University Student Council – Oblation Issue #3

THE ONGOING FIGHT FOR OUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS Students’ Rights & Welfare Committee Campaign Updates On the free use of facilities, dormitory & tambayan issues, lab fees, etc. by Jaque Eroles, Students’ Rights & Welfare Committee Chairperson

REPRESENT & STRUGGLE: THE OFFICE OF THE STUDENT REGENT & KASAMA SA UP The history of the Office of the Student Regent & The Katipunan ng Mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP by JPaul Manzanilla, former USC Chairperson & former Student Regent


RE: STFAP REVIEW & REVISION by Third Bagro, USC Chairperson

UP, ARE YOU ECO-ACTIVE? by Stephen Larcia, USC Councilor

A LOOK INTO THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL by Sophia San Luis, College of Law Representative

WHEN THE TYRANT IS AFRAID Taktika ng Papatinding Pampulitikang Panunupil ng Rehimeng Arroyo by Carmela Lagang, College of Social Work & Community Development Representative

Assessing victories, seizing prospects

We have proven, time and again, that our democratic rights are not and will never be offered generously on silver platters; rather they are products of our assertions through collective and militant struggle. We have also proven that victories do not happen overnight; they are fought for intensely and tirelessly through sustained campaigns and actions.

In the midst of the heightening clamor for genuine economic reforms amidst the worsening economic crisis felt by the Filipino people, we have been steadfast in pursuing policy changes to ensure that every Filipino student is given the chance to enjoy the quality education of UP and that every UP student is given the opportunity to flourish as a true iskolar ng bayan.

Since the beginning of this semester, the campaign to reclaim students’ democratic rights, spearheaded by the UMAKSYON (Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersiyalisasyon) alliance of student councils, organizations, and individuals, has resounded increasingly in the classrooms, corridors and tambayans of our university.

As a product of the series of meetings and other consultations, UMAKSYON came up with a list of 18 student demands, which was then submitted to UP President Emerlinda Roman, through Student Regent Shahana Abdulwahid, in the July 31 Board of Regents (BOR) meeting in UP Manila. The demands included, among others:

  • Respect the autonomy of student institutions by holding the long-delayed student council elections of UPLB;
  • Uphold students’ right to self-organize by scrapping Article 444 in the revised UP Code ““ a provision that bans religious and regional organizations on the basis of recognizing UP’s non-sectarian nature and promoting national unity, respectively;
  • Defend student orgs’ right to tambayans as the physical structure that allows them to hold meetings and activities on their own;
  • Review rental rates of facilities and equipment and install student org discounts, if not free use for particular activities;
  • Comprehensively review existing and proposed laboratory fees with maximum transparency and accountability; and
  • Roll back the increased tuition fees, especially in light of the worsening economic crisis currently plaguing the country.

After the meeting, Pres. Roman herself faced the students who gathered on the steps of Alvior Hall and declared that she could only ask the Chancellors of the different UP units to look into the demands students forwarded, and that she herself would not directly intervene. She further stated that a tuition fee roll back was no longer part of any discussion by the BOR.

Since then, however, through the tireless collective efforts of the students, UPLB succeeded in ratifying their USC constitution with an unprecedented 70.54% voters’ turnout, of which 95.50% were in favor of the constitution. Consequently, the elected officers of the UPLB USC were recognized and are awaiting induction.

Meanwhile, at the BOR meeting last August 26 in UP Baguio, even more students gathered to protest Pres. Roman’s categorical stand against the tuition fee rollback and demand due recognition of their democratic rights. They were again faced by the President, but still to no further avail than vague statements with no outright commitment.

Last September 23, through the Office of the Student Regent and KASAMA sa UP, the broadest alliance of student councils in the UP system, student leaders from Diliman, Manila, Baguio and Los Banos met with Pres. Roman in UP Diliman to discuss the state of students’ democratic rights and to ask updates regarding the student demands submitted to the Board last July. With hundreds of students holding a parallel protest action on the steps of Quezon Hall, the dialogue proceeded in the presence of different student councils and student organizations (UP Ibalon, UP Zambalenos, UP Asterisk, UP Grail, and League of Filipino Students-UP Diliman).

  1. On the matter of the Article 444 of the Revised UP Code, Pres. Roman herself was surprised to find out that such a policy exists. She expressed support in scrapping the said Article and allowing students from the same region or practicing the same religion to self-organize without sanctions from the UP administration, thereby reaffirming our assertion that all types and classes of organizations shall be allowed in the university.
  2. In discussing the proposed guidelines on student rental rates of facilities and equipment, as forwarded by UMAKSYON, Pres. Roman will compel the different Chancellors to submit a report on this in the upcoming Presidential Advisory Committee meeting on October 15. This will press the Chancellors to finally hold discussions with the students, who have been clamoring for the same since the opening of the semester.
  3. Included in the discussions with Chancellors is the issue of student representation in policy-making bodies of different colleges and units. Following the practice in UP Baguio and UP Manila’s College of Arts and Sciences, student reps should be notified of and allowed to vote in meetings pertaining to policies that will directly affect their constituents, such as rules on org tambayans, fee increases, student activities, and other related issues.
  4. In light of the great disparity in org recognition guidelines among units, students urged Pres. Roman to look into the possibility of establishing a unified org recognition procedure that will ensure students’ democratic participation through the USC instead of solely on the Office of Student Affairs (OSA), as practiced in UP Manila.
  5. Recognizing the historical nature of the CSSP lobby in UP Diliman in terms of hosting students’ protest rallies and other mass demonstrations, Pres. Roman supported the proposal to advise the CSSP administration to reconsider their guidelines on the use of the lobby for student assemblies (only allowing protest actions without a permit from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm). As in other campuses, the right to peaceable assembly must be upheld, regardless of time of the day or venue, for students to freely and actively participate in issues of local or national concern.
  6. Lastly, Pres. Roman stated that students have every right to demand to know where laboratory fees are going. In the interest of accountability on the part of the administration, the committee tasked with overseeing laboratory fee proposals will require proponents to include a clear definition of what the lab fee/s will cover, where it will go and why it is needed. Furthermore, a clear definition of “student consultation” should be set by the UP administration to guarantee transparency and make certain that all students will be able to air their concerns. The Office of the Student Regent will also come up with a comprehensive review of existing and proposed lab fees to formulate recommendations on what should constitute lab fees and what should constitute a valid consultation with the students.

If there is anything this dialogue with Pres. Roman shows us, it is that none of our collective efforts go to waste, from endless meetings, campaigning, organizing to mobilizing students. That we all chose to stand up and defend our rights to self-organize, to a tambayan, to peaceable assembly and free speech, and to be represented, is to have chosen to carry on the tradition of vigilant and militant Iskolars ng Bayan who never bowed down to those who violated our rights — rights as they are constitutionally enshrined, as they have been historically fought for. Yet while we deem this dialogue a great success, there is an even greater recognition that the fight to reclaim our democratic rights is not something that can be won through mere policy changes and recommendations. It is a fight that must continue and intensify in the classrooms, corridors and tambayans of our beloved university.

Defend Students’ Rights to Organize, Assemble & Democratic Participation!
Uphold the Right to Tambayans! No to Commercialization of Education!

Students’ Rights & Welfare Committee

together with Office of the Student Regent, UMAKSYON, KASAMA sa UP, SOLIDARIDAD, UP Diliman CAL-SC, UP Diliman CMC-SC, UP Baguio USC, UP Los Banos USC, UP Manila CAS-SC, UP Manila Freshman Assembly, STAND-UP

UP Pres. Roman: No Rollback; Hands off UPD and UPLB student demands

July 31 UP Board of Regents Meeting

UP President Emerlinda Roman was forced to respond to the students’ demands after student leaders submitted petitions through mass lobbying and demonstration last July 31 during the Board of Regents (BOR) meeting.

The meeting held at UP Manila was greeted by student protesters from UP Diliman, UP Manila, and UP Los Banos, carrying their demands for tuition rollback, immediate UPLB student elections, and the reclaim of student institutions and organizations’ democratic rights. Determined that these demands need to be answered directly by the UP Administration, the students insisted that the BOR face the students and hold a dialogue outside the halls.

After minutes of negotiations, President Roman agreed to meet the protesters and gave her responses on the different issues raised by the students. Her initial responses were: there will definitely be no rollback of tuition; the UP Administration refuses to intervene in the UPLB student-elections issue; and that the student organizations’ demands will be studied and be left to the discretion of the Chancellors of different UP units.

Student leaders believe that it was a collective victory that students were able to urge President Roman to give immediate responses to student demands. However, it was also clear to them that she was merely washing her hands off the issue, a clear refusal to take responsibility over the dismal state of students’ democratic rights in the university, according to Jaqueline Eroles, Chairperson of Students Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Committee of the UP Diliman – University Student Council (USC).

Student institutions and organizations who led the action pledged that all BOR meetings will be greeted with mobilizations until the demands were properly addressed.

No Rollbacks
Early this month, the USC released a statement calling for the rollback of tuition and the junking of the UP’s newest tuition policy. In the statement, the USC declared that in light of worsening economic crises plaguing the Filipino people, the UP Administration must provide economic relief to iskolars ng bayan and their families through a rollback in tuition. It also demanded for “the junking of the UP’s most recent tuition policy without prejudice to further investigation of the STFAP and the increase of state subsidy for education.”

President Roman, acknowledging the present economic condition, was however firm that there will be no rollback of tuition for this academic year since UP has not increased tuition for the past two years in spite of inflation. She added that the issue of tuition increase is already over, thus she encourages students to “move on” and leave calls for rollback and support the review and revision of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).

Some students claim, however, that the issue of tuition increase is far from being over. They said that the increasing no-show rates, the increasing number of student loans, the decreasing number of enrollees in non-marketable courses, and the continuous commercialization of education, among others, are proof that the tuition increase has not addressed the problem of quality of education. Rather, such has only apparently caused other issues that are inconsistent and contradictory to the aims of a state institution such as UP.

They also believe that UP’s recent tuition policy proves to be anti-student and anti-people, having provisions that allow automatic increase of tuition based on inflation. The danger of uncontrolled, escalating tuition in the future continues to confront iskolars ng bayan.

Hands-off the UPLB student elections
Admitting knowledge of the four-month delay of student council elections in UPLB, Pres. Roman said that the UP Administration will not act on the said issue, on the fear that it may be interpreted as a form of administration intervention on student institutions. However, the protesters were able to assert for a dialogue on August 4 between the incumbent UPLB University Student Council, UPLB Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco, and Vice-President for Legal Affairs Atty. Theodore Te which shall be mediated by the President herself.

On the August 4 dialogue, student leaders from UPLB challenged President Roman, having the highest administrative position, to take responsibility and uphold her statements that the administration should not intervene with the autonomy of student institutions such as student councils and publications. They challenged her to direct Chancellor Velasco to cease its intrusion on the UPLB SC constitution and should hold elections within the month. The dialogue ended with the students successfully urging the UPLB Administration to concede into allowing for an immediate conduct of student council elections in Los Banos.

Calls for reclaim of democratic rights, to be acted upon by Chancellors
President Roman will not act on the demands of more than 111 student formations in UPD since she believes that these are within the jurisdiction and discretion of Chancellors. However, student leaders insisted that the dismal conditions of student organizations’ democratic rights are alarming, since they are evident in almost all UP units, thus, the need and the demand for a system-wide policy that will safeguard the rights of all organizations in all UP units. Pres. Roman later assured the protesters that she will direct Chancellors to study the said demands.

Continued support and collective action
For the contingents from UPD, UPM, and UPLB, the July 31 BOR protest action and mass lobbying proved that gains can be achieved through collective action. The signature campaign, the petition, and the mobilization were not simply disregarded by the UP administration because it showed the broad support and the commitment of students for the address of their demands. Thus, they were resolved to go back to their campuses to gather more support from students, faculty, and likewise, administrators, to gather them in a collective force to push the BOR to concur and act upon these demands.

Oblation Newsletter Editorial: Rollback tuition increase! Junk tuition policy!

A few weeks ago, the Arroyo administration declared a tuition increase moratorium on all State Colleges and Universities (SCUs) and discouraged Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs) from increasing tuition and other fees. According to Malacanang, this is a way of providing relief to the Filipino people, given the current economic conditions that the country is facing. All these declarations have been found as a mere propaganda ploy by the Arroyo government. Rising prices of oil, rice, transportation, among others, are part of the undeniable factors that burden the iskolars ng bayan and their parents.

Notwithstanding all these, the students are burdened further by the relentless laboratory fee increase proposals such as those in the Colleges of Engineering and Mass Communication, despite the already implemented tuition increase in the University of the Philippines. More so, President Arroyo and her cohorts in the UP Administration found it fit to declare UP exempt from such a moratorium, as evident in UP President Roman’s video, as though the UP and its constituency are exempt from the extraordinary challenges faced by the average Filipino family in these most trying of times.

In all these, the iskolars ng bayan need to understand that such pronouncements all ring hollow in the face of the seeming insurmountable problems facing the Philippine education system, in which the UP are among those that are being used as guinea pigs for commercialization schemes.

We need to understand that the structural problems in higher education are rooted in the failure of government to appreciate the central role of state higher education in national industrialization and genuine economic development. Instead, the present government and the UP Administration slavishly embrace the entire neoliberal economic policy imposed by multinational financial agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund where the abandonment of social services, like state higher education, is among its basic tenets. Such a policy has been crystallized as policy by government through its Long Term Higher Educational Development Plan (LTHEDP).

It is quite clear that the solutions being offered by the Arroyo regime are sham tricks and bogus pretense that deceive the youth and the Filipino people to make it seem that serious steps are being undertaken to resolve the crisis of the educational system. These are mere smokescreens to hide the fact that it is the government itself that has actually aggravated the already chronic economic crisis faced by the country.

Thus, it is imperative for the iskolars ng bayan to unite today and stake their constitutional claim to their right to education, by standing firmly for the rollback of the UP tuition increase, and the eventual junking of the UP tuition increase policy itself.

Rollback the 300% tuition increase, Stop laboratory fee increases! Junk the Tuition Policy, Fight for Greater State Subsidy for UP and Education! Oust GMA! Struggle for a Nationalist, Scientific, and Mass-oriented Education!

Oblation Newsletter Issue 1

Oblation - University Student Council Official Newsletter

We released the first issue of Oblation last week. Oblation is the official newsletter of the University Student Council (USC). As chairperson of the USC’s public information office, I am in charge of coming up with the monthly newsletter. The first issue is just four pages, but couple the task with my having to adjust with the overwhelming amount of readings in law school and, and a few unforseen problems, coming up with our term’s first issue was quite stressful. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my mass media committee members, editorial staff and the contributors! Anyway, if you weren’t able to grab a copy, do download the PDF version.