Words by Hope Sagaya
The University Committee, which is composed of all UPLB Student Council (SC) Chairs, endorsed Siegfred Severino’s nomination for the 39th Student Regent (SR) in the university-wide deliberation held last July 28.
Severino has also already been endorsed by the UPLB College of Economics and Management (CEM) SC and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) SC in the college-wide deliberations held last July 7 and July 9, respectively.
Severino, a BS in Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship student in UPLB, served as the 42nd UPLB University Student Council (USC) Chairperson. Meanwhile, this is the second time that Severino was nominated for the SR position.
Severino also had different experiences and affiliations inside and outside the university, including membership with the Rise for Education Alliance – UPLB, UPLB Kilos Na! Task Force, UP Internet Freedom Network, among other organizations. From 2020 to 2021, Severino also served as UPLB CEM SC Chairperson.
Severino’s vision includes ensuring students’ rights to quality and accessible education; safeguarding students’ democratic rights and general welfare; strengthening the UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) as the leading student institution; and campaigning for pro-constituent, inclusive, and proactive policies for academic easing, limited face-to-face classes, and the gradual reopening of campuses.
Severino shared his vision for the OSR with UP as a bastion of activism.
“In this fight, I envision the UP OSR to be with the broadest united force of students, faculty, staff, and alumni across the political spectrum in standing up against the anticipated tyranny, corruption, and fascism of Marcos-Duterte,” Severino stated during the deliberations.
“I envision a UP OSR that will uphold the values of the University – giting, tapang, at talino – as we unite and struggle towards the looming dark times ahead,” he added.
He stated that after six years of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, the country experienced none other than tyranny. He added that it is also expected to be experienced again under the administration of the newly elected president, the son of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Severino highlighted how the lives of Filipinos were lost under the regimes of Marcos Sr. and Duterte and how their offsprings will likely continue their fathers’ acts.
Data from human rights groups show that there are around 3200 cases of extrajudicial killings from 1972 to 1986 – under the regime of Marcos Sr. – with thousands more tortured, disappeared, among other human rights violations. Meanwhile, between 12,000 to 30,000 individuals were killed under Duterte’s Drug War, and around 400 progressives were killed.
Severino said that he will ensure the protection of the University against attacks on its constitutional autonomy and academic freedom, as well as against state intervention.
Part of this is to resist the Marcos-Duterte administration, as Severino said that he will ensure to uphold the OSR’s mandate of serving the most genuine interest of the masses. He also plans on leading the creation of the broadest alliance to resist the tyranny of the Marcos-Duterte administration.
“I will ensure that the UP OSR will be the symbol of militancy in the face of tyranny. Together, we are one UP community against fascism, disinformation, and repression. Iskolar ng Bayan, kahapon, ngayon, at bukas, patuloy na lumalaban!” Severino stated after discussing his plans for OSR.
[“Iskolar ng Bayan, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we will continue to fight!”]
Ensuring campus security
When asked how he would handle persistent red-tagging especially under another Marcos administration, Severino said that he will ensure that students will be safeguarded and protected by advancing the Board of Regents (BOR) Resolution Against Red-Tagging.
Second, Severino said that he will strengthen the crisis management committee and the student protocol that aims to give legal assistance to students who experienced red-tagging and legitimate threats to their lives.
Severino asserted that an immediate response to red-tagging is to directly criticize the government. Pointing out that red-tagging is never right, Severino asked for accountability and justice for red-tagging victims.
He also asserted that fighting for the rights of the youth and masses will never be wrong.
“Kahit kailan hindi naging mali yung paglaban o pagtindig para sa karapatan ng ating kapwa mga estudyante at para sa karapatan ng mas malawak na hanay ng mga kabataan at estudyante ng ating bansa,” he said.
[“It is never wrong to fight and stand for students’ rights and the rights of the wide range of youth and students in the whole country.”]
It can be recalled that upon the unilateral termination of the UP-DND Accord – which restricts Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from entering UP campuses – there had been sightings of police and military presence around the campus (READ: UP-DND Accord is unilaterally ‘terminated.’ UP community strikes back with an indignation protest the next day; ‘Hindi mali ang pakikibaka’: UPLB students push to keep campus a safe haven after alarming police presence in Brgy. Batong Malake, Los Baños).
There have also been reported cases of red-tagging in the University, the latest being in a UPLB National Service Training Program (NSTP) webinar last March 21. In the said webinar, the speaker tagged mass mobilizations and international solidarity work as “front acts” of the New People’s Army (NPA) (READ: UPLB progressives condemn red-tagging in NSTP webinar; USC calls for ‘thorough review’ of lecture materials).
Campaigning for a pro-student university
Severino laid out his general and specific plans of action for the UP OSR, which aim to ensure students’ rights to quality and accessible education, democratic rights, and the safeguard of their general welfare. He added that he will continue to call for quality and accessible education through a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education system and policies.
Severino highlighted that the persisting problems of the youth and student sector include the inaccessibility of education in the country. He added that it is also expected that neoliberal education policies will continue under the Marcos-Duterte administration.
He also continues to campaign for pro-constituent, inclusive, and proactive policies. He adds that he will fight for proper budget allocation toward essential projects and programs for the welfare of the students and other UP constituents.
Severino also aims to strengthen the UP OSR through building alliances with sectoral regents and reactivating the alliance with different State and Local Universities and Colleges across the country.
“Sisiguraduhin natin na yung Student Representation ay hindi lamang nakukulong sa loob ng BOR; sisiguraduhin natin na yung umaakyat na polisiya sa pinakamataas na lupon na nagde-decide sa ating university ay dumadaan sa scrutinization sa bawat levels of decision-making process mula sa department, college, at constituents [to] university level at sa loob mismo ng BOR,” Severino asserted.
[“We will secure that student representation will not be bounded only within the BOR; we will make sure that the policies that reach the highest decision-making body of the university have gone through scrutinization of each level of the decision-making process from the department, college, its constituents, to the university level and within the BOR.”]
Severino added that he will secure the support of the three sectoral regents – alumni, faculty, and staff – to ensure their support to the demands that the OSR asserts.
“We can utilize our position na governing court ng university para ipaalala, ipaintindi sa ating mga administrators na importante na ang pinakamalawak na constituent ng university ay mai-seek sa mga kinakaharap nating mga polisiya,” Severino added when asked how he can ensure genuine student representation across all levels of the decision-making process.
[“We can utilize our position as a governing court in the university to remind our administrators and make them understand that is important that the students will be sought during policy-making.”]
Severino also emphasized the importance of militant action to assert students’ rights and welfare.
“Kung may mga polisiya talaga silang isinusulong na anti-student, nandiyan ang lahat ng 50,000 students ng UP system para mag-assert through mass mobilization and other form of militant action para i-assert na hindi ito ang dapat gawin para sa aming pinakamalawak na constituent ng university, at dapat makinig yung BOR sa one body na handang sumulong at ipaglaban ang mga democratic rights and policies,” Severino added.
[“If there are anti-student policies being forwarded by the administration, let us remember that there are 50,000 students in the UP system that will assert their rights through mass mobilization and other forms of militant action, to assert that the BOR must listen to one body that is willing to fight for democratic rights and policies.”]
Continuous fight for #LigtasNaBalikEskwela
In relation to the campaign for the safe reopening of classes, Severino said that he will secure enough funding to ensure that facilities can handle minimum health protocols during face-to-face classes. He added that the SR will lobby for more comprehensive policies, more funding, logistical support, financial support, and subsidies.
“Ang nakikita natin na mai-push ang face-to-face classes ay una, in terms of funding – siguraduhin na nabibigyan ng support ng system yung ating universities and colleges na magkaroon ng fund para i-retrofit and renovate yung kanilang mga facilities in order for those facilities to handle the minimum protocol required to all face-to-face classes.”
[“In face-to-face classes, we need to ensure that the system sets enough fund to our universities and colleges to retrofit and renovate facilities, in order for those facilities to handle the minimum protocol required to all face-to-face classes.”]
In a memorandum dated June 20, 2022, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) announced that UP will be adopting blended learning for A.Y. 2022-2023. The four learning delivery modes presented include face-to-face instruction.
Meanwhile, Severino added that he will utilize the SR’s position in the Academic Affairs Committee, which crafts policies regarding the students’ return to campuses.
Severino also said that as a member of the BOR, he will ensure that the policies being approved are being genuinely implemented. He also encouraged student councils and organizations to actively pursue student initiatives in relation to face-to-face classes.
“We will ensure na yung mga student councils, student organizations, and units ay actively nagpu-pursue din ng mga student initiative to create the conditions for the admin na makita na wala nang reason para hindi pa pabalikin yung mga estudyante sa campuses natin,” Severino added.
[“We will ensure that the student councils, student organizations, and units actively pursue student initiatives to create conditions for the admin to see that there is no more reason to restrict students from returning to the campuses.”]
Meanwhile, a question about the recent cases of fraternity-related violence in UP Diliman has resurfaced the calls for #AbolishFrats, yet this infringes the right to organizing.
Severino said that abolishing fraternities will open more issues, because abolishing an organization based on its composition has a chance that it will also be used against other student organizations.
Severino, however, added that such atrocities as fraternity-related violence must be condemned. He added that this culture must not be tolerated within student organizations. He then called for accountability and justice from the student organizations involved.
“Ngayon, sa usapin ng right to organizing, kinikilala natin na itong mga fraternities ay student organization and itong mga miyembro ng mga organizations na ‘to ay karapatan nila na mag-organisa. Pero that doesn’t give you the right to trample on the rights of other students [or] of other organizations,” Severino added.
[“We have to recognize that fraternities are student organizations and that the members of these organizations have the right to organize. But that doesn’t give you the right to trample on the rights of other students or of other organizations.”]
Finally, Severino was asked during the deliberations how he can accomplish a heavy magnitude of plans in only a limited amount of time.
Severino defended that all his plans are related to each other, and that they can be done with the help of existing student institutions like different sectors, alliances, and volunteers of the OSR.
“Ang OSR ay hindi lamang ito isang opisina, ito ay representasyon ng 50,000 students ng UP System, and in order for us to ensure na patuloy yung proteksyon at patuloy yung genuine service to the students ng university, syempre i-ensure natin na hindi lang OSR yung gagalaw,” Severino said.
[“The OSR is not merely an office, but is a representation of 50,000 students of the UP system, and in order for us to ensure that there is continued protection and genuine service to the students, we must then ensure that it is not only the OSR who will mobilize.”]
Severino added that in order to fulfill the OSR’s plans, he will continue to empower student councils and student organizations. [P]
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