Words by Mark Angelo Fabreag
The University Student Council (USC) and UPLB Perspective, together with the Office of Student Activities (OSA) commenced “TAPATAN: UPLB Campus Forum 2022” last April 9, streamed through Facebook live.
The forum aims to introduce the different political parties fielding candidates for the 2022 University Student Council – College Student Council (USC-CSC) Elections, which is held from April 18 to 23. It serves as the platform for the parties to showcase and state their political stands regarding university and national issues.
Because of the pandemic, the Central Electoral Board (CEB) – the body that oversees the student elections – has adopted the guidelines for the virtual and remote elections.
What used to be room-to-room campaigns would now be Facebook posters and online campaigns. The Miting de Avance (MDA), originally done in front of the Hagdan ng Malayang Kamalayan or SU amphitheater, was restricted to Zoom platforms or through livestreams from the respective councils’ Facebook pages from April 12 to 13.
Presenting UPLB’s political parties
UPLB has six main political parties. Two are university-wide parties and also the main candidates for the USC positions namely the Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) and the Buklod-UPLB. On the other hand, there are four college-based parties which are: CEAT Alliance for Student Empowerment (CEASE), ADLAW CEM, the Veterinary Medical Students’ Alliance (VMSA), and the Linking Everyone Towards Service – CDC (LETS-CDC) (READ: Meet the political parties of UPLB).
In this year’s elections, however, Buklod-UPLB hasn’t offered candidates for five consecutive years since the 2018 USC-CSC general elections. Meanwhile, LETS-CDC could not attend the TAPATAN forum.
The history of student leadership, the youth’s participation in the mass movement, and student councils during Martial Law was highlighted in the welcoming remarks of Dir. Maria Rowena Beatriz Inzon of UPLB OSA.
Four rounds of questions about each political party’s stands on the campus issues, college, and nationwide issues faced by the university were asked together with an open forum and discussions.
TAPATAN: UPLB Campus Forum 2022
The first round tackled campus-wide issues about the #LigtasNaBalikEskwela campaign and addressed the issue of retention and enrollment of students. The political parties agreed on strengthening the calls and organizing plans to initiate and successfully conduct face-to-face classes in the university.
“Nakikita nating tagumpay ang pagbubukas ng ilang mga paaralan. Bagamat mga small victories [ito] ay kailangan siguraduhin na ligtas ang ating pagbabalik sa eskwela,” CEASE said.
[“We can see that gradual reopening of some schools is a triumph. Despite these small victories, we must ensure the safety in face-to-face classes and reopening of schools.”]
CEASE cites that aside from health and financial concerns, the academic load of students must be taken into account. They plan to extend the No Fail Policy even in the transition to face-to-face classes.
Meanwhile, SAKBAYAN states that the safe reopening of schools still needs improvements despite these victories. They cite that adequate health services must be given to ensure the safe return of students, faculty, and staff to the campus, as well as a consultative roadmap that heeds the interests of the constituents.
Moreover, Francis Solis of VMSA cites a USC survey that four out of five students are not prepared for online learning.
“Isa sa mga factors ng pag-drop ng mga estudyante ay ang pandemya dahil kailangan nila ng tulong pinansyal. Kung uugatin, ito ay dahil sa neoliberal ang structure ng ating education. Papasok ang pagiging colonialized, commercialized, at fascist ng ating education,” Solis added.
[“One of the factors of drop cases is the pandemic, because students need financial assistance. This is because of the neoliberal structure of our education system. We see how our education system is colonialized, commercialized, and fascist.”]
In a February 2022 report by the Perspective, students and faculty shared the persisting challenges that haunt them two years into remote learning, such as poor Internet connection and heavy academic workload. This was even worsened by the ongoing health crisis and recent calamities (READ: UPLB students, faculty confront persisting challenges 2 years into remote learning).
SAKBAYAN calls for an education system that is nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented. In terms of finances, they forward the campaign for the 10k student aid.
The forum also dove into national issues like the pandemic response, governance, and the upcoming national elections.
“Sa dalawang taon na under tayo ng pandemya, hindi naging maganda ang kalagayan sa bansa. Kulang tayo sa suporta at serbisyong panlipunan dahil walang sense of urgency ang ating gobyerno,” Zea Baranda of SAKBAYAN said.
[“In the two years that we have been under the pandemic, the situation in the country has not been good. We lack support and social services because our government does not have a sense of urgency.”]
Meanwhile, ADLAW pointed out that the role of the council is to encourage students to raise their concerns to the administrators, especially on academic issues.
“Nakikita nating pagkukulang ang kakulangan ng student representation sa decision-making. Bago maibaba ang mga polisiya, ay maiging mayroong konsultasyon ang CEM (College of Economics and Management) admin sa mga students,” Kayla Bautista of ADLAW added.
[“We understand that decision-making lacks student representation. Before we implement the policies, it is better for the CEM admin to consult with students.”]
Current USC Chairperson Siegfred Severino also emphasized the importance of the USC-CSC elections in upholding strong student representation.
“Makilahok sa darating na halalan, at siguraduhin na makakapaghalal tayo ng mga student representatives na magfo-forward ng ating mga karapatan,” Severino said in his closing remarks.
[“Participate in the upcoming elections and elect student representatives that will forward our rights.”]
A rundown of the MDAs
Besides TAPATAN, the USC and CSC also conducted their own MDAs from April 12 to 13 to present their platforms to the students. The full livetweet coverage of each MDA is linked to each respective student council.
USC. SAKBAYAN’s nine candidates are led by Gean Marie Celestial as chairperson. The party delivered their five-point General Plan of Action (GPOA) to the panelists and students.
SAKBAYAN-USC focuses on forwarding the call for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela, security against state forces’ intervention in the university, pushing for a just society, and integrating with the community. In the MDA, they also highlighted the importance of student participation in student council elections.
“Kailangan siguro paigtingin na makilahok sa eleksyon. Ipaliwanag na mahalaga ang student participation. Ang call to action namin sa SAKBAYAN ay patuloy na kalampagin ang mga mag-aaral on why student participation is important during this time,” Vice Chairperson candidate Mark Gio Olivar said.
[“Maybe we need to intensify participation in the election. Explain that student participation is important. SAKBAYAN’s call to action is to continue to encourage students in understanding why student participation is important during this time.”]
SAKBAYAN-USC also highlighted the fight for education and democratic rights. The slate disputes neoliberal education and pushes for a nationalist, mass-oriented, and scientific education system.
“Ang pinakakinakaharap nating problema ay ang current setup natin na hindi lahat inklusibo sa mga estudyante; tuloy ang online set-up. Sinisigurado po natin na maifo-forward ang panawagan for ligtas na balik-eskwela,” Celestial said.
[“The biggest problem is our current educational setup, which is not inclusive for all students. Despite pandemic and calamities, online set-up is done. We ensure that we will forward the call for the safe return to face-to-face classes.”]
Celestial added that Republic Act (RA) 10931 was authored by Kabataan Partylist to ensure free education for all, yet it is still not accessible to everyone.
CASSC. In the MDA of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council (CASSC), SAKBAYAN-CAS presented their seven-point GPOA focusing on #LigtasNaBalikEskwela, protection of LGBTQIA+ rights, and upholding the welfare of CAS students. They also push for a better information dissemination system and the upholding of students’ rights to freedom of speech and expression.
“Kasama sa GPOA ang paglalagay ng student rep sa bawat batch at degree program para magkaroon ng tamang communication sa student council at student body at mas malawak ang reach sa student body,” CAS Councilor candidate Angeline Ariate said.
[Our GPOA includes placing a student representative in each batch and degree program to have proper communication with the student council and student body, and to have a wider reach to the student body.”]
SAKBAYAN-CAS aims to establish CASsangga, an online community dedicated to CAS students for a wider reach and connection within the college. The candidates also expressed their aim to combat discrimination and assault against women and the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Ugatin na hindi sa mga organisasyon kundi sa kultura na napakaloob dito. Protected na rin sila ng RA 11053 na kinukundena ang hazing”, CAS Councilor candidate Miguel de Jesus said.
[We should focus on the culture rather than the organizations. Student organizations are already protected under RA 11503, which condemns hazing.”]
Republic Act No. 11053, also known as the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, prohibits hazing and other forms of initiation rites in fraternities, sororities, and other organizations, and provides penalties for violations.
CAFSSC. In the College of Agriculture and Food Science Student Council (CAFSSC) MDA, SAKBAYAN-CAFS presented their three main GPOA centering on the call for a genuine, democratic and high-quality education; in addressing human rights issues in Southern Tagalog; and on the collaborative goal of the council, the student body, and the community.
“Ipamalas ang dangal at husay ng pamantasan ng bayan para sa edukasyon, karapatan, at mga mithiing makabayan!” SAKBAYAN-CAFS highlighted.
[Show the honor and excellence of the country’s university for education, rights, and patriotic aspirations!”]
SAKBAYAN-CAFS also emphasized their opposition to the privatization in the agricultural sector, highlighting their opposing view to “golden rice”.
The issue on golden rice is a subject of heated debates, being one of the most pressing controversies in agriculture. While some see golden rice as a potential solution to Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), some progressives say that the golden rice program “would widen the problem of hunger and poverty in the country” (READ: Grains of truth: Why the war on Golden Rice is far from over; The unsettling issues of Golden Rice).
CFNRSC. SAKBAYAN College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) focused on the agricultural sector of the country in their five-point GPOA, as they navigate other calls about student coordination, participation, and their rights.
SAKBAYAN-CFNR vows to have unity in fighting for more environmental and humane management of natural resources through educational discussions and mobilizations.
“Naniniwala ang SAKBAYAN na hindi sustainable ang mining industry ng Pilipinas; mining in the country is commercial as it only serves private individuals. Lifting the ban on open-pit mining is disadvantageous as this allows private companies to get our resources without accountability,” CFNR Councilor aspirant Kevin Ryan Guzman said.
[“SAKBAYAN believes that the Philippine mining industry is not sustainable…”]
CHESC. In the College of Human Ecology Student Council (CHESC) MDA, SAKBAYAN-CHE highlighted their vision that focuses on an education system where no student would be left behind. They also call for active participation of the student council in CHE affiliations, and for strengthening on-ground activities.
SAKBAYAN-CHE also expressed that the rights of students must be included in the decision-making of the council.
“Sa ganitong sitwasyon ng ating bansa, mahalaga na may panghihikayat sa kapwa natin estudyante na may pagtindig [at] paglaban sa dapat nating tinatamasa,” Councilor candidate Arienne Guinto said on active student participation.
[“In the current situation of our country, it is important to encourage our fellow students to stand up and fight for our rights.”]
CDCSC. Meanwhile, the College of Development Communication Student Council (CDCSC) MDA showcased two parties, which are SAKBAYAN and LETS CDC.
LETS CDC presented their GPOA aiming for the safe reopening of the campus, smooth communication between council and students, fact-checking, and upholding LGBTQIA+ rights.
“Sa devcom [development communication], gawin [nating] pang pangmasa ang impormasyon. [Ang] kahalagahan ng college publication [ay] naii-specify natin ang mga problem at concern, na-amplify rin ang mga isyung sentro sa college,” LETS CDC aspiring Councilor Blessy Lyn Espenilla said on the importance of college publications.
[In devcom, college publications are a way to make the dissemination of information available to the masses. Through college publications, we can specify our problems and concerns, while we can also amplify the issues that center on a particular college.”]
Last March 28, Ian Lopez was appointed as the first editor-in-chief of the CDC student publication. This is in line with the 5th Convention of the Student Legislative Chamber’s adoption of SLC Resolution 2022-04, which instructs college student councils to “exert all effort to establish and re-establish student publications in the respective colleges of UPLB” (READ: Ian Lopez appointed as first EIC of CDC student pub).
On the other hand, SAKBAYAN-CDC proposes its GPOA focusing on the advancement of academic freedom, right to information, mental health and financial support, and gender sensitivity programs.
They also highlighted the importance of alleviating misinformation through fact-checking.
“Invite media companies, maaaring maging kasangkapan ito to educate and alleviate misinformation. Independent fact-checking, bilang pagsuporta na pinaparatangan ng fake news,” Angelo Antipuesto of SAKBAYAN said.
[“Invite media companies, it can be a tool to educate and alleviate misinformation. Conduct independent fact-checking to combat fake news.”]
CEMSC. In the College of Economics and Management Student Council (CEMSC) MDA, ADLAW starts off with the three main points of their GPOA: Kapit-Bisig, Manaig, and Pagpapalawig.
Kapit-bisig aims to strengthen student representation; Manaig represents leading the student movement in mobilizations; while Pagpapalawig focuses on nurturing social awareness. ADLAW also aims to reinforce student representation in the decision-making of the CEM administration.
On national issues, ADLAW said that it will remain active in releasing political content.
“Issues outside the university are issues of the students as well,” Chairperson candidate Charlyn Joergette Triñanes said.
ADLAW added that educational discussions can be conducted to widen the knowledge regarding issues inside and outside the university.
CEATSC. Meanwhile, the College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology Student Council (CEATSC) political party CEASE presents their GPOA focusing on strengthening student representation, as well as conducting departmental dialogues between the faculty and the student body.
“CEASE plans to enhance relationships in CEAT such as through student consultations, centralized platforms, freshmen group chats, and the creation of a CEAT manual,” CEASE Vice-Chairperson candidate Chrisitan Reginio shared.
Moreover, CEASE also highlighted student involvement in rights and welfare matters, and community participation. They expressed their views on national issues, such as on the flagship infrastructure project of the Duterte administration.
“Tutol sa Build, Build Build program ang CEASE. Hinihimok ang future engineers na kalampagin ang gobyerno. Maging mapanuri sa ginagawa ng gobyerno,” CEASE aspiring Councilor Mark Angelo Roma said on the controversial Build, Build, Build program.
[CEASE condemns the Build, Build Build program. We are calling future engineers to be critical of the government. We should be critical of the programs and actions of the government.”]
The Build, Build, Build Program is notorious for displacing urban poor residents and indigenous peoples, while also posing massive threats to the environment (READ: What the Build! Build! Build! Program truly destroys).
CVMSC. The Miting de Avance of the College of Veterinary Medicine Student Council (CVMSC) started with the introduction of GPOA of VMSA, which emphasizes student welfare and leadership, as well as social interaction.
On the issue of the conduct of face-to-face classes, VMSA highlighted the importance of student participation.
“Provide surveys to know what students need, sit in ad hoc committee for face-to-face classes to have a platform to state what students need. Tayo ang tulay, but sila din ang dapat kumatok sa administrasyon,” CVM Chairperson candidate Crizelle Indunan said.
[“We are the bridge, but students themselves should also knock on the administration.”]
CVM students have long asserted that “veterinary medicine is medicine”, coinciding with the #LigtasNaBalikEskwela campaign. In September 2021, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) recognized the need for face-to-face classes for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students (READ: VetMed students intensify #LigtasNaBalikEskwela calls as A.Y. 2021-2022 begins; CHED recognition leads to ‘new campaign heights’).
In a February 2022 report by the Perspective, CVM students emphasized their need for face-to-face classes, recognizing their program’s need for clinical applications (READ: UPLB students, faculty confront persisting challenges 2 years into remote learning).
Meanwhile, VMSA also stressed the importance of prioritizing the welfare of students, faculty, and staff. Regarding activities, they plan to conduct peer-to-peer support to promote a healthy learning environment in the university.
Following TAPATAN 2022 and the MDAs, aspiring student leaders encourage the students to exercise their right to vote for the campus-wide elections that began last April 18, and will continue until Saturday, April 23. [P]