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#WelgaUPLB: Calls to end semester amplified with UPLB strike

The UPLB Council of Student Leaders (CSL), the consultative arm of the UPLB University Student Council (USC), officially declared a university-wide strike in their meeting last November 17, echoing the calls of UP constituents system-wide to end the semester and pass all students. 

UPLB is the first campus in the UP system to declare an academic strike. 

Kung ayaw ng UP na i-end ang sem, tayo ang mag-eend ng sem natin… Hangga’t hindi nila hine-heed ang demands natin, naka-welga tayo,” UPLB USC chairperson Jainno Bongon explained. 

The decision to declare a strike was made after deliberating with students from various organizations including college student councils, the Alliance of Varsitarian Organizations (UPLB AVO), party-alliance Samahan ng Kabataan Para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN), the UPLB Perspective, National Union of Students in the Philippines – Southern Tagalog (NUSP-ST) spokesperson Charm Maranan, and UPLB professor Mariyel Liwanag.

The demands for the campaign that were discussed included the immediate ending of the semester, as well as mass promotion and a no fail policy for all students. The creation of bridging programs, an assessment of the current semester, the crafting of a comprehensive plan for the next semester by December this year, and the exclusion of the current semester in the limit for free tuition were also included.

The campaign also raised the option for students who filed for leave of absence to retract their application and instead become part of the mass promotion. UPLB USC said that it will soon be giving further clarifications on the campaign.

Meanwhile, as a member of the UPLB faculty, Liwanag provided her suggestions for the strike and encouraged unity among students and teachers, who are also accounted for in the strike.

Kausapin ang buong klase. Magkaroon ng kaisahan. Alamin ang sitwasyon ng bawat isa sa klase,” Liwanag said.

She encouraged students to discuss their situations with their faculty-in-charge and explain why there is an ongoing call for a strike.

Kumustahin ang inyong guro. Iparating ang konsolidadong sitwasyon ng mga students at guro at ipaliwanag bakit #EndTheSemNow [ang panawagan natin] at bakit kabilang sila sa strike. Napakaraming utang ng administrasyon sa guro, REPS, at kawani,” Liwanag added.

Nearly 150 participants attended the four-hour meeting of the CSL.

Bongon ended the meeting by informing the participants that the International Students Day protest, which took place at the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on the same day as well, before the meeting, was a success. 

“Resilient” no more

On November 14, over 150 students from Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) co-signed a mass student strike statement to protest the government’s “criminally neglectful response” to the recent typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We believe that things cannot continue business as usual. We can no longer stomach the ever-rising number of deaths due to the state’s blatant incompetence. We cannot prioritize our schoolwork when our countrymen are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of those in power,” the petition read.

The students pledged to withhold the submission of any school requirements starting November 18 until the national government heeds the people’s demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response.

Following the AdMU students’ call was the unity statement of UP university student councils and regional student councils released by the UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) on November 16. The statement was a call to end the semester, pass all UP students, and hold Duterte accountable for the state’s negligence on the pandemic, calamity and education. 

UP OSR said that the academic break and the suspension of classes does not serve as the best solution in addressing the grievances of the students and that the semester must be ended with a no fail policy.

UP OSR added that the national government has enabled crises in the Philippines and that its blended learning system is “another anti-poor experimental failure.”

“We will never forget how Filipinos from Bicol, CALABARZON, Cagayan, Isabela, Pampanga and even in the nation’s capital cried for rescue and help, but [were] only met with slow response and incompetency alongside insensitive jokes, red-tagging and absentee leadership,” the UP OSR said.

The office further said that this was the leadership that led to learning becoming less than ideal.

“This is the same inutile leadership that is now making learning an untenable endeavor with many students already left behind and forgotten,” the UP OSR added.

UP students and faculty also held a protest on November 16, at Quezon Hall, UP Diliman, to call for the end of semester, mass promotion, and the termination of the Duterte regime.

UPLB Perspective’s official folio Pananaw likewise encouraged their readers to partake in the call for a “multi-sectoral academic strike” in response to the Duterte administration’s continued disappointing response to the people’s needs.

In their revised statement, Pananaw acknowledged that initial calls for academic ease and Ligtas na Balik Eskwela were declined, and that preparations for the initial semester were hastened despite the students, faculty, and administration trying their best and having to endure hardships in doing so.

“However, the dangers of the pandemic, the onslaught of the typhoons, and the government’s negligence of Filipinos at this time urge us to be involved in different issues that our communities demand an immediate response to,” they said in their statement, adding that one week is not enough for UP constituents to recover from the calamities.

Pananaw concluded by expressing their impatience to wait while students and other university constituents are endangered ceaselessly, then encouraged readers to sign their petition for a strike, which has now garnered about 400 signatures as per the folio’s latest update.

Meanwhile, Anakbayan UPLB released a statement condemning President Duterte’s threats to defund UP following its calls for an academic strike in a taped address on the evening of November 17. 

Anakbayan UPLB spokesperson Noah Angeles stated that UPLB students and councils’ declaration of the strike was valid, explaining that studying for their future is futile when the country is “in a crisis” and the “‘now’ is being taken away” from them. 

“We’re calling for a strike because we have no other choice left. We’ve done all the means they wanted us to do, but the situation isn’t getting any better. So we’re now going our way,” Angeles said. 

“Threaten to defund us all you want. [Duterte] wouldn’t like it when we all fight back, we’re telling you. And history can prove that.” Angeles added. [P]

Photo by Michael Ian Bartido

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