UP Diliman and UP Cebu nominee Renee Louise Co was selected to serve as the UP system’s 38th Student Regent (SR) during the 50th General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) on January 12.
Co contended for the position with UPLB nominee Siegfred Severino and UP Baguio nominee Francesca Kapunan, who ranked second and third SR nominee, respectively.
It was originally announced that there would be five official SR nominees. However, UPLB hopeful Nico Rastrullo was not chosen as the campus nominee, as per UPLB University Student Council’s (USC) update. Meanwhile, UP Cebu nominee Jhonn Isidor Supelanas officially withdrew from the SR selection process on January 12, citing health reasons.
She succeeds incumbent SR John Isaac Punzalan, who previously served in a holdover capacity due to the inability of the student body to hold SR selections last 2020 due to the pandemic. Co will remain in office for a year as the student body representative in the Board of Regents (BOR).
On the safe reopening of schools
In her GASC presentation, Co expressed her support for the safe reopening of schools. She said that she would utilize her position as SR to campaign to reallocate funds for university health services. She assured the support of the UP administration for students who would get ill after the campuses reopen.
“If we’re talking about the measures that I can take as SR, it all relies on looking at the reallocation of funds in our university for health services. Also yung pag-rereassure na meron pa ring minimum health protocols na nasusunod sa schools, at pagpo-provide ng assurance na may support [from the] admin if ever may estudyanteng magkakasakit,” Co stated.
Co stated that the main goal is to be proactive in calling for the national government to address the problems brought about by the pandemic.
“Having [the safe reopening of schools] done by the 2nd [semester] may not be possible but we are also working with different bodies on how we can conduct online learning best through academic easing para hindi maburden ang students while learning,” Co added.
RSA ‘repressive,’ ‘counterproductive’
Co also expounded on her position opposing the Return Service Agreement (RSA). This agreement is signed by a student upon admission, indicating that once they graduate, they shall serve for three years in the Philippines and shall complete this service within five years after graduating.
Co explained that while the motive behind the RSA was to encourage Filipino graduates to work in the country, it is “tone deaf to the reason why many Filipino graduates prefer to work abroad” and is using “repressive measures” to address the brain drain issue in the country.
“Ginagawa nila ang pinaka-unfriendly and repressive solution to the problem. Mas binibigay pa nila ang individual burden sa students kung hindi nila ma-fulfill ang contract na ito. Rather than be a public servant and mabigay ang resources, pagbabayarin pa sila, and malaki yung halaga ng medical education,” Co stated.
Extending help to students with pending MRR cases
In a live interview with UPLB Perspective shortly after she was selected as SR, Co expounded on her stance regarding the Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) for UP students. She said that the MRR is “essentially a barrier to realize our right to free, quality and accessible education.”
“As long as the MRR is there, may certain barriers or paghihirap na dadaanan ang mga students in completing their education or really achieving their holistic education, lalo na doon sa may special circumstances [na kinakaharap],” Co explained.
The controversy surrounding the MRR stemmed from it leaving several students who would not be able to accomplish their courses in a given timetable to be ineligible for free tuition, due to Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act restricting students from securing it.
Co stated that the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) will help those in need of forwarding their MRR and Readmission cases to the administration. However, she is hoping that in the future, the rule would be revised or ultimately removed.
“Of course, in the long run, I hope that the rule itself is revised, matanggal siya, para hindi ito patuloy na magpapahirap sa mga estudyante,” Co said.
‘Overhaul’ the college admission process
When the SR nominees were asked about their personal evaluation of the new admission process the UP administration implemented amid the pandemic, Co raised the “need to overhaul” the admission process, saying the adjustments that had to be made this year is an opportunity for discourse on how admission into the university is being decided.
Co stated that in the interview with UPLB Perspective that the system of grading used in the admission process is flawed and exacerbates the barriers students lacking resources would have to go through to have access to free and quality education.
“We should take this time para i-revise, i-review and i-overhaul ang ating admission process. Noong nalaman [ng mga tao] na walang UPCAT, maraming na-disappoint, maraming nag-worry dahil ‘yung grades nila they deem as if it’s insufficient, and na hindi na magiging fair yung pagpasok, or hindi siya equalizer. Pero in reality, ‘yung UPCAT mismo is not a fair equalizer dahil pineprefer niya yung science high school graduates or private high school graduates [na may] resources,” Co explained.
On fighting the culture of tyrannical attacks
When asked what she could do as SR to help students who are illegally arrested, Co answered that OSR can connect paralegals to those arrested so they could be bailed out.
Co expressed her plans of the OSR forging connections and ties with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and the UP Law Student Government (LSG).
However, Co said that, more importantly, the goal is not just to keep those illegally arrested out of detention but to foster a culture that “condemns these tyrannical attacks against human rights and the constitution.”
“Gagawa tayo ng culture at political climate [wherein] this action has to be condemned. Mapu-push natin ang state forces against these practices,” Co said.
In 2020, there were cases when UPLB constituents were red-tagged. From March to May, various students, including one volunteer for the Serve the People Brigade (STPB), received death threats from and were branded as rebels by anonymous senders.
Around May, footage of UPLB students peacefully protesting by Carabao Park was used by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for a Mother’s Day propaganda video, warning them of their children being possibly recruited into the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDF). The release invited the ire of the entire UPLB community.
In September, the Facebook page called Abaka Kugon red-tagged Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) spokesperson Kyle Salgado (who was also one of the Cabuyao 11, which in-turn included UPLB alumni Casey Anne Cruz and Shirley Songalia) and fellow volunteer Charm Maranan due to their progressive activities. [P]
Photo from Renee Co / Facebook