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