Words by Alex Delis and Markus Fabreag
From serving and representing the students in their respective campuses, the four nominated student leaders will take the final stage for the selection process of the 39th UP Student Regent (SR). This time, it is with an aim to serve and represent the whole studentry across all UP campuses.
The 53rd General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) will select the 39th UP SR, which will convene from August 26 to 27 at UP Los Baños (UPLB).
Four official SR nominees will take part in the selection process: Querobin Acsibar of UP Manila (UPM), Bernie “Bern” Cañedo Jr. of UP Cebu (UPC), Franz Andrew Ronquillo of UP Diliman (UPD), and Siegfred Severino of UPLB.
Before the finalization of nominees, 39th SR nominees initially included Severino, Cañedo, and Jonas Abadilla of UPD. Abadilla, the current UPD University Student Council (USC) chairperson, was nominated by the UPD College of Engineering.
Last July 7, the said college decided not to endorse Abadilla with 22 negative votes and one affirmative vote. The Engineering Student Council asserted that Abadilla “seemingly rushed” the preparation of roadmaps for his campaigns and initiatives, and also failed in providing tangible solutions on pressing issues in the University.
Acsibar also failed to secure an endorsement from her home college, UP College of Dentistry (UPCD), in the conducted college-wide deliberation last July 21, where she gained five “Yes” votes and eight “No” votes. She was then endorsed by UP Manila School of Health Sciences (UPM SHS) Tarlac Student Council last July 27 and by the UPM University Committee after conducting University-wide deliberations last August 5.
UP Baguio (UPB) also endorsed Acsibar last August 3, where they noted that she is well-informed on the pressing issues faced by the University and had offered points of improvement on her vision paper.
Meanwhile, Cañedo and Severino were unanimously endorsed by their respective colleges and campuses as their sole nominees for the 39th SR selection.
The SR is the lone representative of UP students in the Board of Regents (BOR). BOR is the highest governing body of the UP System that consists of 12 members from both the University as well as public and private sectors.
Aside from the SR, other members of the board include the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), UP president, chairpersons of both Senate and House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, Alumni Regent, Faculty Regent, Staff Regent, three appointed regents from the Malacañang Palace, and the secretary of the University and the BOR.
It is the duty of the SR to prioritize students’ rights and welfare, as well as to represent the collective interests of the students in policy-making of BOR.
Renee Louise Co is the current SR of the UP System after being selected by the 50th GASC on January 12, 2021. Other nominees included 2nd nominee Severino of UPLB and 3rd nominee Francesca Kapunan of UP Baguio (READ: Renee Co is new SR).
Aside from the selection of the next SR of UP System, GASC is also an avenue for tackling campus-wide, system-wide, and national issues, where the student councils will craft resolutions and campaigns that they will implement for the whole term.
UP Manila and UP Baguio Nominee Querobin Acsibar
Before being the 42nd UPM USC Chairperson, Querobin Acsibar has been active in the student council since 2019.
She became a Public Information Officer, College of Dentistry Representative to the USC, as well as committee head and co-head in different committees in the council. Aside from being a leader in the student council, Acsibar is also an active member of certain organizations and associations such as League of Filipino Students (LFS) – UPM, Tau Omega Mu and its Ladies’ Circle, and Philippine Dental Association – UPM.
In her presented vision paper and specific plan of action, Acsibar mainly focused her stance on student rights, democracy, and genuine student representation.
One of the highlights in her platform is the establishment of a system-wide Student Assembly on the Return Service Agreement (SARSA) to stop and review the Return Service Agreement (RSA) contract in UPM. Aside from the Stop and Review campaign, SARSA will serve as a student body that will push for transparency with regard to the policies enclosed in RSA, as well as to call for a better condition for healthcare workers.
RSA is an established contract in UPM wherein students taking degree programs relating to health sciences are required to render service after they graduate. The implementation of this contract was met with heavy criticism and opposition from the studentry due to its nature of being “coercive, commercialized, and repressive”. During the 48th GASC, student councils from different colleges of UP Manila presented a resolution to stop and review the RSA. However, the repressive contract still persists until now.
“Medyo na-left behind talaga ‘yung RSA natin. Ilang taon na nating isinulong ito… Pero for such a long time, ilang beses na natin finorward system-wide level ‘yung concerns ng mga estudyante sa RSA,” Acsibar said in the UPCD college-wide deliberation.
(“Our RSA [campaign] was somehow left behind. We pushed this for many years… but for such a long time, we have forwarded this concern of students regarding RSA numerous times at a system-wide level.”)
Defending academic freedom and fighting for the security of UP against state attacks were also among the priorities of the said SR nominee. If hailed as the new SR, Acsibar assures to work hand-in-hand with Defend UP Network to protect students from red-tagging and state fascism.
Specifically, she proposed the establishment of Defend UP Quick Response Team (QRT) for each constituent unit that will provide swift response to incidents of threats, illegal detention, red-tagging, and more.
Acsibar also emphasized in her specific plan of action to demand an increase in the state subsidy for education and health, as well as to stand against budget cuts, by launching a system-wide Rise for Education (R4E) alliance.
In the 2022 national budget, there was a P566 million budget cut particularly on the Hospital Services Program where the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) budget allocation is included (READ: UP budget increased by P2.89 billion, but Hospital Services Program suffers cut in 2022 national budget).
Also included in her vision paper and specific plan of action are the promotion of genuine student representation by strengthening alliances; standing for an inclusive learning environment; and launching campaigns and events against historical revisionism, disinformation, and electoral fraud.
UP Cebu Nominee Bernie “Bern” Cañedo Jr.
Aside from being the UPC USC Vice Chairperson since 2019, Bernie “Bern” Cañedo Jr. is a student journalist and activist.
He is also affiliated with Anakbayan UPC and Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante as member of its Executive Committee. Moreover, Cañedo has been part of the advocacy staff in Community Empowerment Resource Network Inc.; and is currently a student convenor in UP Cebu Kilos Na!, a multi-sectoral alliance of UPC students, teachers, workers, and alumni.
Cañedo anchored his vision paper and specific plans of action on a mass-oriented framework of education, academic freedom, and promoting democratic rights and welfare for the entire UP community. With that, the UPC University Committee endorsed Cañedo as their sole nominee for the 39th Student Regent selection last July 27.
As a student journalist himself, he centers his stance on defending press and education freedom.
As he addresses the issues of Martial Law, historical distortion, and disinformation, Cañedo aspires to consolidate sectoral efforts and strengthen the involvement of the UP community in the Defend UP Network as a multisectoral alliance that aims to defend the University and students’ academic freedom.
Moreover, he asserts the protection of all UP constituents from all forms of red-tagging, harassment, and surveillance by institutionalizing the UP-DND Accord in the UP Charter.
UP-DND Accord mandated state forces to notify the UP administration before entering or conducting any police and military operations inside any UP campus. It can be recalled that Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana unilaterally terminated the UP-DND Accord with lack of “prior consultation” with the UP Administration (READ: UP-DND Accord is unilaterally ‘terminated.’ UP community strikes back with an indignation protest the next day).
OSR strongly denounced the DND’s decision about the Accord abrogation. The Defend UP Network calls on the members of the House of Representatives to expedite the passing of bills pertaining to the institutionalization of the 1989 UP-DND Accord by amending the UP Charter of 2008.
Cañedo also presented platforms that focus on system-wide education by strengthening the Rise for Education Systemwide Alliance as a coordinative body of the UP System for all of its education-related concerns, involving other alliances including the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), Katipunan ng Sangguniang Mag-aaral (KASAMA) sa UP, OSR, UP Solidaridad, and USCs, among others.
His platform includes lobbying and allocating sufficient budget for student support services that address students’ socioeconomic concerns and establish the Program for Iskolar Aid. Also, it campaigns for adequate budget allotment for all sectors of all UP units in order to support local and systemwide programs and initiatives, retrofitting needs, and health and safety insurance.
“Isa sa malaking problema na kinakaharap ng aming unit na ramdam rin ng buong UP System ay ang kakulangan ng budget. Tumatagos ang isyu na ito sa lahat ng sektor na nasa UP System. With the lack of budget para sa learning resources, facilities, subsidies, at services, mas lalo nitong pinapalayo ang ating mga kabataan at mga estudyante sa karapatan nila na makapag-aral. Bilang Student Regent, we shall exhaust all means to amplify the call for higher state subsidy sa ating national government,” Cañedo said in KASAMA sa UP interview.
(“One of the big problems that our unit faces, which is also felt by the entire UP System, is the lack of budget. This issue permeates all sectors in the UP System. With the lack of budget for learning resources, facilities, subsidies, and services, it further distances our youth and students from their right to education. As Student Regent, we shall exhaust all means to amplify the call for higher state subsidy to our national government.”)
In light of the release of the proposed 2023 UP budget, UPLB students, faculty, and staff representatives called for higher provisions in their respective sectors, emphasizing that the government should allocate more budget for education (READ: UPLB students, staff call for higher provisions amid infrastructure drive in proposed additional budget).
UP Diliman Nominee Franz Andrew Ronquillo
Before being UPD USC Councilor, Franz Andrew Ronquillo has been an active journalism student in defending the academic freedom of the national university at both administrative and legislative levels.
Ronquillo is an experienced journalist before becoming a student leader in UPD. He is part of student media organization UP Radio Circle, and is the UPD convenor in Defend UP Network.
In 2020, he was the chairperson of League of Filipino Students (LFS) – Morayta. He is also part of Rise for Education Alliance – UP Diliman, UPD Community Security Committee, and is a UPD USC representative of the Block SIM Card Registration Act.
Ronquillo mainly focused his general plans of action on democratic rights of UP students, forwarding accessible education, and opposing the commercialization of the University.
In the University-wide deliberations last August 4, he reiterated that he will strengthen student participation in alliances and institutions, if selected as the next SR.
“Bilang sole representative ng students sa BOR, mahalaga ang strengthen ng student institutions. Hihigpitan ang coordination with LCCs [League of College Council], samahan ng mga USCs, at KSUP [KASAMA sa UP] para sa consolidation ng student councils. Ensure natin [ang] maximum membership sa alliance especially for the next term,” said Ronquillo.
(“As the sole representative of students in the BOR, the strengthening of student institutions is important. Coordination with LCCs, association of USCs, and KSUP shall be tightened for the consolidation of student councils. Let’s ensure the maximum membership in the alliance especially for the next term.”)
Ronquillo plans to fortify student representation and involvement by using the institutional capacity of the OSR to reach and collaborate with other SRs of state universities and colleges (SUCs) to consolidate campaigns on education and other relevant issues. He will further map community integrations through local and constituent units.
He also envisions a more inclusive UP System by proposing to genuinely monitor the Master Development Plan (MDP) and Land Use Development and Infrastructure Plan (LUDIP) of every University unit and campus. He asserts the involvement of the SR in the process of revisiting LUDIP and to be critical in the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) specially in infrastructure projects.
Ronquillo also campaigns for inclusive and proactive education policies that anchor on the proposal of no tuition and other fees increase (TOFI) for Graduate Students, and the implementation of Filipino Sign Language (FSL) course that will cater the learning needs of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
UP Los Baños Nominee Siegfred Severino
UPLB 42nd USC Chairperson Siegfred Severino is once again nominated for the SR position in this year’s selection process, after being a nominee for the 38th SR selection alongside Co and Kapunan.
Two UPLB colleges endorsed Severino for this year’s selection process. First is his home college, College of Economics and Management (CEM), and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).
Severino was an experienced student leader in UPLB before becoming the USC chairperson. He was the chairperson of UPLB CEM Student Council from August 2020 to March 2021, and a college representative to the USC from early- to mid-2020.
Aside from this, he has many affiliations with various progressive organizations including UP Internet Freedom Network, Rise For Education Alliance – UPLB, UPLB Kilos Na! Task Force, UPLB Alliance of Dormitory Associations, and many more.
In his vision paper titled “Militancy in the Face of Tyranny: A United UP Community Against Fascism, Disinformation, and Repression”, Severino envisions a militant UP community that will stand against the current administration.
“I envision the UP Office of the Student Regent 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,” wrote Severino.
In relation to this, he plans to create the broadest alliance to stand against the current administration by intensifying unities among different alliances and conducting activities such as Basic Masses Integration (BMI), mobilizations, educational discussions, and leadership training.
He also proposed the establishment of Human Rights Watch and partnership with legal institutions to protect students from attacks such as red-tagging and harassment.
UPLB is no stranger to these kinds of state intervention and attacks among the students. A speaker in a UPLB National Service Training Program (NSTP) webinar last March 21 red-tagged mobilizations and international solidarity works as the front acts of New People’s Army (NPA) (READ: UPLB progressives condemn red-tagging in NSTP webinar; USC calls for ‘thorough review’ of lecture materials).
UPLB Perspective, the official student publication of UPLB, was also red-tagged by 201st Infantry “Kabalikat” Brigade, Philippine Army after the student publication covered the medical mission in Quezon that was disrupted by the state forces (READ: Mga progresibong grupo, pahayagan, kinondena ang pag-red-tag, pagbulabog ng militar sa medical mission sa Quezon).
Severino also campaigns against the struggles faced by Filipinos. He calls for genuine agrarian reform and protection of rights of indigenous peoples (IP).
One of the highlights of his platforms include pushing for a pro-constituent UP administration through the efforts of OSR to ensure that the next appointees in BOR can prioritize the rights and welfare of the studentry.
During the University-wide deliberations last July 28, he assured genuine student representation in the BOR.
“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,” he explained.
(“We can utilize our position as a governing court in the University to remind our administrators and make them understand that it is important that the students will be sought during policy-making.”)
With regards to Severino’s platforms in education, he campaigns for “pro-constituent, inclusive, and proactive” policies for the gradual reopening of campuses and academic easing. Among the solutions he presented include but are not limited to: making inclusive policies where socio-economic status is considered; crafting a roadmap for Ligtas na Balik Eskwela; and opening of student learning hubs for more conducive learning spaces.
In UPLB, students scored a major triumph after successfully occupying the Student Union (SU) building due to the opening of the learning hub, which is a result of years of struggle in fighting for the Occupy SU Campaign (READ: UPLB student leaders recount student militancy leading to victory of #OccupySU campaign).
Severino also aims to ensure the protection of the rights of the students; strengthen the UP OSR; campaign for proper budget allocation; protect the University from attacks and threats, which are explained in detail in his general and specific plan of actions. [P]