Words by Mark Angelo Fabreag
Student councils from all over the UP system convened online from February 4 to 5 for the 52nd General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) to address campus, systemwide, and national issues.
The student councils also discussed the Codified Rules for Student Regent Selection (CRSRS) for selecting the 39th Student Regent (SR).
Incumbent SR Renee Co said that the GASC resolution for the timeline of SR selection was already submitted to the Board of Regents (BOR) for approval. The selection will happen between the upcoming second semester and the first semester of the next academic year.
In line with the Office of the Student Regent (OSR)’s semestral report, Co shed light on the country’s most relevant issues such as the upcoming presidential elections, the failed pandemic response, and the student neglect of the UP administration.
Co calls for the three systemwide demands for unity: the omission of system budget cut; the institutionalization of the UP – Department of National Defense (DND) Accord; and the reallocation of military funds to educational agencies.
“Panghawakan ang ating mandate at resolutions, ang mga unities na nabuo dito, ang product ng good work at pakikipag-collaborate sa diskurso – lalabas ang sama-samang pagkilos natin,” Co emphasized.
[“Let us hold our mandates and resolutions, the unities that were forged here, the product of good work and collaboration – our united movement will prevail.”]
“Struggle to unite and unite to struggle to achieve our goals,” she called for during her report.
Meanwhile, Raoul Manuel, the 34th SR and national president of Kabataan Partylist (KPL), tackled legislative efforts on issues.
”Among KPL’s priority bills are Students’ Rights Bill, Review of K-12 Program, protection of young workers and professionals, nationwide wage hike, and regularization of workers,” Manuel said.
Manuel also gave an update on the UP-DND Accord, or House Bill (HB) 10171, which was not considered for third reading from January 31 to February 2. The said accord restricts state forces from entering UP campuses without prior permission.
“Supposedly approved na siya, pero dahil lang sa ginawa ng allies ng NTF-ELCAC [National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict] at ni President Duterte sa House, as if walang nangyari, tapos pinapa-reconsider sa buong House yung ganitong bill [HB 10171],” Manuel said.
[“Supposedly, the bill is already approved, but because of what President Duterte and the allies of NTF-ELCAC did to the House, as if nothing happened, HB 10171 is being asked for reconsideration in the House.”]
Manuel went on to emphasize that students should be involved in crafting the roadmaps that specifically address the conditions of their respective educational institutions.
Overcoming academic adversities
A common ground among the university student councils’ (USC) unit reports were the struggles faced by the students brought by academic difficulties, financial burden, and bad disaster response.
Addressing over two years of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student councils continue to intensify calls for the safe and gradual reopening of classes. Students pointed out that not everyone has conducive learning environments at home that would help them study effectively.
(RELATED STORY: 81 UPLB students approved for limited face-to-face activities)
In support of #LigtasNaBalikEskwela, UP Manila (UPM) UP Pharmaceutical Association Student Council (UPPhaSC) emphasized, “Ang karapatan sa edukasyon ay dapat maging priority ng administrasyon at hindi nakokompromiso.”
[“The right to education must be prioritized by the administration and it must not be compromised.”]
Moreover, UPLB USC and UP Mindanao (UPMin) USC called out various registration concerns due to the system problems with the Student Academic Information System (SAIS).
“It’s alarming to us that SAIS still continues to be a problem. SAIS should be junked. It is high time for us to have a homegrown system,” UP Cebu (UPC) USC pointed out.
In UPLB, SAIS issues and problems have been reported over the years ever since its implementation in 2016.
(RELATED STORIES: Four years later, SAIS still crashes; #JunkSAIS | UPLB students: ‘The students, united, will never be defeated!’; #JunkSAIS: SAIS Registration Leads to Chaos; #JunkSAIS: Mas Malala sa Singko; UPLB to ‘ease’ into second sem as constituents call for recovery break)
UPM School of Health Sciences (SHS) discussed learning management system (LMS) problems, and called for lesser synchronous classes and lighter academic load.
GASC passed Resolution 2022-011 titled “A resolution to urge the UP administration to heed the call of the students for the safe reopening of schools and to hold the Duterte administration accountable for its negligence to the education sector”.
The authors of the resolution wrote that despite the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) and the Department of Education’s (DepEd) funds for COVID-19 response, students and educators continue to suffer from the lack of support for educational materials.
“Paigtingin natin ang ating kampanya para sa #LigtasNaBalikEskwela at makabansang edukasyon, gayundin ang pagpapanagot sa administrasyong Duterte,” UPD Asian Institute of Tourism Student Council (AITSC) said.
[“Let us strengthen our campaign for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela and nationalistic education, and on holding the Duterte administration accountable.”]
The student councils highlight the need for a scientific approach and “evidence-based” requisites for safe school reopening. They also demanded for the adequate allocation of funds for the education sector and amplified the calls for safe reopening of face-to-face classes.
Meanwhile, the GASC also passed Resolution 2022-003 titled, “A resolution urging the General Assembly of Student Councils to campaign and demand for the establishment of Filipino sign language as a general education subject in the entire UP system”.
“Kailangang siguraduhin na hindi natin naiiwanan ang mga kasamang PWD [persons with disability] sa mga isinusulong na programa. Naiintindihan natin ang kahalagahan ng pagiging inclusive,” UPD College of Arts and Letters Student Council (CALSC) expressed.
[“We have to ensure that we do not leave behind the rights of the PWD in the programs that we forward. We understand the importance of being inclusive.”]
Moreover, GASC also passed Resolution 2022-001 titled “Resolusyon na naglalayong pagtibayin ang mga espasyong pansining at tuluyang pagtutol sa kolonyal, komersyalisado, at anti-demokratikong oryentasyon ng edukasyon”.
[“A resolution aiming to strengthen spaces for arts, and condemning the colonial, commercialized, and anti-democratic orientation of education”]
UPLB USC manifested, “Noong nakaraang taon, sunod-sunod yung pag-atake ng NTF-ELCAC sa mga schools at nililimitahan ‘yung mga dapat ituro at mabasa na taliwas sa kanilang pamamasista.”
[“Last year, there was a series of NTF-ELCAC attacks on schools, which limited the lessons and readings that are in conflict with their fascist actions.”]
GASC also passed Resolution 2022-010 titled, “A resolution to intensify system-wide efforts against book purging and defending intellectual freedom in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM)”. The resolution emphasizes that ‘subversive’ materials could help critical thinking, consultative policy making, discovering the root of armed conflict.
“These pieces of literature are arts that are bound to politics, society, and economics,” UPD CALSC manifested.
Upholding press and academic freedom
“Aside from red-tagging, there are cases where military officers invade university spaces, risking the safe spaces of both students and staff,” UPD CALSC said, calling to hold the government accountable for its militaristic acts in academic institutions.
These were comprehensively discussed in Resolutions 2022-004 and 2022-012, respectively titled “A resolution amplifying the campaign to institutionalize the UP-DND Accord by amending the Republic Act No. 9500” and “A Resolution to Intensify System-wide Efforts Against Red-tagging and other State-enforced Attacks and to Protect and Uphold Press and Academic Freedom”.
Resolution 2022-012 views UP as an educational institution considered as a “zone of peace” where “individuals can exchange ideas, discuss, and investigate social issues without the fear of political persecution and retaliation from the government”.
The resolution also acknowledges that NTF-ELCAC is a “state apparatus for red-tagging, illegal arrests, killings, spreading false information, and accusing critics as members of the CPP-NPA-NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front]”.
The resolutions call for the GASC to continue to forge unities and strengthen existing alliances to solidify the campaign against fascist attacks and ensure that the UP community is safeguarded from such attacks inside and outside of the university.
“Ang red-tagging ay isang malinaw na manipestasyon ng pasismo ng rehimeng Duterte,” UPC USC stated.
[“Red-tagging is a clear manifestation of the fascism of the Duterte regime.”]
“An attack on our freedom and rights is an attack of a tyrant. We should continue to hold Duterte and his accomplices accountable for all the lies and criminalities done,” UPC USC continued.
Meanwhile, the GASC also passed Resolution 2022-007 titled, “A Resolution in Support and Endorsement of Kabataan Party-List’s Youth and People’s Agenda”, officially endorsing KPL for their commitment to support the youth and student sector.
“Now is an important time to support Kabataan Partylist amidst the current oppressions,” UP Tacloban Student Council (UPTac SC) expressed.
Advocating for environmental protection
Responding to the threats of reclamation activities in coastal areas, GASC seeks to support socio-economic initiatives of communities, to call for pro-people projects, and to resist commercialization. The student councils passed Resolution 2022-002 titled “A resolution urging the General Assembly of Student Councils to uphold the banning of the reclamation activities in Philippine coastal areas”.
“Nakita natin ang pag–i-intersect ng issue ng kalikasan, commercialization pati na ang ‘development projects’ na nakakasira sa pamumuhay ng mga mangingisda,” UP Visayas (UPV) USC stated.
[“We can see the intersection of the issue in environments, commercialization, as well as development projects that destroy the livelihood of fisherfolk.”]
Such reclamation projects have been rampant in Cavite and have primarily affected the province’s fisherfolk (READ: Fisherfolk, residents protest potential loss of livelihood; DENR neglects calls to junk demolition move).
“Mahalaga ang pagtindig laban sa reclamation projects hindi lang dahil sa social at environmental threats, pati na rin sa mga threats sa health gaya ng malnutrition,” UPM College of Public Health Student Council (CPHSC) pointed out.
[“It is important to stand against reclamation projects not only because of social and environmental threats but also because of threats to health like malnutrition.”]
In addition to this, GASC also passed Resolution 2022-013, titled “Resolution to Unite the General Assembly of Student Councils Against Planned Waste-to-Energy Incineration Facility in Davao City and Amplify the Call for Climate Justice”.
UPMin College of Science and Mathematics (CSMSC) stated that neoliberal policies like Waste-to-Energy facilities that favor imperialist countries for profit are extremely harmful to the environment and do not benefit the country.
Moreover, they proposed to unite in campaigning for genuine Zero Waste approaches, and to hold local politicians such as Sara Duterte accountable for their anti-climate policies.
Environmental groups have called out Duterte for her waste-to-energy incineration project in Davao City, which would worsen the emission of harmful gasses and metals to the environment.
Intensifying the calls against the Duterte administration’s questionable programs, GASC passed Resolution 2022-008 titled, “Resolution to Expose and Oppose the Continuous Development Aggression of the Duterte Administration in the Philippines.”
As Cordillera caught the attention of various corporations and of the Build! Build! Build! (BBB) Program, UPB USC manifested, “We don’t turn our back to development, but we refuse to allow the loss of homes and culture.”
(RELATED STORY: What the Build! Build! Build! Program truly destroys)
“These efforts are all costing our sovereignty. This BBB program isn’t actually fixing our economy, it is clear that it is far from the key to fixing it,” UPD School of Economics Student Council (SESC) expressed.
Meanwhile, due to persisting health and disaster crises, GASC calls for better disaster risk reduction and prevention by passing Resolution 2022-009 titled, “A Resolution to Strengthen Relief Efforts for Typhoon Odette Victims and Hold the Regime Accountable for its Inutile, Slow, and Misprioritized Disaster Response to the People”.
“We still see the effects of the typhoon. The efforts of the Duterte administration have no sense of urgency. Their priorities are misplaced, choosing to build infrastructure with no concrete plans instead of focusing on the clear problem,” UPD College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) expressed.
GASC calls to redirect the country funds from military and defense to prepare better against these calamities.
Also related to responding to these issues is Resolution 2022-014, titled “Resolution Calling for Public Health Solutions Against the Militarized and Unscientific Approach of the Duterte Administration Towards the COVID-19 Crisis”. Herein, GASC resolved to call for a more scientific, demilitarized, and holistic approach to the pandemic.
UPLB USC manifested that as this is the last GASC before the 2022 elections and under the Duterte administration, they are hoping that this will also be the last time a resolution for a better pandemic response is proposed.
“It is high time that the Duterte administration should recalibrate its priorities not just for the typhoon but also for the COVID-19 pandemic,” UPB USC expressed.
Empowering gender equality
Diving deeper to equality and individuality, GASC passed Resolution 2022-005, titled “A Resolution to Amplify Campaigns for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sexual Characteristics (SOGIESC) and the Institutionalization of UP KASARIAN as a Gender Alliance”.
UPD CALSC said that there is a continuous harassment to the minority, including women and the LGBTQIA+ community. It was further commended that the resolution cited various ways of discrimination to the LGBTQIA+ community and the discrimination at university campuses.
Locally, the student bodies advocated to give equal treatment to every student’s gender expression by passing Resolution 2022-006 titled, “A Resolution calling for a systemwide campaign to call for an affirmation of transgender and gender non-conforming names, pronouns and titles policy”.
“In the university context, it is very progressive to adopt the students’ preferred names in written forms and virtual registration systems as well,” UPD College of Fine Arts Student Council (CFASC) said.
Meanwhile, UPLB USC highlighted the anti-sexual harassment council that they crafted.
UPLB College of Agriculture and Food Science Student Council (CAFSSC) also manifested, “It’s 2022, it’s high time to escalate campaigns for this policy for SOGIE equality.” [P]