rep. Piamonte and Valenzuela Rep. Gunigundo, who were obviously championing the rights of school owners and administrators. Their lines go, “We cannot grant students’ rights at the expense of the rights of school owners and administrators.” “Schools have a right to exclusively determine fee increases, students or parents can just appeal to proper authority.” “School-student relationship is contractual. Academic freedom includes the right of the school to determine how to best attain their objectives.” “We cannot put private schools and state universities in the same situation. Government cannot compel private schools to give students same rights as those who are in state universities.”

Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress

Late yesterday afternoon, we also decided to rearrange, for the fourth time I think, the few tables and chairs we have at our Batasan office. Here are some snapshots of our “make-shift” office, which is a compartment in a large room that used to be the office of the Congress security force. The room is now divided among a handful of newly-seated partylists. One of these days I’ll take a picture of our neighboring partylists’ offices. Walang laman. I don’t know kung hindi ba sila nagta-trabaho at sumusweldo lang nang walang ginagawa. Fine, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, baka sa ibang lugar nag-oopisina.

Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress Kabataan Party office in Congress