Law students against Cha-cha

We, law students from UP, UST, Lyceum, San Beda, PUP, Arellano, and San Sebastian, united by common ideals, do strongly voice out our opposition to charter change. As students of the law, we recognize the supremacy of the Constitution, the highest law of the land. On it hinges the legality or illegality of all other laws.

We also recognize that it is actually us, the people of the Philippines, who are the true authors of the Constitution, and as such, any move to amend or revise the Constitution should respect the will of the people of the Philippines.

We agree that the law only authorizes three methods of changing the charter, and that it is the intent of the framers of the Constitution that any amendments or revisions must still be ratified by the citizens, thus giving to the citizens a very important role in shaping the highest law of the land.

We generally have nothing against charter change, since it is provided for in the Constitution itself. What we are against is the suspect timing of such a move, which we believe is motivated by the political agenda of those involved, especially the ones who vehemently push for the approval of a Constituent Assembly.

We believe that all this commotion dwells too much on the procedural aspect of charter change, under the assumption that a Constituent Assembly is perfectly legal. Yet any move to change the charter should be done with pure intentions, for the greater good of the republic.

Charter change should not be done to prolong the terms of those currently in power, nor to prostitute our natural resources to the highest bidder, nor to grant absolute power to certain individuals or groups who have had a history of wielding their power for their own personal benefit.

We, the law students of UP, UST, Lyceum, San Beda, PUP, Arellano, and San Sebastian, have come together as an alliance, opposing vehemently all moves to change the Constitution, until such time that the people of the Philippines deem it right. And until then, we shall stand guard over the liberties of the Filipino people, defending those who are ignorant of the law from those who seek to take advantage of them.

Age of Consent

On the issue of the UP Student Code and national issue of the Constituent Assembly

It was modern thinking that placed a high premium on Consent as a foundation of law. Consent has a transformative moral power, but it has its own pitfall: it can transform a wrongful action into a rightful one. If Manny Pacquiao had knocked down Ricky Hatton outside of the ring, he would have been prosecuted for serious physical injuries.

Still, this philosophy stems from the core belief that all men are reasonable, and that Reason will then lead us all to a single, unassailable conclusion. This legal theory, stridently discussed in Malcolm Hall, is relentlessly tested in practice.

We note two particular instances: in proposals for a new code for student discipline in Diliman, and for a constituent assembly to change the Charter. When the UP administration moved for the codification of student rules sometime in 2005, students were only allowed piecemeal participation. In a university where 80% of students are older than 18 years — the age of consent — the lack of active and inclusive student participation is suspect. The drafting of the Code undermines the basic right of students to be consulted, represented, and decide in the formulation of policies that affect their rights and welfare.

UMAKSYON last year joined 100 other student organizations, in submitting to the Board of Regents an 18-point demand “reclaiming the rights of student organizations in the University of the Philippines”. The document specifically demanded student council control over two properties; softer rules on organization and assembly; and secure student representation or participation in important campus activities.

In contrast, the draft Diliman Student Code emphasizes that the use of university facilities and the use of a tambayan is a grant, a privilege. It also offered stricter guidelines on student organizations, and barely promised solutions to staffing and appointment issues of student publications and representatives. What the draft code puts forward is a simpler procedure for discipline cases.

The mismatch is worse on the national arena. Charter change during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has never had the support of the people. Yet still, at a time when citizens are clamoring for economic palliatives — jobs, higher wages, a more beneficial agrarian reform, lower tuition — the Philippine Congress decides to start changing the charter.

Personal political interests have always found their way into the legislature, but never before as daft and brazen. The House of Representatives approved House Resolution 1109, which converts Congress into a Constituent Assembly, before midnight of June 2. The Assembly, which finds no difference between members of the lower and the upper chambers, is legally infirm. It would be, in straightforward terms, a usurpation of power of the Senate by members of the House of Representatives. Standing to benefit from nine years of similar political machinations is Mrs. Arroyo, one of the slyest UP alumni ever to sit in office.

Amidst some of the worst scandals in political history, she was safely tucked in the immunity of public office. Charter change, a new run for office, and a whole motley of exit plans promise to unreasonably, but permanently keep her untouchable. It will be one large question of political survival for Mrs. Arroyo — and for the Filipino people — after June 30, 2010. As we mark every milestone: her last State of the Nation Address in July, election day in May next year, it won’t take a legal education to answer: would Coercion succeed where Consent cannot?

Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon (UMAKSYON) UP College of Law

Different kind of virus to spread on June 10

Solon urges students to transform Ayala into “˜one giant classroom’

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino today said that classes may have been suspended due to precautions over the AHN1 virus but a different kind of virus is spreading among youth and students. “Precautionary measures over the AHN1 have caused the delay of the start of classes in colleges and universities this Monday but a more contagious virus is spreading among our youth and students today. It is the A-CA virus, the anti-constituent assembly virus, and more and more are being afflicted and there’s nothing we could do to stop it,” Palatino said.

Palatino said that youth and students have all the reasons to be outraged over the blatant railroading of the con-ass resolution by administration allies in Congress. “We simply cannot allow con-ass to push through. The Arroyos and their allies can bribe or utilize government agencies all they want but they will be defeated by the defiance and collective action of our youth and our people. The only way to stop this atrocity is to go out and protest,” Palatino said.

Palatino also called on students to make good use of the unexpected vacation from school and join the Ayala protest on June 10. “Let us transform Ayala into one giant classroom. Walang klase pero doon tayo magklase sa lansangan. June 10 will be more educational and informative of the country’s current political state than all our lectures in school combined,” said Palatino. Palatino also called on school administrations that are against con-ass and charter change to encourage their students to join the June 10 protest.

Kabataan, tayo and pagbabago!

Message of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino to the Filipino youth on the historical event of seating the first youth representative in Congress

Five years in the making for the country’s sole youth sectoral party-list, but better late than never and victory is still sweet for all Filipino youth. Kabataan Party-list, the largest youth party in the country, represented the youth sector in the 2007 elections.

It was the second time for our organization to run in the party-list elections. In 2004, we ran under our previous name, Anak ng Bayan, and were among the top choices for party-list based on pre-election surveys. Anak ng Bayan, however, fell prey to massive cheating. A significant number of our votes were anomalously counted in favor of another party-list group, thus our change of name in the 2007 party-list elections.

Despite not winning, we went on with our advocacies and continued to carry on with our principles and general program of action with the help of our founding organizations, such as the National Union of Students of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan and other supporters nationwide and abroad.

Now, five years after our first electoral bid, Kabataan Party-list has finally secured a seat in the House of Representatives per SC GR No. 179271, promulgated April 29, 2009. Now, we are happy to convey the message to all Filipino youth that the SC Resolution, in effect, has once again marked the youth’s rightful place in history by granting the first ever youth sectoral representation in the House of Representatives.

This is truly a historical event and we share this resounding victory to all Filipino youth who voted for and supported Kabataan Party-list. We are overwhelmed but more than ready to take on the task and challenge of being the sole voice of the youth in Congress.

We are youth from different walks of life. We have long-ago advocated for the youth to devote its intellect, energy and courage to building a better society devoid of corruption, inequality and social injustice. We are youth that foster active participation in nation-building, good governance and change. In this junction in history in light of our recent victory, we, the youth, are change. Kabataan, tayo ang pagbabago. Continue reading

Collective action for social change

Those who profess the futility of collective action know nothing of their history. For the tide and ebb of world events are determined precisely by collective action. As one revolutionary put it, “The history of the world is the history of class struggle.”

Throughout the world, regimes and tyrants have been toppled down, and democracies established by the strength of collective action. The wheels of history from feudalism, capitalism to socialism, from monarchies to parliaments to peoples’ governments, were concrete conclusions of class struggle. Examples of which are the anti-colonization movement in Africa and Latin Amercia, the Liberation movement in Southeast Asia and Indo-China, the Religious Tolerance and Womem’s Rights Movement in most parts of the world, the anti-apartheid movement in Africa, and the establishment of the International League of People’s Struggle against Imperialism. And even individual heroes are propelled by the thousands of men and women who clamor, hand in hand, for a common aspiration.

History itself reveals that there is no stronger mark of popular sentiment than mass actions, making collective demonstrations indispensable in the realization of our common goals. In the Philippine setting, the stirrings of collective dissent began in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest. For instance, the Katipunan was borne out of the unity of the peasants and artisans against the colonizers. From the Spanish to the American regime, a common sentiment for national sovereignty fueled radical movements for freedom. Corrupt and authoritarian regimes were crushed when confronted by the ferocity of widespread mass demonstrations. In fact, the mere existence of repression attests to the potency of collective action — why suppress mass demonstrations if it does not instigate fear in the most hardened of dictators?

Thus, our stance remains — collective action is still our most potent weapon for social change. For only by participating in a coordinated action of thousands of people can individuals pursue both their personal and social liberties. As long as there are forces and establishments that conspire against the democratic rights of the people, individuals have to unite to register their shared will.

The sharpest position is to stand for collective action, which is comprised of all arenas of struggle, whether in the parliamentary or in the streets. Indeed, claiming that collective action is passé succeeds only in exposing the crass ignorance of the groups doing the claiming.

The history of UP alone is rich with instances that illustrate the potency of concerted action. During the 1950 witch hunts, when calls for nationalism were vilified as communism, our shared efforts were crucial in the struggle for academic and press freedom. In the 1970s, at the height of political repression during Martial Law, our united dissent contributed to the struggle for democracy, with hundreds of student leaders heeding the call of history, whether in cities or in the countryside. The social ferment generated by the Diliman Commune and the First Quarter Storm pierced the core of national affairs. Student institutions, publications, and formations were reestablished in the 1980s through adamant and tireless collective action. The list goes on, from the closure of US military bases in the country, the ouster of Erap in 2001, the retraction of the largest budget cut in 2000, and the removal of Provision 444 of the University Code, which unduly prohibits religious and provincial organizations.

Despite the machinations of the state and administration, the student movement persists because it has forged an inextricable link with all sectors in the call for social change. After all, the aims of collective action are collective victories — a gain enjoyed by the broadest and the most democratic.

At present, we are facing the blatant implementation of neoliberal policies, which direct the state to fully abandon state universities and colleges. The manifestations of commercialization are increasing, from corporatization to the endless proposals to increase tuition and other fees.

As students reject this overall scheme through protest actions and other peaceful activities, the state and administration have responded with crushing repression, through direct attacks against student formations and institutions. All over the nation, there is a systemic effort to entrench an education that is colonial, commercialized and fascist. Meanwhile, in the political arena, the state continues to commit grave sins against the people — intensified suppression and repression, political killings, the neglect of social services, high unemployment, lack of genuine land reform, increasing hunger, and continuing plunder — while aiming to extend its term through Cha-Cha. Now, more than ever, we need the force of collective action.

The fact of the matter is, those who say that collective action is “illusory” are themselves in delusion — they do not understand history nor do they know their place in history. The challenge for us, iskolars ng bayan, is to participate in the struggle for social change. We must fight for an education that is nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented. Because we cannot spur change in isolation, we must therefore link arms with the broadest masses in our struggle for a better society, where there is genuine land reform, national industrialization, genuine freedom, and social justice. For the broadest collective is also the strongest. Ultimately, we must recognize that our collective is our people and our nation.

VOTE STRAIGHT STAND-UP!

Scrap all proposed fees! Rollback the tuition!
No to commercialization!
Struggle against state abandonment of UP education!
Fight for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education!
Strengthen our unity! Advance our struggle for greater victories!

THE LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS-UP DILIMAN

Crumble their deception!

Leadership and unity, as propounded by some political formations in campus, can never be conceived by mere grand statements and more so, claimed in the absence of praxis. For such calls must always be situated in conditions that manifestly surround us.

Indeed, more recently, we have emerged victorious in our fight against a vicious attempt by the administration and its cohorts in the person of false student leaders, that tried to rob us of our representation in university governance and tested the power of our concerted action. It is important to note that it was only STAND-UP which has been firm in its struggle for genuine student representation by defending the Office of the Student Regent, while other political groups have collaborated to further their own selfish interests and hunger for power in the guise of flawed calls for “democratization” and “student participation”.

It is in light of this that we challenge ALYANSA and KAISA to go beyond the confines of their deceptive and misguided advocacies through an honest assessment of their actions in the past years. True leaders, after all, are judged not by their seemingly noble yet hollow declarations in a desperate effort to gain public approval, but by their concrete efforts to unite with their people armed with the sharpest of principles and a clear course of action. As such, the formations must be exposed for the populist and vacillating groups that they truly are.

ALYANSA contends to “define leadership” by invoking a “shared purpose” and the “timeless ideals of integrity and service”. Yet, it is this same group and their allies serving in student councils who obstinately demanded that their own proposed changes to the Student Regent selection rules be subjected to the recently concluded referendum, without consideration for the equally significant positions of other student councils.

It is this same group which originally supported the tuition increase in UP, only to retract their position after belatedly realizing its dire effects on the majority of incoming students. It is this same group that has been gravely silent on major local issues, like dwindling state subsidy and the consequent lab fee increases, administration repression against UP professors Sarah Raymundo and Judy Taguiwalo, and widespread demolitions of UP communities.

Similarly, KAISA now asks us to “unite” and make a “difference”. It must be remembered, however, that they have also been active in campaigning for the failure of the Student Regent referendum without realizing the danger of losing the Office of the Student Regent with such position.

KAISA has long been evidently absent in most of the major student campaigns, and such failure to make a principled stance forebodes ill of the kind of change they now forward. Certainly, this is not the kind of “difference” we would like to be part of.

Ultimately, both ALYANSA and KAISA have undermined the power of our collective action, to the extent of dismissing the same as a mere illusion.

We are now called upon to realize that the democratic rights we now enjoy as students, the institutions and agencies we have been privileged with, were all borne of consolidated efforts to rise against tyrannical interventions, precisely what the 12 years of the history of STAND-UP unwaveringly represent.

Anakbayan united with student organizations in giving full support to STAND-UP in the coming student council elections. Once again, we will not let their deception vitiate the validity and potency of our collective action.

Strengthen our unity! Advance our struggle for greater victories!

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
UNIVERSITY STUDENT COUNCIL

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

People’s SONA 2008

People's State of the Nation Address SONA

July 28, 2008. It was my second SONA (State of the Nation Address) rally. This year’s mobilization was definitely larger than last year. It was a broad-alliance rally of BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) and other political opposition groups. I went there as a member of the University Student Council along with my other colleagues in the institution.

More than a hundred UP students joined the march all the way from Diliman to the rally site near Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue. Some of my blockmates from UP College of Law even joined the rally after our Legal History class that morning.

People's State of the Nation Address SONA

I shall just repost the editorial we have for the current issue of Oblation, the official newsletter of the University Student Council.

OBLATION ISSUE #2 EDITORIAL

When power becomes an end in itself, and not a means for the common good, moral judgments are bound to take the backseat. And so, the annual State of the Nation Address — meant to truthfully report on the president’s progress for the year — has evolved into a tool for deception.

Since 2001, Gloria Arroyo has trumpeted her administration’s achievements. Elaborate cover-up techniques were employed, with numbers and rhetoric as her most potent weapons. The littlest improvements were exaggerated, harsh statistics were ignored, and outmoded yet positive data were favored over the recent but negative figures. Consistently, the end result is a rosy picture of the national fabric, even when reality tells of bleak prospects. Yet, a closer look on Arroyo’s fiscal reforms reveals sinister details.

This year, Arroyo chose to laud the unpopular Expanded Value Added Tax (VAT), crediting the regressive measure for providing the necessary cushion amid the global economic crisis. “Ito ang nakasalba sa bayan,” she proclaims. Seemingly, the success of future government initiatives, pro-poor programs, debt servicing, and infrastructure projects hinged on one aspect alone — the additional profits generated by VAT. “Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis,” she further declared. Amid disbelieving ears, Arroyo punctuates this statement with a glowing report of development. “We ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong, and a million new jobs were created,” she stated with a smile.

Quidquid latet, adparebit. Nil inultum remanebit. Yet, all that is covered shall be unmasked, all that is hidden shall be known. In a PCIJ report, UP Economics Prof. Ernesto Pernia pointed that while the global recession wrought adverse effects on practically all countries, neighboring regions such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam fared better than the Philippines. Despite the absence of regressive tax measures, the relative strength of their economies was key in weathering the oil and food crisis. In contrast, Pernia describes Philippine economy as “weak,” predicting a collapse in the markets following a brewing financial typhoon. Economic experts agree that Arroyo’s policies have largely been in the wrong for the last seven years, aggravating an already unstable national economy. With no financial security to speak of, the most vulnerable sectors are also the most hard-hit. More and more people are constrained by the dearth of opportunities as poverty rates increase from 30 per 100 in 2003 to 33 per 100 in 2006.

Government response, however, is characterized by a lack in both insight and foresight. Social desirables such as democratized education, employment opportunities, adequate income, sound housing projects, and affordable healthcare system have largely been missing in government plans. Instead, efforts were wasted on “band-aid solutions,” such as oil and rice subsidies and cash dole-outs. These policies are essentially populist, aimed at boosting Arroyo’s popularity while failing to safeguard the majority from the recurrence or exacerbation of the crises. Certainly, the rise in poverty levels is cause for alarm. Yet, this trend is bound to continue for as long as government is preoccupied with palliative measures that are more of a bane than a boon.

With limited national resources, Arroyo must concentrate on solutions that will have a lasting effect on the population while shielding the country from similar predicaments. For in the final analysis, all presidents are weighed according to one standard — the assurance of the future of the Filipino people. This, in turn, is guaranteed by measures that address the root cause and not merely the symptoms of the malady.

“Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard,” said Arroyo to a country where millions are hungry for opportunity. Yet, the Filipino people deserve more than empty and deceptive rhetoric. Substantial and palpable changes are in order, for there is no other alternative but to perish.

Two major victories in the midst of the struggle for a democratic UP Charter

Post-Senate Bicam March (Jan. 28, '08) Post-Senate Bicam March (Jan. 28, '08)
In the midst of the relentless pursuit of the UP Administration to push for the reverting of the final two UP Charter bills to the original pro-commercialization Pangilinan UP Charter bill during the Bicameral Conference Committee (BCC) last 28th of January, the Iskolars ng Bayan and the UP community have achieved two major significant victories in our campaign for a democratic, pro-student and pro-people UP Charter.

Prohibition of the Outright Sale of UP Lands. The final reconciled version of the BCC expressly prohibited the sale of lands of the University of the Philippines. The importance of this provision can never be underestimated. By precluding the UP Administration from alienating and disposing the lands of UP, the new UP Charter shall be creating an implied yet clear policy declaration insofar as the purposes of the UP lands are concerned.

Lands for Democratization of UP Education. The best policy presumption of the State’s donation of vast land areas to the UP would be the long-term objective of democratizing UP education, not only in urban centers of research and study but in rural areas as well, with the UP serving as an important institution for rural socio-economic development in the countryside. No better examples of this policy exist than the establishment of UP units as UP Mindanao and the UP School of Health Sciences in Palo, Leyte. These UP units were established in the outskirts of the provincial cities of Davao and Tacloban, respectively, with the objective of providing greater access to UP education of the poorer sections of the Filipino youth in these areas. These institutions save Iskolars ng Bayan from the high costs of living and the incidental costs of education present in cities-based university education. More so, it is worthwhile to note that in these units, majority of the Iskolars ng Bayan are STFAP beneficiarie — a clear testament that these UP units serve its function in furthering democratic access to our Iskolars ng Bayan. Had former UP Administrations been given full powers to alienate the lands where these UP units lie, these would never have been established in the first place, in pursuit of the excuse of the present UP Administration that our idle land assets in the countryside are better sold for private benefit than remaining unproductive and unused. With our hard-fought legislation prohibiting such alienation of lands, it is one big step for the continuing democratization of UP education.

Lands for the Further Development of Academic Units, Specialization of Research Fields in Pursuit of UP’s Contribution to National Industrialization. If President Roman’s vision of a globally competitive UP is to be believed, the UP needs all the lands it needs in pursuit of her vision. The fields of study and research in the UP is so vast that our currently existing academic units and research institutions shall not suffice to substantially contribute to the production of scientific knowledge needed to facilitate economic growth and cultural development in view of the challenges of national industrialization. By prohibiting the alienation of UP lands, Iskolars ng Bayan are rest assured that the UP Arboretum in Philcoa that was unceremoniously leased to Ayala Land shall not be converted into a multi-billion outright sale soon, keeping alive the prospect of building state-funded Science and Technology Parks with needs-based not market-driven researches, as soon as the contract with Ayala is ended.

Consultative Forum Per Autonomous Unit for the Articulation of Sectoral Positions on University Issues. While the BCC decided to retain the anti-democratic Board of Regents, we were able to assert the inclusion of a provision for the establishment of a consultative forum of sectors in the UP for the articulation of sectoral positions on various issues, from university issues such as tuition increases and long-term leases of UP lands to national issues such as human rights violations and the ouster of President Arroyo. This provision is most important to keep the BoR grounded in all its policy decisions especially as the sectors involved in these consultative fora shall be the ones most affected in the event of an ill-advised policy measure. More so, this consultative forum also reasserts the role of the UP as the critical conscience of Philippine society by allowing UP’s different sectors to come together, problematize and provide solutions not only to policy matters of the UP but national issues as well. All these make UP an academic yet essentially democratic institution.

The Struggle for a Democratic UP Continues. Thus far, the Iskolars ng Bayan have truly achieved significant gains in its long struggle for a democratic UP Charter. It is due to our collective unity in principle and action that has made this so, nothing else. Had there been no lobby efforts in Congress nor mass mobilizations done to assert our unrelenting positions, the BCC might have fully approved the UP Administration-backed Pangilinan bill.

Nonetheless, the struggle of the Iskolars ng Bayan for a democratic UP does not end with our triumph in the campaign for a new UP Charter. It continues forth, for as long as the long-standing state policy of commercialization of education under President Arroyo remains, with its twin ugly heads of tuition increases and decreasing state subsidies constantly stunting the growth of our universities and the greater access of our students.

STAND-UP Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights – UP

Youth mobilization (III)

This youth mobilization was still part of the week-long series of events and demonstrations against the passing of the UP tuition increase. The mobilization as a whole, however, is a youth-wide rally against the government’s failure to stop unabated tuition hikes and the apparent state abandonment of the youth and education. There were contingents from various universities, colleges and high schools in Metro Manila. [View photos from the rally here].

We were supposed to march to Mendiola, but as expected, mercenaries were set up to block us and defend some fortress as if it was to be attacked.

Here’s a press release from Kabataan Party regarding today’s rally:

Students blame GMA over tuition hikes in UP, private schools
More college dropouts seen next semester

Students from the University of the Philippines (UP) and other state and private schools led by the Kabataan Partylist today stormed Mendiola to condemn the Arroyo government’s failure to stop unabated tuition hikes and the apparent state abandonment of the youth and education.

“The railroaded approval of the 300 percent tuition hike in UP and unabated increases in tuition and other fees in private schools presage a bad omen for the education sector that could trigger the worst education crisis in history,” Kabataan Partylist president Raymond Palatino said. “The disheartening stories of Julie Albior and Flores Biwang who were the topnotchers in the high school category of the National Achievement Test (NAT) last year remind us of the futility of government education programs. It also underscores the need to curb corruption in the government and misprioritization of the national budget.”

“Albior and Biwang represent the millions of poor but intelligent students who are forced to skip schooling because of rising cost of education and decreasing family incomes. They are the poignant examples of state abandonment of the youth and education.”

“With more preventive fees being charged both in private institutions and state schools, we fear that their numbers will double up this coming semester.”

Palatino put the blame on the Arroyo administration, saying current policies on education and government’s disregard allow private institutions to charge onerous and dubious fees on students and transform public schools to corporate entities. “Since 2001, the government encouraged the reduction of subsidies for public universities. This forced schools either to accept fewer students or to raise fees,” he said. “Parallel to annual cuts in state schools budgets, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) implemented a new tuition guideline in 2004 which allowed private schools to impose higher fees below the inflation rate without consulting the students,” he added.

Meanwhile, Palatino called on incumbent officials and aspiring politicians to translate their electoral agenda and promises to practice by supporting the students’ position for the UP Board of Regents to recall the approved tuition hike and impose a moratorium on tuition hikes this year to resolve hanging issues over the implementation of the new CHEd memorandum order no. 14 “This will be an opportunity for them to prove to us that they are really for the youth and they are running to defend and uphold the interest of young Filipinos, particularly for education.”