Student councils from all over the University of the Philippines (UP) System reported on the issues and campaigns of their respective campuses in the 53rd General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC).
The GASC is a bi-annual convention of student councils where they form resolutions that serve as bases for campaigns that they will launch throughout the academic year. For this GASC, they will select the 39th Student Regent (SR).
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.
(RELATED STORY: A rundown of the visions and plans of the 39th SR nominees)
UP Baguio University Student Council (USC) talked about local issues in their campus and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), such as their Council’s participation in campaigns such as Laban BENECO (Benguet Electric Cooperative) and #DefendCordilleraPH.
Their Council also highlighted the issues in their campus alone, wherein 18 organizations and 40 individuals were red-tagged in the previous months. One of them was Daisy Macapanpan, a former UP Baguio professor who now organizes in the Southern Tagalog region, who was arrested last June 11.
Students are also worried about the absence of academic policies, as the semester is about to begin.
“Hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring acad policies e magpapasukan na, so worry rin talaga ng students ang pagbabalik sa pre-pandemic guidelines,” UP Baguio USC chair Iya Trinidad said.
(There are still no academic policies until now, which is why students also worry about the return of pre-pandemic guidelines.)
UP Cebu’s student councils, meanwhile, spearheaded a local campaign calling for justice for the New Bataan 5, wherein five individuals, including UP alumnus Chad Booc, were killed.
They were also participative throughout the 2022 national and local elections, where they endorsed and actively campaigned for the tandem of former Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Kiko Pangilinan for the top two executive posts of the country. UP Cebu USC was one of many formations who called for the extension of voting hours.
UP Cebu underwent a change in administrative leadership as Atty. Leo Malagar was selected to be its new chancellor. Malagar was a former Managing Editor for UP Cebu Tug-ani and the former UP Cebu USC chairperson.
Through the councils’ collective action, they were able to convince the UP Cebu administration to use the lived names, identities and pronouns during the unit’s commencement exercises.
The flagship campus’ report was presented by Jonas Abadilla, UP Diliman USC’s outgoing chairperson. UP Diliman’s student councils were in the forefront of several petitions, academic walkouts, and press conferences against the Marcos-Duterte alliance.
One of UP Diliman’s noteworthy actions is the filing of a complaint against former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, a rampant red-tagger in the government.
Through the collective action of UP Diliman’s student councils in coordination with other sectors of their Constituent Unit (CU), security agency Femjeg’s contract with the University was terminated after the former laid off over 130 security personnel and did not pay wages, according to a report by SINAG.
UP Diliman’s College of Arts and Letters Student Council (CALSC) vouched for the USC, saying: “Saksi kami kung paano na-unite ng UP Diliman USC para maisulong ang multisectoral na kampanya. Lumalabas ang ating brand of service sa pamantasan – isang kongkretong ehemplo nito ang pagsandig ng buong UP para i-institutionalize ang UP-DND Accord.”
(We are witnesses to how UP Diliman USC united to forward the multisectoral campaign. It shows our brand of service in the university – a concrete example of this is the cooperation of UP for the institutionalization of the UP-DND Accord.)
UP Los Baños
UP Los Baños student councils discussed the local issues in the campus and region for their unit report. As for the issues inside the campus, they tackled how the councils initiated on clarifying the blended learning programs which will be implemented starting the First Semester of Academic Year (AY) 2022-2023.
Last July 9, Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) released OVPAA Memo 2022-88 on Learning Delivery Modes for the next semester, which states that the UP System will be shifting from online learning to blended learning setup.
UP Los Baños USC Chairperson Gean Celestial also reported the major victory of the studentry after the junking of the Student Academic Information System (SAIS). This was after UP Los Baños Chancellor Jose Camacho Jr. constituted an ad hoc committee to implement UPLB DX Academic Management Information System (AMIS), a new information system that will replace SAIS.
Furthermore, the student councils also mentioned the approval of a resolution that will ensure a safe haven for UP Los Baños constituents regarding their freedom, security, and critical thinking.
For the regional issues, the campaign for Defend Southern Tagalog was further strengthened as new attacks and harassment in different ST provinces emerged during the previous months.
Peasant leaders were continuously harassed and arrested by state forces, demolition threats still persist, and progressives were still being red-tagged for their activism. Last June 30, in Agapita Road, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippine National Police (PNP) terror-tagged progressive leaders.
Student councils continuously call to fortify campaigns against the Marcos-Duterte alliance. The council said, “Patuloy na papaigtingin ng konseho ang mga kampanya para labanan ang Marcos-Duterte alliance, dahil mauugat natin ang lahat ng problema na nararanasan ng lipunan sa palpak na administrasyon dahil inutil ang mga nandaya para mailagay sa posisyon.”
(The council will continue to intensify campaigns to fight the Marcos-Duterte alliance. All of the societal issues we are facing can be rooted from the failure of the administration, because these people who cheated their way to power are incapable of governing the people.)
UP Manila USC reported several safety and security issues, including the red-tagging of a UPM student council Facebook page; the arbitrary detainment of a Manila Collegian staffer; and the illegal arrest of 92 volunteers and other individuals in Hacienda Tinang, Tarlac.
For their campaigns, UP Manila student councils coordinated with college administrators regarding the guidelines for face-to-face classes. The council also initiated projects on COVID-19 vaccination and other health-related programs.
They also presented their involvement in the national elections, and the participation of the councils in various mobilizations tackling issues of public health and healthcare workers’ subsidy.
UP Manila SHS Palo in Leyte
UP Manila School of Health Science (SHS) in Palo began their unit report by calling for a higher budget for the health sector to address and resolve people’s health-related issues. They called the establishment of their unit to resolve inequalities and lack of health professionals in the countryside as a “band-aid solution”.
UP Manila SHS Palo also disclosed issues concerning nursing students, including delayed disbursement and lack of scholarship. They also demanded an increase in allowance for UP-funded scholars.
Despite problems, UP Manila SHS Palo took pride in their ”well-trained alumni who now provide health and medical care in underserved communities.”
Moreover, the unit reported their declining enrollment rate in the last academic year, citing health reasons and difficulties in adapting to the online learning mode. These are also reasons why students file for a leave of absence (LOA).
UP Manila SHS Palo also forwarded calls to junk or revise the Return Service Agreement (RSA). The RSA has become an “absolute admission requirement” for several degree programs offered by UP Manila, including Community Health Work in the School of Health Sciences.
Other calls presented in their unit report include defense of the UP Manila SHS Palo community from red-tagging, and a firm response against harassment on students.
UP Visayas SHS Tarlac
The newly established UP Manila School of Health Sciences extension campus in Tarlac (UPM SHS Tarlac) also presented their unit report, which comprises the milestones that the UPM-SHS Tarlac has reached since its establishment on April 23, 2021. It was presented by Mark Julius Pame, the business manager of the first student council of UPM SHS Tarlac.
One of the first initiatives of UPM SHS Tarlac student council is the “Buddy System”, which aims to help students cope with academic pressures under the online setup.
Pame also explained that several dialogues were held in UPM SHS Tarlac to discuss the situation of its students and the institution itself. The UPM SHS Tarlac Administrations held a meeting with the campus’ student institutions to discuss the health protocols to be implemented in the upcoming face-to-face classes. A discussion regarding campus safety and security of the students was also made.
Meanwhile, UPM SHS Tarlac participated in the “Hayag: Singanen o Masa,” an event held by the Philippine Conference on Community Health. The event addressed socio-political issues involving health in the community. The UP constituent also joined the “UP Manila Pride 2022: 2gether 2wards Equality!” to celebrate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression equality.
The UPM SHS Tarlac student council ended their presentation by discussing the “Related Learning Experience Duties Orientation”, which was held to guide the students with their community duties.
UP Mindanao student councils expressed concern on the cases of red-tagging in the University. In May 2022, UP Mindanao was red-tagged in a Facebook post by a government agency, saying that it is an active recruitment ground for the New People’s Army (NPA).
In their report, the council said that several USC officers filed their resignation letter. USC OIC Chairperson Pati Matalam said that only six officers remain in the USC, while there are College Student Councils (CSC) that have only two or three officers.
UP Mindanao students also expressed concerns regarding the University’s adoption of blended learning. These include difficulty in searching affordable dorms; campus transportation; and overall student preparedness.
GASC holds mobilization
After the unit reports, the student councils hold a mobilization in Carabao Park.The four SR nominees – Querobin Acsibar of UP Manila, Bernie “Bern” Cañedo Jr. of UP Cebu, Franz Andrew Ronquillo of UP Diliman, and Siegfred Severino of UPLB led the program, alongside outgoing SR Renee Co and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel.
They highlighted the challenge for UP students to stand for truth, justice, and the rights of every Filipino. This message comes with calls to defend academic freedom and protect university constituents from state attacks.
SR Nominee Severino stressed that amid the exploitation being done to the basic masses, victories can be achieved through relentless organizing.
“Isang tulak lamang ng nagkakaisang masa kaya nating patiklupin. Ito ang hamon sa atin, mga kapwa kong Iskolar ng Bayan,” he said.
(Through one push of the united masses, we can make them fold. This is our challenge, fellow scholars of the people.)
Leadership in the line of fire
Afterwards, Manuel held a discussion titled, “Fight for the Nation, Fight for the Truth: Leadership in the Line of Fire under the Marcos-Arroyo-Duterte Regime”, where he stressed the importance of maintaining a close relationship with communities and leader-organizers.
“Dapat hindi natin mabitawan ‘yon. ‘Yung mga youth orgs natin sa komunidad at local leaders, [dapat] mamaintain ang ugnayan natin sa kanila,” he said. Read UP Baguio Outcrop’s live-tweeting coverage of the talk.
(We should not let go [of those relationships]. The youth orgs with communities and local leaders, we must maintain our ties with them.)
Manuel served as the 34th SR of the UP System. After earning a seat in the 2022 national elections, Manuel currently represents the youth sectoral party Kabataan Party-list in the Congress.
Resolution building starts but cut off immediately
After Manuel’s presentation, the assembly went on to deliberate the first resolution titled “A Resolution Calling to Promote, Protect, and Respect the People’s Right to Health and Opposing its Militarization Under the Marcos Administration.” It was authored by the UP Manila Pharmaceutical Association Student Council (PhASC), Nursing Student Council (NSC), and College of Arts and Sciences Student Council (CASSC).
It talked about holding the new administration accountable for the ongoing health crisis, demanding a “nationalistic, comprehensive, well-functioning, and science-based healthcare system.”
“Tunay ngang palpak ang militaristic approach ng ating gobyerno [sa pandemya]. At hindi lang ito basta quarantine, isa ito sa pinakamahabang lockdown sa buong mundo,” UPM USC said. “Ang mga healthcare workers natin ay kinakailangan pang humingi at mag-protesta para sila ay mabigyan ng PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] at hazard pay. Ngayon nagsisimula na manumbalik ang F2F [classes], may bagong banta [pa] ng Monkeypox.”
(The government’s militaristic approach to the pandemic is truly a failure. And it’s not just about the quarantine, we have the longest lockdown in the world. Our healthcare workers needed to demand and protest for them to have PPE and hazard pay. Now that face-to-face classes are approaching, the new threat of Monkeypox emerges.)
Day 1 of GASC 53 reached the discussion on the second resolution, authored by the UP Cebu USC and UP Diliman College of Science Student Council (CSSC) on humane, accessible, and appropriate education, but it was put on hold in the interest of time. UPLB USC moved to suspend the session at 10:30 PM.
GASC 53 reconvened on Saturday, August 27, for the resolution building and selection of the 39th SR. [P]
Reports by Mark Ernest Famatigan, Aron Sierva, Alex Delis, Yani Redoblado, and Jeco Gonzalez
Photos by Sonya Castillo and Claire Sibucao
Layout by Arianne Paas