Words by JP Famorcan
Student councils from all constituent units of the University of the Philippines (UP) System gathered in the 53rd General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) to address university-wide and nationwide issues through resolution building last August 27 to 28.
(RELATED STORY: SCs mobilize, deliver unit reports in first day of GASC 53)
Out of 23 filed resolutions, 11 were deliberated and adopted, tackling issues such as the health and education crises, return to face-to-face classes, student welfare, and the recently concluded national elections as well as the upcoming local elections.
Meanwhile, a technical working group will be created to substantiate undiscussed resolutions.
Campaigning for student welfare
The UP Cebu University Student Council (UPC USC) and the UP Diliman College of Science Student Council (UPD CSSC) championed for easing of academic requirements of students in their resolution titled “A Resolution to Uphold and Promote Calls for a Genuine Academic Ease, Safe Reopening of Schools, and a Higher Budget Towards a Humane, Accessible, and Appropriate Education!”
The resolution established that the academic ease policy should include prioritizing the well-being and socio-economic concerns of students instead of being limited to academic retention policies. It also raised awareness on mental issues being encountered due to stress from multiple external factors, and noted that “humane education” is achieved through “compassion towards the students and the faculty.”
The resolution was passed in accordance with Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) Memorandum No. 2021-122, to adopt remote learning academic ease policies beyond the transition period to face-to-face classes.
These policies in particular are the no-fail policy, minimum course load, removal of stringent deadlines, timely feedback for academic requirements, genuine health breaks, and the suspension of Scholastic Delinquency and Maximum Residence Rule.
However, last August 29, the OVPAA released Memorandum No. 22-127 lifting the no-fail policy and other academic policies suspended since the second semester of A.Y. 2019-2020. The minimum 12-unit course load was also reverted to the 15-unit load enforced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a response, mobilizations across the UP System were held to oppose the release of the memorandum.
With the recent and forthcoming transition of Filipino students back to face-to-face classes after more than two years of distance learning, several councils raised their concerns about the status of education in the country with “A Resolution Urging the General Assembly of Student Councils to Further Intensify All Nationwide Education Campaigns and to Amplify the Call for the National Government to Declare an Education Crisis.”
Penned by the UPD College of Education Student Council (CESC), the resolution pushes for the assembly to forge a unified declaration of a need for educational reform.
It also notes the “learning poverty” among Filipino children, one of the highest in the continent, as a point of concern, and denounces the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) proposed by current Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte.
The resolution states, “More than ever, the GASC shall continuously intensify these calls and encourage the masses to form genuine unities […] for the advancement and development of the education system and to address the worsening education crisis.”
Aside from the focus on students’ welfare, the councils also promoted an additional budget for the health and education sector, arguing that proper execution of health protocols in campuses can aid in the safe return to a full-on face-to-face setup with 100% capacity.
UPD College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC), along with UP Visayas College of Arts and Sciences Student Council (UPV CASSC), UP Mindanao (UPMin) College of Humanities and Social Science Student Council (CHSSSC), UP Manila (UPM) CASSC, and UP Los Baños (UPLB) CASSC also filed “A Resolution to Intensify Campaigns for Greater Funding and the Safe Return of Face-to-face Classes for Humanities and Social Science (HUMSS) Courses.”
The councils press for the inclusion of HUMSS courses to priority programs for the transition back to physical learning, asserting how these curricula rely mostly on the application of theory to practice, thus, requiring more budget to revert to the traditional setup.
In relation to student welfare, UPD CSSPSC, UPV School of Technology Student Council (STSC), and UPM Dentistry Student Council (DSC) collaborated to propose “A Resolution to Campaign for Mental Health in the University through Improved Provision of Basic Student Services and Continued Academic Ease,” demanding for the advocacy of mental health among UP students by lessening the academic load and appropriating funds to provide their basic needs.
UPD CSSPSC also submitted another resolution, co-authored by UPD College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC), named “A Resolution Calling for Intensified Efforts and Campaigns for a More Inclusive University Especially for Disabled Stakeholders,” placing importance on the convenience of university structures for disabled students, especially on their return to the campuses.
Affirming that “disabled stakeholders have already experienced a world that’s not built for them and will find the university no different,” the resolution aims to urge the assembly to promote inclusivity by funding for equipment in the campuses that can support and be used by persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Taking a stand on socio-political issues
Moreover, the GASC also approved resolutions discussing other serious socio-political issues that are viewed as of utmost concern in the present. One of these is “A Resolution in a United Stance and Support of the Annual Global Climate Strike Movement,” authored by UPD CSSC and UPV College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Student Council (CFOSSC), which denounces the carbon emission of major companies in the planet, eight coming from the Philippines, contributing to a worldwide problem of pollution.
The resolution demands more action than just promoting individuals to stop using single-use plastic and other small steps in saving Earth and urges large corporations to take accountability and action for the damages they accounted for in the world.
Meanwhile, “A Resolution to Intensify Campaigns Against Continued Oil Price Hike and the Worsening Condition of Transportation Crises in the Philippines,” drafted by various UPV student councils and UP Tacloban Student Council, was also adopted. The resolution advocates against the commercialization of the oil and transport sector, and the continuous plea to junk Oil Deregulation and Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.
Councils are also urged to heighten calls for subsidy for the parties affected by the steep prices of oil and gas, as well as appeal to the government to come up with a more efficient and convenient mass transportation system without jeopardizing the environment.
Furthermore, the board also approved “A Resolution for the General Assembly of Student Councils to Protect the Arts and its Artists,” filed by UPD College of Fine Arts Student Council (CFASC). Aiming to place priority on the freedom of artists to express their opinions and thoughts through their works, the resolution also condemns attacks against progressive creatives.
The resolution also called for the condemnation of the “false art” propagated by the Marcos-Duterte party to spread lies through their propaganda, as well as proper funding towards artistic ventures.
Calls for electoral reform and genuine youth participation
The councils also tackled electoral issues as main points of a number of resolutions that were passed.
Authored by UPM USC and UPM College of Allied Medical Professions Student Council (CAMPSC), “A Resolution Calling for Electoral Reform Towards a Hybrid Manual-Automated System for National and Local Elections” was proposed to seek a change in the system for the national and local polls.
This is to avoid complications such as defective vote-counting machine (VCM) systems, corrupted secure digital (SD) cards, and long lines which were prominent in the last elections.
The resolution pushes for a mix of manual and automatic systems, assuring the transparency of the votes counted while also making the polls accessible for less-technologically advanced Filipinos. Moreover, the proposed hybrid system will also slash the majority of the budget needed as it will only cost around 20-30%, compared to the funds appropriated towards the current system provider Smartmatic.
Though multiple other councils aired their reservations regarding the agenda, the resolution was still adopted, with the GASC forming a technical working group to handle the amendments needed to further improve the contents of the resolution.
Meanwhile, ahead of the upcoming 2022 Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and Barangay Elections, the UPD National College of Public Administration and Governance Student Council (NCPAGSC) lobbied “A Resolution Amplifying the General Assembly of Student Councils to Genuinely Advocate for Youth Participation and Good Governance in the 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections,” stressing the significance of youth participation not just in voting, but in leading their fellow young adults and citizens in their respective communities.
The resolution urges youth leaders to push back against the oppressive methods applied by the current administration and highlights the importance of the SK elections for the representation of the youth sector in the local government units.
Respecting people’s right to health
The UPM Pharmaceutical Association Student Council (PhaSC), along with the UPM Nursing Student Council (NSC) and UPM CASSC, authored 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.” This is in lieu of the current health concerns hampering the nation and the inadequate action of the current government towards the health sector.
Pushing for a “nationalistic, comprehensive, well-functioning, and science-based healthcare system,” the resolution also campaigns for protection of healthcare workers, creating more public health establishments, concrete plans on combatting health issues in the country, and additional budget and attention on scientific research instead of a militarized approach on public health.
“Tunay ngang palpak ang militaristic approach ng ating gobyerno. At hindi lang ito basta quarantine, isa ito sa pinakamahabang lockdown sa buong mundo. Ang mga healthcare workers natin ay kinakailangan pang humingi at magprotesta para sila ay mabigyan ng PPE [personal protective equipment] at hazard pay,” said a representative from the UPM USC.
(The militaristic approach of our government has been proven to be a failure; and this is not just a mere quarantine, this is one of the longest lockdowns worldwide. Our healthcare workers have to beg and protest first before they were given PPE and hazard pay.)
The representative also stressed the importance of a campaign against the ineffective system applied by the Duterte and Marcos administrations in addressing the pandemic, as well as the impending breakout of Monkeypox disease in the Philippines.
In the interest of time, the resolution-building was cut to make way for the deliberations for the 39th Student Regent, wherein UPLB nominee Siegfred Severino was selected (READ: UPLB nominee Siegfred Severino selected as new SR).
Twelve other resolutions were registered but were not deliberated due to time restrictions during the event. Outgoing Student Regent (SR) Renee Co called for the “omnibus approval” of the remaining resolutions, and the formation of the technical working group to deal with the amendments to be made to the undiscussed resolutions.
The following are the resolutions that were not discussed during the GASC.
“A Resolution for the General Assembly of Student Councils to Condemn the Political Alliance of Marcos, Arroyo, and Duterte Dynasties” decries the accord of three infamous and controversial political clans in the country and their pursuit of total control over the country.
Several filed resolutions also fixated on the censorship of the state on certain groups and works and the silencing of critics of the previous and present administration, especially of students from UP. Among these is “A Resolution to Mobilize and Concretize Efforts in Protecting the Basic Rights to Democratic Expression and Academic Freedom”.
Meanwhile, councils backed press workers with “A Resolution for the General Assembly of Student Councils to Strengthen the Campaign to Defend Press Freedom by Resisting Attacks on the Media.”
Councils also campaigned for the condemnation of the recent red-tagging and censorship against certain writers and works which were deemed “subversive” with the “Resolusyon na Naglalayong Lansagin ang Pasistang Atake Laban sa mga Progresibong Panitikan at mga Akademiko, Manunulat, Organisasyon, at mga Tagapagsulong ng Wikang Filipino Partikular sa Suliraning Pagbaba ng Memorandum No. 2022-0663 ng Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) na Pinagtitigil ang Paglalathala at Sirkulasyon ng mga Librong ‘Subersibo.’’’
(RELATED STORY: DHum defends academics, writers after KWF, NTF-ELCAC red-tagging)
“A Resolution to Stand Against Historical Distortion and Censorship and to Defend Historical Records from Information Disorder” was also penned to defend historical accounts from being abused and twisted into false narratives.
The councils also tackled human rights violations and state attacks with “A Resolution Against State Perpetuated Attacks and Call for the Resumption of Peace Talks”, declaring the need for discussions and not aggression in various parts of the country.
Militarization and aggression was also covered in “A Resolution to Intensify System-Wide Efforts to Protect the Environment and Indigenous People Against Development Aggression,” encouraging other councils to support their cause for the safety of IPs and the natural ecosystem against hostile activities by the troops, government, and cronies.
Councils also pushed for amendments in the present economic system to cater to the needs of the common Filipino people with “A Resolution Calling to Uphold Sound and Pro-people Economic Reforms and Policies for Filipino Families Amidst the Economic Crisis.”
Like most other resolutions that have been approved, councils also lobbied for Ligtas na Balik Eskwela, higher fund allocation for the education and health sector, and priority for students’ well-being in “A Resolution to Uphold and Promote Genuine Academic Ease, Open the Schools Now, and Clamor for Higher Budget for Education and Health!”
They also underscored the importance of students’ health by submitting “A Resolution Demanding Greater Budget for the University of the Philippines Health Services (UPHS).”
“A Resolution to Intensify the Call for ‘No to Commercialization’ for a Sustainable and Inclusive Development in UP Diliman Spaces” was drafted to ensure a safe, clean, and nature-friendly environment inside the campus.
Lastly, councils sought to promote and support the aspiring performers in the student bodies in the UP system by presenting “A Resolution Calling for a Systemwide Campaign to Empower and Endorse the Performing Arts Programs and Organizations of the UP System.” [P]