Words by Mark Angelo Fabreag and Ali Pine
Ex-UPLB Chancellor Dr. Fernando Sanchez, Jr. drew wide opposition from the UP community after being nominated as the University’s next president.
Last December 7, the General Assembly of Student Councils adopted a resolution denouncing Sanchez’s nomination. A coalition, “No More Chances, Sanchez”, was established by UPLB students to enjoin and mobilize the whole UP System for the similar campaign.
It was made clear by UPLB student leaders that their opposition on Sanchez’s nomination is over his “anti-constituent policies, notorious absences in dialogues, and lack of compassion and sense of urgency”. Rise for Education – UPLB also called Sanchez’s term “undemocratic” over his failure to protect students’ academic freedom.
To look back at his chancellorship – what led constituents to deem him as “anti-student” and “anti-worker” – the UPLB Perspective conducted a series of interviews with students and faculty who experienced Sanchez’s infamous term.
During Sanchez’s term as UPLB chancellor, he flipped the coin from being assertive in student’s needs and saying that everything can be resolved through dialogue to being an “absentee” administration marred with controversies (READ: Incoming Chancellor Sanchez to push for ‘happy workforce’).
Sanchez neglected student representation in planning the renovation of the Student Union (SU) Building which serves as home of student welfare offices and student institutions such as University Student Council (USC), UPLB Perspective [P], and the Textbook Exchange and Rental Center (TERC) in 2015. The said renovation includes removal of student institution offices and commercialization of the building (READ: Chancellor Sanchez delays SU renovation).
With this, students highlighted the lack of student inclusion in his term.
In an exclusive interview with UPLB Perspective, 2020-2021 UPLB University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Jainno Bongon shared the same sentiment. He emphasized the administration’s deficient policy and planning actions in the SU renovation due to the fact that the blueprint released by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) did not include the offices of USC and UPLB Perspective, which he described as a rude act by the administration.
“Kabastos-bastos siya sa student institutions dahil ang SU mismo ay pinananawagan natin bilang student center. Ito’y attempt to water down the legitimacy at autonomy of student institutions dahil kahanay natin ang mga UPLB offices,” he said.
(They instantly disregard these student institutions, considering that the SU building has a long history of calls and petitions to be a full student center in the University. This is an attempt to water down the legitimacy and autonomy of student institutions because we are in line with other UPLB offices.)
Bongon indicated that under Sanchez’s term, there was a lack of safe spaces and learning hubs for students to study and express themselves, and failure to include student leaders in administrative meetings concerning students themselves.
Bongon recalled that it was a challenging time at the University during Sanchez’s term, where student movements are restricted and controlled as Sanchez had no commitment to making making the campus a safe haven under the Anti-Terrorism Law (READ: Sanchez legacy: A tragedy).
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, has been widely opposed by lawmakers and various progressive groups in the country, with its vague provisions and being weaponized against progressive groups and activists.
On Sanchez’s UP President nomination, Bongon said that Sanchez’s nomination is a major threat considering that multiple anti-people and anti-student policies were implemented during his term. Some were the removal of organizations’ “tambayan“. There is also no space for artists and theater students inside the University; they just practiced at the corners of the campus, even late at night.
He also pointed out that it was only during Sanchez’s term that the “freshmen recruitment ban” was implemented, which violated students’ rights to organize, mobilize, and self-expression. This ban hindered UPLB freshmen from joining academic and progressive organizations in the University.
Under Sanchez’s term, UP dormitories’ residents were also restricted to follow the Residence Halls Agreement contract, which implemented a random inspection of all rooms of students in the dormitory.
During the pandemic, Rise for Education-UPLB summarized how students suffered under Sanchez’s six-year term of “colonial, commercialized, and undemocratic” education. Students’ calls were even more fueled as the pandemic struck, as Sanchez was again bidding for the chancellorship. Several UPLB stakeholders established the No to Third Term Coalition (N3TC) to counter the reelection of Sanchez Jr. as chancellor and to ensure the end of his leadership in UPLB (READ: Coalition against Sanchez’ third term established).
Struggles under SAIS
Under Sanchez’s term, the Student Academic Information System (SAIS) was first implemented in 2016, which became a huge struggle for students to register due to its various technical failures.
The whole SAIS fiasco led to the first “First Day Rage,” during which more than 800 students and faculty members marked the first day classes in August 2016 with a protest, which called to #JunkSAIS, to extend the registration, and to hold the UP administration accountable (READ: #JunkSAIS | UPLB students: ‘The students, united, will never be defeated!’).
Ever since its full actuation and faulty performance, the student body have long asserted for numerous dialogues with various members of the UPLB administration in the hopes of a substantial change in anti-student policies. However, there was no response from the administration. It also denied its registration postponement after not all students can access the site due to Internet connectivity and accessing issues (READ: Glitch in the system: A history of SAIS and the six-year clamor for its junking).
“During dialogues naman, declined usually ang dialogues during his term. Mabibilang ko lang yata sa mga daliri ko yung times na nakasama siya isang dialogue, during my four years as a student leader sa University. Tinatakasan niya talaga yung responsibilidad niya as chancellor. Tinatakasan niya na ma-hold siya into account dahil sa kaniyang kakulangan [sa trabaho],” Bongon added.
(Dialogues during his term were usually declined. I can only count on my fingers the number of times he showed up for a dialogue during my four years as a student leader. It seems like he has been continuously running away from his duties as chancellor and is scared to be held accountable due to his lacking capabilities in his duties.)
Furthermore, Sanchez’s administration demonstrated its negligence once more during the 2017 First Day Rage protest, when students militantly asserted their rights to a formal dialogue to address the hiatus in the registration of the first semester of A.Y. 2017-2018. This was after having confusion from the series of memos released before the start of the semester regarding the suspension of tuition fee collection.
The University Police Force (UPF) and the Community Service Brigade (CSB) formed a barricade to block the Main Library entrance resulting in heated tension. Students’ woes led to damages to the main library door, where three UPLB students were charged with violation of Section 2(j) of the Rules and Regulations on Student Conduct and Discipline (READ: UPLB students face disciplinary charges over broken glass door).
Unsafe from red-tagging
Bongon also expressed his disappointment as he pointed out Sanchez’s failure in protecting students against red-tagging.
In 2019, state forces red-tagged student leaders and organizations as Sanchez welcomed the AFP (Armed Force of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) in an NSTP 1 (National Service Training Program) lecture, where they used it as a platform for cautionary tales for student-activists.
“Hindi siya tumitindig para protektahan ang kalayaan na mag-express ng mga CU [constituent units] kahit noong kasagsagan ng Anti-Terror Law, wala siyang ginawa. Kabastos-bastos talaga [ang kaniyang ginawa] bilang maraming atake ang natanggap ng University mula state forces. Sampal talaga na nag-invite siya [during NSTP lecture] ng mga state forces,” he added.
(He did not even stand to protect the freedom of expression of Constituent Units amid the Anti-Terror Law. It was really disrespectful since there were numerous attacks from state forces on the University. What he did was a slap in the face to his constituents.)
(RELATED STORY: UPLB progressives condemn red-tagging in NSTP webinar).
Students held a mobilization to call out Sanchez’s administration for its negligence in protecting them from AFP’s human rights violations.
Ashley Corpuz, one of the students in the DL Umali where NSTP forum was conducted, narrated in a 2021 interview, “Nang-red-tag ng orgs and individuals bigla yung mga militar na nagpe-present. After noon ay nagalit [ang] mga estudyante [at] nagsigawan ng ‘Shame!’, tapos ni-lock nila yung mga pinto para ‘di kami makalabas tapos nagpa-forum sila sa loob.”
(The military who were presenting red-tagged organizations and individuals. After that, it enraged students and they yelled ‘Shame!’, and then the doors were locked so that we would not be able to exit, and then they proceeded with the forum.)
(RELATED STORIES: State forces’ “peace forums” used as latest avenue for red-tagging scheme ; ‘Hindi mali ang pakikibaka’: UPLB students push to keep campus a safe haven after alarming police presence in Brgy. Batong Malake, Los Baños).
‘No more chances, Sanchez!’
Bongon highlighted the lack of urgency and absences of Sanchez in dialogues and assertion of students’ calls.
“Naging notorious siya as absentee during critical times sa loob ng University during registration periods. Lumalapit sa kaniya ang mga estudyante lalo sa failure ng SAIS, petition for courses, student loan, ngunit palagi siyang wala sa opisina niya,” he said.
(He was notorious for being absent during critical times inside the University, especially during registration periods. Students would contact him during this time due to SAIS failure, course petitions, and student loans, but they would be unable to reach him because he was not in his office.)
Bongon strongly opposes Sanchez to be the UP President and calls for a pro-student and pro-people UP President that will protect and listen to the calls of every student democratically.
“Kaya kung siya man ay magiging UP President, magiging daan lang ito upang mas mabibigyan lang siya ng kapangyarihan sa loob ng Unibersidad upang mag-implement ng mga anti-people at anti-student policies. Hindi na lamang sa UPLB pero sa buong UP System at nakita na natin ‘yon sa past term ni Fernando Sanchez Jr. bilang chancellor ng UPLB. Hindi deserve talaga ng UP System na maluklok si [former] Chancellor Sanchez bilang UP President,” he said.
(If he were to be chosen as the next UP President, it would only be a platform for him to have autonomy within the University and implement anti-people and anti-student policies. Not just in UPLB but also in the whole UP System, as we have seen in his past administration as chancellor of UPLB. The UP System does not deserve to have someone like former Chancellor Sanchez as the next UP President.)
A coalition, No More Chances, Sanchez, was established by UPLB students to enjoin and mobilize the whole UP System in campaigning against Sanchez’s nomination. Sanchez is among six nominees vying to become the next UP President. Selection for the position will be done by the BOR on December 9. [P]
This is the first article of a three-part coverage. To read more about the rise in Maximum Residency Rule (MRR) and readmission cases under Sanchez’s term, click here. To read more about the challenges that the faculty faced under Sanchez’s term, click here.
For more background about Sanchez, his mission and vision as a nominee, and his responses to critical questions during forums for UP Presidential nominees, follow this link.