In response to the Duterte administration’s dismissal of calls for a national academic break and proper disaster and pandemic response, students and other sectoral organizations mobilized at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Gate 2.5 on November 20, three days after International Students’ Day.
The protest amplified calls for immediate relief and subsidy for those affected by consecutive typhoons that hit the country, as well calls for a national academic break and guidelines for academic easing, pointing out that the youth are being subjected to an educational system which compromises their physical, mental and emotional health. The protesters pointed out that the government, however, remains deaf to their calls.
Kabataan Party-list expressed that their demands and calls for accountability have only been met with “outright terror-tagging and dismissal” and were seen as a means to undermine the Duterte administration.
“For him, our legitimate demands are part of efforts being undertaken to undermine his rule and sow disorder. Demanding proper welfare programs and effective calamity response is considered a crime,” KPL wrote in their press release.
Likewise, anti-imperialist youth group League of Filipino Students (LFS) pointed out that instead of addressing the nations’ concerns, the government is preoccupied with insulting those who criticize their inaction, citing chief presidential adviser Salvador Panelo’s “lowly insults” thrown against UP Diliman University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Froilan Cariaga when the latter responded to the Duterte’s rants against the student community.
LFS cited as well CHED’s reactive response to the students’ calls for a National Academic Break, wherein they only dismissed their concerns, saying that the youth groups do not know what is happening on the situation on ground.
“Mismong guro, estudyante, at mga magulang na ang nakikiisa sa panawagang academic break. Ano’ng ‘on-ground’ pa ba bang kalagayan ang gusto ng CHED? Kayo ang lutang sa tunay na estado ng edukasyon sa bansa!” LFS national spokesperson Carwyn Candila said, refuting CHED’s response.
Debbie Faigmani of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also pointed out the governments’ disregard for the health of laborers and their families during the pandemic.
“Marami sa amin, ‘pag may sakit sa pagawaan ay di pinapapunta ng ospital, kundi direktang papauwiin lamang kung saan pwede mahawa ang kanilang pamilya,” Faigmani said.
Candila encouraged the youth to join the strike and to call for the ousting of Duterte if the youth’s pleas are once again neglected.
“Hinihimok natin ang mga kapwa kabataan na makiisa sa mga malawakang pagkilos sa mga susunod na araw, at patuloy na paingayin ang panawagan para sa maka-estudyanteng sistema ng edukasyon. Kung hindi rin ito maibibigay ni Duterte, mas mainam pang kumilos ang mga kabataan sa kanyang pagpapatalsik sa agarang panahon!” says Candila.
Meanwhile, Professor Karlo Mongaya of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy UP (CONTEND UP) expressed UP professors’ support for the youth strike, emphasizing that those affected by the typhoon should not be left behind.
“Kaming mga guro sa UP, nakikiisa kami sa panawagan ng mga estudyante to end the semester. Ipagpatuloy natin ang pag-aaral sa hanay ng mga mamamayan na nasalanta ng bagyo,” Mongaya said.
KPL Representative Sarah Elago also urged the youth to act in solidarity, saying that this is needed in order to protect the rights of the Filipino people. [P]
Photo by Sonya Mariella Castillo