Last December 8, two of the five nominees for the next student regent (SR) came together for the online university-wide SR deliberations.
In the race to be the 38th SR, with the new SR expected to succeed Isaac Punzalan in upholding the responsibility of representing the UP system’s students in the Board of Regents (BOR), the nominees pitched how they envision themselves in office. These two are from UPLB, including Nico Rastrullo from the College of Development Communication (CDC) and Siegfred Severino from the College of Economics and Management (CEM).
In addition to both Rastrullo and Severino, other nominees included two from UP Cebu: Renee Louise So (also a nominee for UP Diliman’s Colleges of Law and Mass Communication) and Jhonn Isidor Supelanas of the College of Communication, Art, and Design (CCAD), and one from UP Baguio: Francesca Adrienne Kapunan from the College of Arts and Communication (CAC).
Both candidates from Los Baños listed recent events that led to much suffering for the constituents of the UP system, including the signing of the Terror Law (which was linked to numerous arrests, red-tagging reports, and even killings), the militarized pandemic response, and countless reports of land-grabbing, development aggression and reclamation, in addition to the hardships endured by the student body in the online set-up.
When asked what he can do to forward the students’ concerns to the BOR, who were said to be “detached,” Severino emphasized a “great power struggle” in the BOR because of the admin-appointed people. With this, Severino stated that the student and faculty regents must be strengthened in order to show the BOR the problems that are faced by constituents.
Meanwhile, Rastrullo responded that there must always be an organization of student mobilizations. In addition to this, aside from engaging in dialogue with faculty and staff regents, Rastrullo stated that the BOR’s engagement must be continuously encouraged. He also said that “tireless persuasion” must be done even with their opposite ideologies.
Compassion, militance, and nationalism
Severino was the first to present his vision paper during the deliberations. He envisions an office “who will stand alongside the various sector of the country while establishing a militant, nationalistic, and compassionate UP Community.”
In his paper, Severino highlighted that the bulk of the issues stem from Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and his “reactionary, incompetent, and apathetic” administration, highlighting how the nation is currently in a terrible shape in the four years he remained in office thus far.
“His regime is currently taking advantage of the Pandemic that the Philippines is experiencing. On the onset of the enforced lockdowns and community quarantines, the Duterte administration [has] implemented a militarized operation by putting retired army generals and a disgraced Secretary of Health at the helm of the COVID-19 Response,” Severino wrote, adding that because of Duterte, special powers were being used to fulfill his “cronies’” personal agendas.
In a 10-minute question and answer segment, University Freshman Council (UFC) chairperson Jericho Urbano asked Severino what his priority programs or initiatives were if he was to be selected as the next student regent.
“Desidido na kasi ang UP na dapat online classes ang mangyayari next sem, kaya dapat i-raise natin ang pagbukas ng different parts ng university, like dormitories or laboratories, para maka-catch-up ang mga estudyante na walang conducive learning,” answered Severino. Severino’s call for a safe return to physical classes brings to mind the collective call “Ligtas Na Balik-Eskwela,” which came about around August.
CEM student council (SC) vice chairperson Claire Villafuerte asked what Severino would do during times when the BOR will not listen to the calls of sectoral regents. Severino responded that organizing mobilizations would be a great course of action.
“United mobilizations could work greatly. Through mobilizing the UP constituents, kaya nating ma-overturn ang decisions ng BOR,” said Severino.
One question came from CDC SC chairperson Camille Villanueva, asking if there is anything Severino would like to change or improve in the current SR’s term. Severino said that he hopes to assert the demands of students, believing that Punzalan could have asserted them more in dialogues.
Moving for a militant, critical education
Meanwhile, Rastrullo believed that the OSR must be active in taking actions for the welfare and unity of students, the whole UP community, and sectors outside of UP. Along with this, he envisions an OSR that is proactive, militant, and critical with their actions.
“Kasama din sa pagkilos nito ay ang pagkakaroon ng maagap, militante, at kritikal na pag-aaral at pagkilos kaugnay sa mga isyung sumasaklaw sa pambansang demokrasya at karapatan ng mga minorya,” said Rastrullo.
After referencing the apathetic response from both the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Rastrullo concluded his paper by emphasizing the role of the OSR in times like these.
“Kaya naman marapat-dapat lamang na kumilos ang kabataan upang labanan ang lahat ng uri ng opresyon mula sa administrasyon na ito. Kaakibat nito ay nariyan ang Opisina ng Rehente ng mga Mag-aaral upang pagbuklurin ang sangkaestudyantehan at proteksyonan ang ating mga interes at batayang karapatan kasama ang malawak na hanay ng mag-aaral at iba’t ibang sektor sa unibersidad,” Rastrulo wrote in the paper.
When Jaffa Reine of the College of Human Ecology Freshman Council (CHE FC) asked about what issues within Region 4-A and the UP system need to be prioritized so as the BOR would notice these, Rastrullo said that there is a need to address the students’ registration especially the Student Academic Information System (SAIS). He added that we should pay attention to facilities and in increasing the faculty so that students will be given slots for the registration.
When asked by Kyle Barber of the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates and the UP Agricultural Society about how he will represent and unite a student body that is diverse in worldviews, Rastrullo responded that his experience would be good for representing and uniting the student body.
“I’ll make sure na everyone is heard, at lahat ng problema ay masasabi,” he added.
CDC FC’s Jayjay Ongkiko brought up how broad the disaster risk reduction management is given the online setting of learning which means that students are currently located in different parts of the country. He then asked about what a better approach could be to address this.
Rastrullo responded that disaster risk management is indeed broad and a way for it to be specified is through proper consultation with the student body.
“Yes, disaster risk management is broad in that term, pero kaya siyang i-specify given na properly consulted ang student body, pati na ang mga affected, at lalo na ang mga prone sa disasters. I think yun ang isa sa mga way para malaman ang gagawin. Proper consultation lang ang makakasagot noon.” says Rastrullo.
The new SR will be selected in the upcoming General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC), on January 12, 2021. [P]