June 13, 2012
Class opening at the University of the Philippines Los Banos was welcomed with a rally today demanding for the immediate proclamation of University Student Council-UPLB (USC-UPLB) Chairperson-elect Ynik Ante and “challenging Iskolars ng Bayan to respond on ‘education crisis’ aggravated by continuous cutbacks on education budget.”
Some 300 UPLB students led by Kabataan Party-list Southern Tagalog began distributing their flyers on the annual breakfast treat to the university’s freshman students, followed by a program at the College of Arts and Sciences steps and a protest march from UPLB to Junction, Los Banos, Laguna.
Ante’s proclamation is still pending after the electoral board’s attempt to bar her from running in the campus election and from assuming her post due to late payment of tuition. The university’s chancellor, however, has already expressed his endorsement of Ante’s proclamation amid students’ continuing support on the latter.
“The prevention of Ante’s proclamation as the legal and legitimate USC-UPLB chair is a disrespect of both the integrity of the election process and the students’ decision,” said Ma. Cristina Madeja, chairperson of the party-alliance Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN), UP’s widest student alliance of 60 student organizations. Ante was SAKBAYAN’s standard bearer for the UPLB student council elections on February.
“The intervention on the students’ activity is part of the long history of campus repression in UPLB,” Madeja continued referring to the then Office of Student Affairs Director Vivian Gonzales, a reserved colonel, as the one behind the pending proclamation of Ante. “(Gonzales) is the culprit of various repressive policies, such as tambayan phaseout, suspension of organization’s officers, intervention on internal operations of student council and publications and non-proclamation of winners in student council elections,” she pointed out.
Ante stressed that ‘campus repression’ happens because there are UPLB constituents, like SAKBAYAN that are “conscious and brave enough to stand against policies that trample our right to a quality and accessible education.”
“We welcome the freshman students with the warmest salutation as the new iskolar ng bayan. Our mass action today aims to educate and inform them of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to education, democratic right to freely express their sentiments, freely assemble and freely organize,” Ante said.
The same students also protest various schemes of tuition hike, such as UP’s Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program that requires students to pay P1,500 per unit, amounting to a 50 percent tuition hike. They slam Mr. Benigno Aquino III’s budget cut on education and other social services that left UP with almost P13-billion budget deficit.
“Amidst Aquino government’s futility to prioritize education in the national budget allocation, we pledge a more serious campaign to lobby in congress and protest for higher state subsidy on education and other basic social services,” Ante said.
Madeja said that the protest today is the commencement of a series of activities that will culminate in their participation in the “people’s state of the nation address (SONA)” along with Aquino’s on July 23. #