Words by John Paul Famorcan
The UPLB University Student Council (USC), along with the campus’ nine other student councils, gathered online for the fifth Student Legislative Chamber (SLC) last March 19, to tackle policies that will govern the institution’s call for the safe reopening of classes, academic freedom, and the upcoming national elections.
The SLC acts as the prime policy-making and constitutional group of the UPLB USC, according to Section II, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution of the UPLB Student Council. The fifth SLC was presided over by incumbent UPLB USC Chairperson Siegfred Severino.
Each of the student councils presented their accomplishments from October 2021 until March 2022 – the timeframe between the fourth and fifth SLC – and their upcoming activities and campaigns planned for the remainder of the academic year.
The councils also shared their efforts to promote the safe return of face-to-face classes in the campus, to institutionalize the UP-DND Accord, to uphold academic freedom, and to increase voters’ participation and education before the national elections.
Strengthening calls for the resumption of F2F classes
To amplify the calls for the resumption of face-to-face classes for all students, the student councils implemented various strategies to gather the opinions of their constituents as well as strengthen their campaign for a safe return to the university.
College of Arts and Sciences Student Council (CASSC), College of Forestry and Natural Resources Student Council (CFNRSC), College of Human Ecology Student Council (CHESC), and College of Veterinary Medicine Student Council (CVMSC) all stated their alliance with the network Ligtas na Balik Eskwela Now! – Southern Tagalog (LNBE Now! – ST).
Last April 2, students from various schools gathered for the Southern Tagalog Youth Summit 2022 in UPLB. Guided by the theme, “Championing Safe School Reopening, Advancing the Youth’s Role in Nation-building”, the summit was the first face-to-face youth- and student-led convention after two years in the pandemic.
The summit focused on discussions concerning students’ struggles amid the online setup, and the importance of reopening schools for face-to-face activities.
“Marami ang napag-iiwanan sa online classes. Hindi lahat ay natututo dahil sa napakaraming concerns kapag hindi sa eskwelahan nag-aaral,” Anakbayan UPLB Chair Carla Ac-ac said during the summit.
[“Many students are being left behind in online classes. Not everyone learns because of the numerous concerns brought by remote learning.”]
Meanwhile, the USC released statements and position papers, and conducted surveys and events such as “Forum”, an online seminar, to beef up their fight for LNBE.
CEATSC also administered a survey and drew up a report on the willingness, need, and readiness of its students for physical classes, while also holding dialogues with students that are currently on limited face-to-face activities and senior students, regarding the possibility of holding graduation rites in the university.
Similarly, College of Agriculture and Food Science Student Council (CAFSSC) also issued a position paper regarding in-person classes and discussed it with their administration. They also raised a petition for their seniors’ graduation to be held physically. The student council also made moves to aid the students in the campus attending limited face-to-face classes by setting up a support group for them.
College of Economics and Management Student Council (CEMSC) also petitioned for face-to-face commencement exercises and voiced out the sentiments of their constituents through Tinig ng CEMbayanan, which are weekly publications posted on the council’s social media page.
Lastly, College of Development Communication Student Council (CDCSC) lobbied for their inclusion in the programs to be prioritized in the return of in-person classes by coordinating with other universities offering Development Communication programs.
Encouraging student participation in the national elections
In connection with the national elections, SLC Resolution 2022-03 was passed, indicating the “Official Endorsement of the UPLB All Student Councils Assembly (ASCA) for the 2022 National Elections”.
Penned by the USC, CAFSSC, CAS, CDC, and CFNR, this resolution announces ASCA’s support for Vice President Leni Robredo’s bid to presidency in the May 2022 national elections, along with her running mate Sen. Kiko Pangilinan.
ASCA also endorsed senatorial aspirants Chel Diokno, Risa Hontiveros, Neri Colmenares, Leila De Lima, Teddy Baguilat, Sonny Matula, Ka Bong Labog, Alex Lacson, and Carmen Zubiaga.
UPLB USC adds that the candidates endorsed were based on the results of UPVote’s First 2022 National Mock Election, the candidates’ platforms, and their track record.
“This endorsement is aligned based on the unity points and similar principles that the UPLB Student Councils uphold, and that once these endorsed candidates fail to deliver, the UPLB Student Councils will demand accountability without prejudice,” UPLB USC added in their resolution.
As the elections draw near, the student councils also aimed to provide helpful information for the students and convince them to participate and choose the right candidates suited to lead the country.
In relation to this, CVMSC and CDCSC both held mock elections to determine the preferences of their students for the president and vice-president positions. CDCSC also enforced an information dissemination drive by listing the credentials and platforms of the senatoriables to help voters choose the twelve candidates to add to their slates.
Other student councils hosted webinars to discuss and reinforce voters’ registration and education. The USC held “Forum,” while CEMSC organized “Hello Future: Basic Guide for the 2022 National Elections” as part of their “CEMTown Express” series of online lecture events.
Additionally, CEMSC and CEATSC also declared their disapproval for certain aspirants for the two highest posts in the government by sharing statements denouncing the alliance of son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and former senator Bongbong Marcos, and the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte and incumbent Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Defending academic freedom, volunteer work
The USC once again led the call for the protection of academic freedom inside UP campuses by delivering a unity statement published with around one hundred other organizations in UPLB to institutionalize the UP-DND Accord.
The said accord aims to restrict state forces from entering UP campuses without prior permission from the university administration. UP constituents have shed light on its importance, given that the rampant red-tagging and harassment from state forces have threatened the academic freedom and critical thinking of constituents.
The student councils expressed their support for the Defend UP Network by posting publicity materials and statements in relation to the UP-DND Accord.
CFNRSC also convened with the UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) for the “United Stance of All UP Sectoral Regents, Student Councils, and Unions for Academic Freedom” in 2021, and Youth Advocates for Peace with Justice (YAPJUST) – UPLB in their campaign “Institutionalize the UP-DND Accord Now!” in 2022.
The councils also laid out their ventures and campaigns in other aspects, such as gender inclusivity; support for struggling students during the remote learning setup; relief operations for students and communities affected by tragedies; appeals to junk the Student Academic Information System (SAIS); and enforcement of a genuine health and wellness break for all learners and faculty.
Meanwhile, the councils also sought to protect the rights of volunteer workers serving indigenous groups.
CEATSC and CAFSSC authored SLC Resolution 2022-01 titled, “A Resolution Urging All UPLB Student Councils to Condemn the New Bataan 5 Killings and Intensify the Campaign to Defend Volunteer Workers and Indigenous People”. This is in relation to the killings of Chad Booc and Gelejurain Ngujo II, volunteer Lumad teachers red-tagged by the government.
Booc and Ngujo were part of the New Bataan 5, who were killed by state forces last February 24, during their research work in Davao de Oro. They have been subject to threats and harassment throughout their years of teaching and service for the Lumad community.
“Be it hereby resolved, that the Student Legislative Chamber (SLC), through the UPLB Student Councils, unequivocally condemn the killings of the New Bataan 5 along with all attacks on human rights, liberties, and freedoms of the Filipino people,” the councils wrote in the resolution, adding that they join the calls for a “thorough and independent investigation” on the incident.
Campaigning for press freedom, privacy protection
According to Section 21 (b) of Republic Act 9500, known as the UP Charter, each university and college should establish their own student publications. In a university with over 13,000 students in ten colleges, UPLB USC stated in the resolution that a college-based journalism body is needed to cater to their students and further tackle issues exclusive to their institution.
With this, the SLC Resolution 2022-04 or “A Resolution Instructing All College Student Councils to Spearhead the Establishment of College Student Publications,” drafted by the USC, CDCSC, UPLB Perspective, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and sponsored by the USC and CDCSC, was adopted.
“For the campus press to deliver its mandate of providing information for the students and serving as a platform for students to exercise their freedom of expression and speech through news, opinion, and creative writing, it needs additional manpower to cater to the ever-growing student population in UPLB,” the groups added in the resolution.
CDC initiated the implementation of this resolution with the appointment of their first editor-in-chief, Ian Raphael Lopez, last March 28 (READ: Ian Lopez appointed as first EIC of CDC student pub).
Lastly, SLC Resolution 2022-02, or “A Resolution to Call for the Junking of the SIM Card Registration Act of 2022 and Amplifying the Campaign for a Stronger Data Privacy and Security in the Philippines” was also approved.
The SIM Card Registration Act will lapse into law on April 17, unless President Rodrigo Duterte signs the legislation.
“The act, contrary to its purpose of ‘eradicating’ electronic-communication and online crimes, would only disclose the Filipino people’s personal information to public telecommunications entities (PTEs) and increase the risk of data breach and unauthorized surveillance,” wrote UP Internet Freedom Network, an alliance of students and volunteers advocating for Internet freedom.
Resolution 2022-02, crafted by CASSC, CDCSC, CEMSC, and CFNRSC, condemns the attempt of the government to harness each Filipino citizen’s personal information that might be leaked, thus resulting in breach of privacy, vulnerability to scams and schemes, and even identity theft.
“Be it hereby resolved that the SLC, through the UPLB Student Councils, shall continue to forward the calls on strengthening data privacy and security and in promoting the campaign to Junk the Sim Card Registration Act of 2022,” the councils wrote in the resolution.
Meanwhile, on fiscal matters, USC Treasurer Arveil Briones unveiled that the Student Council had a total fund of PhP 486,765.03 and proposed a budget allocation of 50% (PhP 243,352.52) to be kept, 20% (PhP 48,670.50) as the cut of the USC, the remaining to be divided to all remaining SCs, bringing their budget to PhP 21,631.33 each.
The budget appropriation targeted the accommodation of advanced requests for upcoming SC terms such as office supplies and transportation expenses, as well as the procurement of equipment for each council’s office improvement. CFNRSC, CHESC, CVMSC, and USC all presented their requests for the budget as well as the projects to be funded, and were all approved by the SLC. [P]
Photos by Sonya Castillo, Isabel Pangilinan, Pola Rubio, and Dy Sanchez
Layout by Chris Rebullida