By Mark Ernest Famatigan
Photos by Dianne Sanchez and Paula Bautista
Web design by Dean Carlo Valmeo
The students had their hopes high as they prepared themselves to confront University of the Philippines President Danilo Concepcion, hoping to finally have an answer to the issues involving their maximum residency rule (MRR) and readmission cases. Yet again, all they got was dilly-dallying.
Students from the University of the Philippines Los Banos occupied the REDREC Auditorium on February 20 to rally their registration concerns to the UP administration.
This was a commitment the students garnered when they demanded the UP administration convene in UPLB during the Board of Regents (BOR) mobilization last February 3.
Stop and review
University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Hasper Sunga started the dialogue by inquiring Concepcion’s stand on the position paper sent by the USC.
The position paper discussed four registration-related concerns while calling on the UP admin to review a recently circulating memorandum from the Office of the Chancellor (OC) prohibiting unregistered students from attending classes.
Sunga reiterated the position paper’s call to “stop and review” the University MRR policy, which states that students cannot apply for MRR after a certain duration and cannot apply for re-admission the second time.
Concepcion replied how the University MRR policy serves as a “scholastic delinquency measure”, and that failing for prolonged periods of time would tarnish the academic standards university provides.
“Ito [ang MRR] ay isang scholastic delinquency measure na inadopt nang napaktagal na panahon na. ‘Di pwedeng 20 taon na siya, ‘di pa rin matapos-tapos ang isang kurso dahil mahihirapan tayong kumuha ng estudyanteng kapalit at nawawalan ng pagkakataon yung iba na makapasok.” Concepcion said.
“Pag bumabagsak nang napaktagal ay babagsak ang kalidad ng standards ng ating university,” he added.
Sieg Severino, a councilor from the College of Economics and Management Student Council (CEMSC), then argued that an article of the UP Code about permanent disqualification fails to consider the existence of other factors that may affect the appeal process, like mental capabilities, economic factors, and financial problems.
Chapter 61, Article 392 of the UP Code states that any student who was dropped due to dismissal and probation due to failure in half or more of the total number of units shall not be eligible for readmission.
Severino stressed how the same Code, under Section 3, states that no student shall be denied admission to the university by reason of age, sex, race, nationality, religious belief, or political affiliation, yet had no clauses on ‘external factors’ that are beyond the student’s control.
“Sinasabi that the university shall not deny any student of education from those reasons, so pwede bang maglagay ng clauses with regards to these external factors na makapagre-ad, dahil hindi natin ito kontrolado?” Severino said.
Where are the revisions?
Concepcion suggested that the students should craft a concrete proposal to revise Article 389 and insisted the decision was not his alone, as it should be also discussed in the University Council level.
Upon an inquiry by John Althani Famador, a councilor from the College of Agriculture and Food Science Student Council (CAFSSC), about the irony of stringent university policies Sanchez claimed that he is waiting for the revision draft from the councils.
Sanchez said that he would be the one to present the USC’s revisions to the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) and the BOR.
The Chancellor also insisted that the university officials are bound by the UP Code, and that he approved a number of cases recently. “Hindi ‘yun blanket disapproval. So sino mga in-approve ko? Definitely wala rito. Mayroon kaming in-approve na 76 out of 185 [cases],” Sanchez claimed. This contradicted what officials said during a dialogue between the USC and UPLB admin in August 16, 2018, when Delos Reyes stated that the number of cases were already over 600.
Barred from classes
On February 12, the OC released Memorandum No. 30, reminding deans and faculty of the UP Code provision prohibiting unregistered students from entering classes. The memorandum referred to Article 330 of the UP Code, stating that persons not duly matriculated may not be admitted to class.
Tayo ang ikalawang magulang ng mga estudyanteng ito. We have to follow the memo, but at the same time, kung ganoon ang role natin sa kanila I’d rather accept my students habang on going yung appeal.
Famador, from CAFFSC, raised concerns over the timing of the memorandum, while also arguing that universities abroad allow students to sit in classes.
Sanchez defended the memorandum and said that it was merely a reiteration of the UP Code. “The basis for the memo was the university code. The way we see it, there are faculty members that are not following the codal provisions,” Sanchez said.
Mariyel Liwanag, a faculty member of the Department of Humanities (DHum), explained how the faculty was torn between allowing students to enter class and prohibiting them from attending.
“Tayo ang ikalawang magulang ng mga estudyanteng ito. We have to follow the memo, but at the same time, kung ganoon ang role natin sa kanila I’d rather accept my students habang on going yung appeal,” Liwanag said.
In a recent development, students with pending appeals for readmission or MRR extension are now allowed to enter classes. Upon deliberation of the University Committee (UC), the OC has now allowed students with pending cases to enter class through Memorandum No. 36, released February 21.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Julieta Delos Reyes spoke on behalf of her office explaining her experience in fixing MRR and readmission paperwork. She claimed to have “interviewed more than 500 students in one weekend.”
She also claimed that during that episode, she heard “some students” complaining about the interview. “With that experience na nahirapan ako nang todo, at narinig ko ‘yung sinabi ng kapwa niyong mga estudyante, sabi namin, sobrang bulk ng papeles na pumapasok sa amin. It’s useless to interview,” Delos Reyes said.
The students were in commotion after Delos Reyes told her story, with some attendees breaking down.
USC Councilor EJ Arrojo then denounced the OVCAA’s actions, calling out the Office’s “disservice”. “Hindi niyo ininterview lahat dahil hindi kainter-interview? Disservice ‘yan kasi it is your job. Kaya [ba] may same cases pero isa lang naa-approve dahil ‘di sila kainterview-interview?” Arrojo said.
In the dialogue back in August 2018, Lapitan revealed that the OVCAA relied on “gut feel” to determine which student was worth interviewing, providing no valid method of selecting students for the interview shortlist.
A number of students even had the chance to share their situation with the crowd and university officials.
Judy Almonares, a student from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) recalls how she had a family problem and a mental illness at the time she was processing her MRR.
“May family problem [ako] and diagnosed po ako with a mental illness and I’m appealing for my first MRR. During the Chancellor’s dialogue last time, he said that he will approve all appeals regardless of how many units [a student has], pero ang akin ay nadisapprove.”
Almonares mentioned how she only had 56 units left, but because CVM subjects are seasonal, paired with the inefficiencies of the Student Academic Information System (SAIS) her registration got complicated.
She was also present in the first public dialogue when the academic year began, when Sanchez, University Registrar Myrna Carandang, and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Portia Lapitan were also present.
Until now, she is struggling to have her MRR approved.
Kat Sabangan, a BS Chemistry student planning to shift to BS Math and Science Teaching, was greatly affected by bureaucracy and SAIS. Due to systemic limitations, only her MRR pushed through. Because of this, she was not able to shift to her desired course and got her extension disapproved.
There were endorsements from people who know us… pero bakit hindi kami binigyan ng chance na tapusin?
“Sinabay ko po yung shifting ko sa extension kaso yung nangyari ay yung extension ko lang ang nagpush through. First extension ko rin ito, tapos di rin ako makakuha ng units dahil sa SAIS at may conflict sa subjects,” she said.
Some students only had thesis units left in order to graduate. Such is the case of Archie Delos Reyes, who shifted to CEM during his 5th year of residency, forcing him to appeal for MRR twice. Delos Reyes struggled to finish his thesis units because of financial problems, having only his single mother supporting him.
Lea Vicente, another student, criticized how the appeals were being decided upon by people who do not personally know the students. “There were endorsements from people who know us… pero bakit hindi kami binigyan ng chance na tapusin?”
Jio Baldesimo, a student from the College of Development Communication (CDC), cited the death of Kristel Tejada in 2013, who was deprived of education due to the “no late payment” policy in UP Manila.
“We are the warm bodies to remind you that these policies aren’t just black and white reminders, these are students. Sana sa pag-iisip natin ng policies, iniisip natin ang effect niya,” Baldesimo said. The admin attempted to wrap up and leave the dialogue after Baldesimo’s statement due to Concepcion having “other matters to attend to.”
Upon trying to walk out, the students blocked off all exits of the auditorium and staged a lightning rally to assert their demands.
Failing to exit the auditorium, both were left with no choice but to consult the students in close proximity. Students with pending cases got to personally talk with Concepcion while Sanchez noted the names of the students afterward.
WATCH: A personal plea
Students talk to President Concepcion and Chancellor Sanchez about their registration concerns.
Upon negotiation, the students managed to convince the administration to release a follow-up memorandum to allow students with pending cases to attend class.
The students then continued their protest action at the front of the Old Humanities Building, where they echoed their calls for genuine free education. [P]
CORRECTION: An earlier edition of this article misspelled a student’s name and her remaining units. It has been corrected to Judy Almonares, and 56 units left. –Ed.