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”.

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

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

2009 UP Diliman Code of Student Conduct

Manifesto of unity calling for the junking of the proposed 2009 Code of Student Conduct and for the forwarding of an alternative, democratic Code

Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon ng Edukasyon (UMAKSYON)

We, students of the University of the Philippines, firmly denounce the questionable procedures through which the draft of 2009 Code of Student Conduct (CSC) was formulated, as well as oppose its anti-student and repressive character. We firmly believe that the proposed Code runs counter to the student demands that we have long forwarded to the Board of Regents since the start of the academic year, and as such deserves the greatest condemnation from the ranks of students and organizations aspiring to uphold their democratic rights in the University.

The provisions of the Code did not undergo student consultation. At the onset, the drafting of the Code has already violated the basic right of students to be consulted and represented in the formulation of policies that affect their rights and welfare. The procedure by which it was drafted undermines the capacity of the students to recommend solutions to long-standing student issues in the University. Moreover, it is unjust that the Code was consulted to College administrators, while the assertion of the University Student Council to participate in the drafting of the Code was deliberately refused.

The provisions in the Code runs counter to the ideals of academic freedom in the University. The basis of discipline and its corresponding sanctions imposed by the Code also imperil the academic freedom inside the University. It dictates on the organizations the kind of activities it must pursue for it to be able to qualify for recognition and application of tambayans. It also prohibits students from using UP’s Information Technology System for political, personal, and commercial reasons, including crossposting in email groups. “Breach of peace”, “disrespect towards persons of authority” and “threatening behavior” are vague statements that may render academic and extra-curricular activities as punishable by the Code. Moreover, the transformation of the Student Disciplinary Tribunal into a Council eliminates student representation in disciplinary proceedings, as it effectively removes the existence of Student Jurors. At the same time, the proposed process of hearing cases of violations also runs counter to the principle of fair and due process. In fact, the Code approximates the Human Security Act in its totalitarian tone. It unilaterally imposes the kind of thinking, behavior, and endeavors that students must conform to.

The Code violates our basic human rights of freedom to organize, express, and assemble. We decry the gross violation of our basic rights, as our constitutional right to organize and right to free speech stands to be crushed by the stipulations of the Code. Aside from the provisions stated above, it also sets high criteria for the recognition of organizations, requiring an approximate of 100 members to qualify for University recognition. It also prohibits freshmen and transferees from joining organizations, otherwise, the individual and the organization shall be punished by the Code. Instead of providing an academic community that upholds our basic rights and instituting safeguards for the realization of the students’ holistic and full potential, the Code limits our democratic space, effectively restricting students from joining organizations and expressing our opinions.

The Code silences collective dissents, paving the way for further commercialization and repression in the University. We analyze the proposed policy as a clear adjunct to the programmed commercialization of the university, which we have consistently opposed for the longest time. The free organization, assembly, and expression of students are the biggest obstructions in forwarding anti-student policies in the University, such as fee increases and privatization of student services. The passage of the Code will cripple organizations, sororities and fraternities, hindering students from registering dissent against anti-student and pro-commercialization thrusts of the university via organized and collective fronts. History tells us that student formations and institutions had been instruments of expressing and asserting our democratic aspirations. During the Martial Rule, when organizations, student councils, and publications were banned, our ability to unite, organize, express, and create collective fronts despite repressive conditions contributed greatly to the reinstitution of our democratic rights and to the eventual end of Marcos dictatorship. We shall not let any moves that aim to weaken the collective strength and potency that we have.

With the position articulated above, we decisively call for the immediate junking of the proposed Code for Student Conduct, as it clearly stands as an affront to our basic rights and interests. We demand for an alternative student code that shall encourage, rather than restrict, the flourishing of basic rights and civil liberties of Iskolars ng Bayan — a code that shall put our general and specific student demands in legislation. For a university can never flourish if its primary stakeholder, the students and organizations, is shackled to the dogma of coercion and discipline.

It’s not just a Plan B or C

A few weeks ago, my colleagues in the UP Diliman University Student Council and representatives from the College Student Councils in Diliman deliberated among each other and chose to send me as the Student Regent nominee of UP Diliman to the UP System-wide Student Regent selection tomorrow in UP Miag-ao in Iloilo.

Hay, the things I [allow myself to] get into. I don’t know how to plan my life for this year anymore. With all these present uncertainties and possibilities. I’m just very indecisive right now. I don’t know which ones to do, which to drop, which to prioritize. Let’s see what will happen. So it’s off to Iloilo for me today for a KASAMA sa UP (Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP) National Congress then for the SR Selection sessions of the General Assembly of [UP] Student Councils (GASC).

See you all when I get back. I’m pasting below a short essay I wrote after some of my law blockmates nominated me with the College of Education Student Council endorsing the nomination.

As the next hundred years of the University of the Philippines begins, it is faced with challenges that confront its nationalist history and opportunities to reaffirm its pro-people and pro-student character.

We are at a time when education in the University is becoming increasingly inaccessible to a vast majority of Filipinos. Despite a one-year freeze on a supposed annual tuition hike, laboratory fee increases are pending across the board in almost all UP units. Student organizations, catalysts of student involvement in campus, are being challenged through imposed policies and requirements that essentially limit their freedom. Despite an increase in the capital outlay budget of the University, the government severely decreased UP’s maintenance and operating budget.

These are just a few of the issues that will confront the next Student Regent.

We are also at the juncture of time, however, when, due to the recently and successfully concluded CRSRS Referendum, there is heightened awareness with the Office of the Student Regent, its tasks and function, and its history. We are at a time when students’ involvement with the issues of the Student Regent is unprecedented. It is a great opportunity to reaffirm the Student Regent’s role among iskolars ng bayan.

Indeed, this is the year when great expectations are demanded from the Student Regent, and when great opportunities are present. This year is an opportune time for the Student Regent to harness the heightened awareness into increased involvement. This is a great opportunity for the Student Regent and his Office, to reach out to the widest number of students, through genuine and effective means of consultation and communication, and engage the students in matters that directly affect their lives as iskolars ng bayan.

More than ever, this is a time for the Student Regent to be more transparent, accessible, accountable and attuned to his constituents. The Student Regent, notwithstanding geographic limitations, must be accessible to iskolars ng bayan in all UP campuses. He must take advantage of effective and modern means of information & communication technologies and must devote time and resources to be physically present whenever it is imperative, through regular campus-hopping. The Student Regent must strengthen present mechanisms, through institutions like the historical KASAMA sa UP but be also more open to students and student groups who may decide to pursue alternative formations.

He should create innovative mechanisms for students to air their grievances to the BOR. He must also ensure the presence of devoted liaison officers and volunteers in every UP campus, distinct from the student council but in coordination with them, in order to effectively and efficiently mount campaigns and projects in a university system that spans the entire archipelago.

The Student Regent must also be accountable and transparent. He must constantly communicate his agenda through regular press releases to be published in campus papers, and via communication lines through the internet. For this purpose, the Student Regent may also maintain an interactive website to ensure access to information that pertain to the BOR’s agenda.

The Student Regent must also not only represent and ensure the rights of present students of the University but of every Filipino aspiring to enter UP, and for all Filipinos who look up to the University as an agent of change and as an incubator of the nation’s progress. Decisions passed by the Board of Regents are policies that shape the destiny of UP and affect present and more so, future UP students. Policies in UP are also echoed among many other public institutions of higher learning across the country, and affect every Filipino’s chance of achieving formal higher education. As such, the Student Regent must always and continue to be grounded on the principles of accessible education for all Filipinos, especially whenever he is confronted with the many issues that tend to limit access to this inalienable right.

The Student Regent must be unwavering in his principles, despite adversity or animosity, for he must recognize that the University exists at a time when the government’s standing policy is to decrease spending on higher education, more so this year when it is bound to implement and fulfill the objectives of its Long-term Higher Education Development Plan 2010. He must also recognize that he exists in an arena largely controlled by administrators and politicians. He must not be cowed by administrative pressure, and not be afraid to expose irregularities in the administration where they exist.

Despite these, the Student Regent must also know how to strike a balance and to cooperate, whenever possible, with allies in the administration and the government, to gain tactical victories and ensure that the rights and interests of present and future UP students are not compromised at the altar of vested interests.

Most importantly, however, the Student Regent must recognize the potency of the collective strength of the tens of thousands of UP students he represents. He must draw inspiration from them, and learn from the history of collective action.

Through this vision he must ensure that UP students themselves, together with his humble but dignified representation in the BOR, and the rest of the student institutions such as the student councils, will chart their own destiny in the University and the nation. With all humility, I submit this vision for the Office of the Student Regent as a nominee for the position of Student Regent.

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

Strengthen our unity! Advance our struggle for greater victories!

Last week, we secured the historic success of the CRSRS (Codified Rules on Student Regent Selection) Referendum, a process that drew over 26,000 students from all over the nation, a resounding 73% if which voted yes. This is the epic triumph of all iskolar ng bayan who responded to the clarion call of the times, heeding the need to defend that most basic of civil liberties — fair representation.

Our success in the referendum attests to three things: that efforts to discredit the mandate of the Office of the Student Regent — an institution that is borne and continues to assume the democratic struggle of the students — will end in futility; that attempts to place student representation at the crux of uncertainty will fail at the gates of our collective dissent; and finally, that we are ready to overcome divisions so that higher battles may be fought and won over. Indeed, both the UP administration and the state have evolved mechanisms to thwart our democratic rights, covertly attacking student formations and institutions. Yet no assault can withstand the strength of our united stance; our collective resolve shall always persist and prevail.

The referendum, however, is just one of a series of victories. Last year, we were able to set a dialogue with UP Pres. Emerlinda Roman, resulting in the barring of Provision 444 of the 2006 UP Code, which unduly prohibits sectarian organizations. Through UMAKSYON, an alliance of student formations against commercialization, we exposed exorbitant and pending fee increases from the colleges of Engineering, Mass Communication, Human Kinetics, Economics, and Education.

We also forged inter-unit alliances to assist other UP units in their campaigns. For instance, following strong pressure from students systemwide, UP Los Baños Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco finally recanted his earlier stance to bar the university student elections, resulting in the highest voter turn-out of 70.53% in UPLB after seven months of delay.

We also made a deep mark in national affairs, mobilizing some of the largest number of students, professors, workers and other sectors to protest the depravity of the current Gloria Arroyo regime. We lead in the convening of the national youth alliance, Youth ACT Now, to press for truth and accountability from the government, especially after the $329 million NBN-ZTE scandal.

In all these, the iskolar ng bayan was a critical participant in the shaping of issues both local and national in scope. For in a time of conflict, where opposing ideas contend to determine the order of society, it is all the more crucial to stand for the voiceless and marginalized. This is why, in its 100 years of existence, UP has stood as a stronghold of activism.

STRENGTHEN OUR UNITY
At this juncture, we recognize the long, arduous road ahead; there are grave concerns that we have yet to confront. Even as the global economic crisis deepens, with over 1 million Filipinos jobless, the thrust of the government is still aligned with the blatant neglect of social services.

Our response, then, is to glean lessons form previous victories to guide us in present confrontations. Today, battles continue to be fought. The ferocity of struggles we wage within and outside the university is crucial in the resolution of social ills that have kept many deprived. We should not hesitate in the fulfillment of such vital responsibility.

As past events demonstrate, only the collective action of students can counter the regime’s systematic attempts to abandon the education sector at the behest of commercial and corporate interests. Let us summon, therefore, the spirit of collective indignation. Let us rebuke authorities who occupy the highest echelon of government, but do not serve the common interests of the people. Let us break the bonds of apathy and silence, and instead, claim the nation’s destiny as our own. Let the force of our united dissent reverberate through the halls, inside the classrooms, and in all corners of the university.

ADVANCE OUR STRUGGLE FOR GREATER VICTORIES
Thus, we look on to the future, resolute in the struggle for our student rights, and those of other marginalized sectors.

We shall amplify our fight for added state subsidy, and assert our legitimate right for accessible and quality education. We have endured dilapidated facilities and equipment, and declining university services due to reduced state subsidy. But we share an abiding desire to end this imposed scarcity, seeing that budget cuts have proven disastrous for UP.

We will push for democratic access of education, especially for the brightest and poorest of our youth. We are steadfast in the belief that education is a universal right, in which each of us has a claim. It is tragic irony when solons refuse to provide adequate funding for education but, in the same breath, condone the lavish misallocation of resources to military spending and corruption.

We will expose commercialization as a scheme that merely reinforces state abandonment. The government has maliciously approved various policies that erode the basic rights of the people. Through the Long Term Higher Education Plan (LTHEDP), exorbitant tuition and other fees have been imposed, despite the intense hardship of the Filipino people. But we know that once commercial interests pervade the university, profit-making — not academic pursuit or democratic access — becomes the overriding concern. That is anathema to the needs of the Filipino people who, at the very least, deserve a relief from the excessive fees that have kept them from receiving education, a right that is duly theirs in the first place.

Hence, our principal task is to advance our struggle for democratic rights, in the perspective of attaining a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education. Let us condemn state abandonment by opposing the UP tuition policy while simultaneously insisting on greater state subsidy.

Let us fight the commercialized and repressive nature of neoliberal education by renouncing its manifestations — such as exorbitant fees, scarce resources and services, attacks on student representation, and the lack of tambayans and even the unfair procedure for the recognition of student organizations. On this historic platform, we will not be silent or passive.

History tells the story of a great struggle for democratic rights. That struggle is alive and well today, in each of the thousands of youths who will stand for justice, freedom, and ultimately, real and encompassing democracy.

Iskolar ng Bayan Pag-aralan ang lipunan Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan

UP students ratify student regent selection rules

The referendum for the selection rules of the Student Regent has finally concluded successfully after months of logistical preparations and campaigns, of bitter debates and divisive partisan propaganda. The iskolar ng bayan can now be assured that we will be able to select our sole representative to the Board of Regents in a month or two to uphold our interests amidst intensifying schemes of commercialization and amidst threats of new rounds of tuition and laboratory fee increases. We have once again proven that students united will never be defeated. Here’s to greater victory in defending our rights!

UP Campus YES % NO %
UP Baguio 1,680 98.4 14 0.8
UP Diliman 7,147 63.2 4,031 35.6
UP Diliman in Pampanga 371 90.9 29 7.1
UP Los Banos 4,025 79.5 982 19.4
UP Manila 1,500 54.5 1,243 45.1
UP Manila in Baler, Aurora 54 93.1 3 5.7
UP Manila in Palo, Leyte 105 68.2 42 27.3
UP Mindanao 737 98.4 4 0.5
UP Open University 54 64.3 18 21.4
UP Visayas Cebu College 767 90.7 74 8.8
UP Visayas Iloilo City 532 94.7 23 4.1
UP Visayas Miag-ao 878 89.7 71 7.3
UP Visayas Tacloban 403 61.4 249 38.0
TOTAL 18,253 72.1 6,783 26.8

Unity in securing our representation

A referendum is essentially a good thing. But this referendum doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It comes at a time when there is a pending proposal in Congress to cut UP’s maintenance and operating budget in 2009 by PhP 200+ million, which will justify another round of tuition and lab fee increases. It comes at a time when the administration, through UP President Roman, admitted on cable television the strong possibility of increasing tuition once again.

The SR (Student Regent) has traditionally stood against these whenever he sits at the BOR (Board of Regents), an arena dominated by administrators and political appointees. The referendum, I believe, is a cunning way to challenge the presence of the SR in the BOR, and effectively neutralize the representation especially at this crucial juncture of our university’s history.

Think of an ordinary organization seeking recognition from the OSA (Office of Student Affairs), in order to be eligible to use the university’s facilities. For more than a decade, this organization has existed with is own constitution and rules on selecting their organization officers. In a sudden turn of events, this year, before the OSA recognizes the organization, it asks the formation to submit its constitution and rules on selecting its organization officers to a referendum by all its members. It’s quite an added burden, which was largely unnecessary because of an already existing democratic and working mechanism. Perhaps it may not be a problem to ordinary organizations with around thirty members, but think of it this way, 60% of the members rarely show up at the tambayan. UP has 55,000+ students. Even in the most heated student council elections, turnout has never exceeded 50%. The administration knows this. It’s a challenge it knows will be difficult, logistically, for the students to fulfill. It’s the challenge that will give them the space to maneuver and to do what it seeks to implement while the selection of the SR is uncertain.

Some groups try to create the atmosphere that it’s okay for the referendum to fail because the OSR (Office of the Student Regent), as a public office, will not be abolished anyway and that the law abhors a vacancy in public office. True enough, the OSR will not be abolished, and that the current SR will remain in a hold-over position. However, for how long until the other members of the BOR challenge her presence? This propaganda line doesn’t take into consideration the historic tendency of the UP administration to intervene in what is supposed to be a purely student affair, whenever it suits its interests.

In 1991, President Abueva shunned the nominee chosen by the students and appointed his own SR. In 1999, the administration expelled the sitting SR from school, and consequently the BOR booted him out of the board, because he wasn’t a student anymore. These, despite the legalities that supposedly ensure student representation in the board.

Current SR Abdulwahid is a graduating student. She will cease to be a student in a few months. The administration and pro-administration groups can assure us all they want that there shall be no vacancy in the OSR but we all know what the administration has done and is capable of doing in order to take advantage of the situation in case of such a vacuum.

Fortunately, in 1999 a replacement was chosen after the student regent was ousted, but that was when the CRSRS was in practice and recognized. In the event of a failure of a referendum this year, there will be no mechanism to replace SR Shan, in case she ceases to be a student, or if, god forbid, something terrible happens to her. Indeed we will have an OSR, but we will be unable to choose a new SR. That’s where the vacancy comes in.

Granting without conceding that the law really abhors this vacancy, and that it won’t happen. And in case it does, we can file a case in court to assert our rights and our representation. This is exactly the kind of space pro-tuition increase administrators is seeking to roll the dice for another round of hikes.

Instead of the SR or the OSR and the students uniting in principle to oppose such moves, we shall be concerned still with validating and securing our representation in the board. That’s where the delay comes in.

I’m similarly frustrated, honestly. Student councils have bickered and campaigned for amendments last year. All of us had the chance from June to December to argue over this and I’m really disappointed that even after they have failed to gather popular support and to be accommodated, they insist on their political agenda and divide the students at a time when unity is imperative in securing our representation. Last year, from June to December, they campaigned for amendments and consulted with their constituents. There was very little favorable response among students. Ask for the qualitative and quantitative results of their consultations. There is no unbiased clamor for these amendments. The fact is that these amendments have been campaigned for year in and year out by the same political force who have their own interests in mind. Year in and year out, when the GASC convenes, these amendments are rejected by majority of student councils system-wide.

Last year, despite their effort to gather support for their amendments, the students aren’t biting. And what’s more, they didn’t submit their amendments on time, despite the fact that the mechanism for amendments wasn’t repealed by RA 9500 (the new UP Charter). I was personally willing to concede and accommodate whatever they want, even if I don’t agree with the merits of their arguments in favor of amendments. But given the results of their consultations, there really is no un-colored clamor for amendments even in their colleges. It really just comes from the same political force whose efforts are frustrated every year. All I see is blue and yellow. It almost makes them similar to pro-administration congressmen hell-bent on pushing for charter change without any clamor from the constituents they supposedly represent, except for the clamor within their frustrated political parties with vested interests.

I also want some amendments (albeit not the ones they push for), but I believe the time had past for all the bickering and arguing over them. We all had the chance, we all had the time, from June to December last year, to exercise our duties to consult our students. Pinag-awayan at pinagpuyatan na natin ang mga debate tungkol dito. Now is the time for us to unite in securing student representation in the BOR. If we really feel so strongly about amendments or whatnot, student councils can deliberate on it as early as April once the referendum has succeeded. If the referendum fails, wala rin naman tayong magiging arena to debate on these proposals.

Unwillingness to settle for this compromise is for me quite unreasonable–taking into consideration all the pressing issues we’re going to face in the next few months, from budget cuts to tuition increases. Putting it in another way, the willingness of some groups for this referendum to fail just because their amendments weren’t accommodated now (and justifiably so), at a time when we’re facing further attacks on our rights as students, is preposterous and selfish. We can’t afford uncertainty. We can’t afford any delay. It is imperative for us to secure student representation in the BOR now.

Yes to Student Representation!

For the most part of the university’s existence as a higher institution of learning, policies were crafted and imposed by the Board of Regents (BOR), the highest policy-making body in the university, without the students’ participation.

For the longest time, the BOR had no student representative–the university’s largest constituency long subjected to policies they didn’t see coming. Through sustained and collective efforts of the students, however, which began during the First Quarter Storm, heightened and intensified further during the dark years of Martial Law and beyond, the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) was established.

The OSR serves as the student-run institution where the Student Regent, the sole voting member of the BOR, who comes form the university’s largest sector, is seated. Instituted in 1986, it has served to uphold the interests of the students, voting and arguing on their behalf from issues ranging from appointments of deans to increases in laboratory fees and tuition.

The enactment of RA 9500 or the new UP Charter, however, endangers this institution, under the smokescreen of democratization, by actually subjecting a decade-old Student Regent selection process crafted by duly-elected student council representatives across the UP System and subjected to debates and amendments every year, to a terribly difficult challenge–a challenge that the administration cunningly knows, given the trend of student election turnouts, has the tendency to fail. UP, after all, has more than 55,000 students system-wide.

The failure of this challenge, a referendum with less than the required majority of voters’ turnout, will endanger the existence of the OSR. In the face of impending tuition increases, as President Roman herself mentioned in a recent TV interview, and other schemes of commercialization, the absence of the sole student representative in the BOR shall only serve the best interest of those who push for such policies–policies that the students and their Student Regent have traditionally stood up against.

It is at this juncture of time in our university that it is imperative for the students to once again link arms and unite in the struggle to defend the institution that ensures the rights and interests not only of present UP students but of future generations of iskolars ng bayan in an arena largely controlled by administrators and political appointees.

In the face of impending and further attacks on our democratic rights as students and the democratic rights of the people to accessible education, we must intensify our campaigns and broaden our ranks. Together, we shall prove once again that students united will never be defeated.

On January 26-31, participate in the system-wide referendum. Vote YES, defend the Office of the Student Regent!