UP bids goodbye to Final Four, seniors

Text by Luisa Morales

Photo by Mark Kevin Reginio

Time has come for the curtain call.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons close their season with a loss, bowing down to the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws in three sets, 16-25, 16-25, 25-27, at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan, Wednesday.

In a heartbreaking loss, the Diliman squad failed to book a final four ticket; finishing the season with a 7-7 win-loss card.

UP kept it close at the start of the match, playing at pace with the Tamaraws. By the middle of the set, State U only trailed by 2, 16-14.

However, the Lady Tamaraws gained steam coming from the technical timeout. A dominating 9-2 run at end the set gave FEU a 1-0 lead, 25-16.

It was another neck-and-neck start in the second set, both teams scoring back and forth. The Lady Tamaraws held a single point advantage over UP, 8-7.

But another huge run from the Sampaloc-based squad helped them pull away from the struggling Lady Maroons. At one point of the set, FEU was up by 10, 21-11.

Despite a late run from UP, the deficit proved too big to overcome.

FEU took a commanding 2-0 lead, 25-16.

Trailing by two sets, the Diliman squad looked out of the fight. It was a slow start for State U at the beginning of the third set, with FEU up 4-0.

But a crucial run brought UP back into the set. Scoring six straight points, the Lady Maroons held a three-point advantage by the first technical timeout, 8-5.

Eager to extend the match, the Lady Maroons battled to keep themselves alive.

FEU was at match point, 24-21 but UP wasn’t going down just yet. Late game heroics from veterans Kathy Bersola and Nicole Tiamzon powered the Maroons to extend the set.

The whole arena was on their feet with the teams tied at 25-all. But questionable calls from the officials gave FEU the match, 27-25.

The loss signaled the end of the season for the Lady Maroons. And for veterans Bersola, Tiamzon and Princess Gaiser, everything has come to an end.

The match was the culmination of the trio’s career in UP.

Despite the disappointing loss, Tiamzon remains grateful for the opportunity to play for the Lady Maroons for five consecutive years.

“Wala kaming ibang masasabi kundi thank you sa limang taon na binigay niyo rin sa’min na pagtitiwala, sa limang taon na privilege to play for UP, ” she said.

Bersola, who regrets not being a hundred percent in the 14 games they played, believes that they were able to re-establish UP as a Final Four contender team, especially after they were able to enter the Final Four last season after missing the semifinals for 12 years.

“Siguro yung pinaka legacy namin is sinubukan talaga namin ibalik yung winning ways sa UP, the former skipper said.

Gaiser, who is now recovering from a torn ACL, takes pride in the fight her teammates showed.

She kept reminding her teammates to “play with passion and pride and play because you want to.”

The final games of the elimination on Saturday will feature a battle for the top seed between the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Lady Eagles and the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Spikers, while the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses will try to hang on to the third spot and eliminate the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs.

BOTONG ISKO: Hot Off 2017 sparks debate on frat politics, student representation

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Dale Calanog

This year’s Student Council Elections (SCE) continues to blaze as University Student Council (USC) aspirants and College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) candidates squared off in Hot Off the Grill 2017 at the CMC Auditorium, Tuesday.

Addressing questions thrown by their would-be constituents, USC bets from KAISA – Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA) and Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) as well as independent councilor runners Paolo Sevilla and Carlos Cabaero gave insights on the issues such as free education, the Socialized Tuition System (STS) and student consultations with the Board of Regents, among others.

The issue of fraternity politics did not also escape public eye as KAISA standard-bearers Leandro Anton Castro and Jose Rafael Toribio, who are both members of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity, were asked on how they would face and lead the student body, when their fraternity glorifies one of its brothers, former President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.

“I don’t glorify Ferdinand Marcos; however, in our fraternity, we recognized him as our history,” Castro clarified.

STAND UP chairperson aspirant Ben Te argued against this, saying that the golden era of Martial Law is but an illusion.

“Hindi maliit na bagay ‘yung nangyari noong Batas Militar,” Te said. He added that in essence, Martial Law stepped on the rights of the Filipinos.

Te added that there should be no hesitation in condemning a dictator, especially for UP students,  who, in history opposed Martial Law and the Marcos regime.

“Siya [Marcos] po sa huli’t huli ay isang diktador. Kapag kinondena po natin ang isang diktador, kinukundena natin ito nang buong-buo, the chaiperson candidate said.  

Toribio further explained that while Upsilon recognizes Marcos as part of their fraternity’s history, its members do not discredit the atrocities he has committed during his administration.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has tallied 70,000 illegally arrested individuals, 34,000 torture victims as well as 3,240 slain through summary executions during the Martial Law period. The same organization also recorded 1,000 victims of enforced disappearances during the said era.

Besides countless human rights violations, the Marcos regime also brought about massive inequality, with 42 percent of the Filipino population living below the poverty line by 1980, according to data from the World Bank.

“After all, as part of the fraternity, our loyalty is with the country,” the KAISA vice chairperson hopeful said.

Marcos was not the only Upsilonian brought up during the forum as both Castro and Toribio were asked to assess their fraternity brother, former UP President Alfredo Pascual, and his six-year term as the university’s top official.

“As a brod lahat ng ating analysis in line with what is better for the students and the people,” Toribio said.

“We are clear in condemning what happen during his administration,” he added, saying that KAISA continues the call to hold Pascual accountable.

Meanwhile, his running mate, Castro, said he was able to register his dissent towards Pascual whenever he and the former UP president would run into each other.

STAND UP councilor Almira Abril spoke against this, however, saying KAISA has been missing in action when it comes to calling out Pascual.

“Dito makikita natin na ang KAISA ata, hobby nila na maging missing in action sa mga pagkilos ng mga estudyante na nagpapanawagan ng pagcall-out sa isang presidente na walang ibang ginawa kundi pahirapan ang sa estudyante,” Abril said.

The discussion among CMCSC bets was just as heated.

Assessment of the present CMCSC as well as issues of each CMC department dominated the forum, with the hopefuls addressing questions both from the audience and their fellow candidates.

With CMCSC broadcast communication representatives hailing from UP CMC Interdependent Student-centered Activism (UP CMC ISA) for the past two years, this year’s broadcast communication bets Chino Mendiola and Arlan Jondonero were asked  to determine their party’s stand on laboratory fees.

“Nailatag nila [past broadcast communication representatives] lahat ng concerns sa kanilang pakikipag-usap sa administration,” Jondonero said.

Mendiola also brought up the Rise for Education Alliance (R4E), saying that most broadcast communication constituents do not agree with the walkouts proposed by the said alliance.

R4E is an alliance of student councils and publications, youth organizations, members of the academe, parents, and the out-of-school youth from different colleges, universities, and communities, who are fighting for accessible education for all.

Its local chapter in CMC has organized different forms of protest, from free haircuts against budget cuts to dance protests for free education and human rights, aside from the regular call for walkout against lab fees and other school fees and the Socialized Tuition System (STS).

“Naniniwala po kami na bilang isang political party, fino-forward ng R4E na highest point ang mobilization,” the broadcast communication representative bet answered. “Naniniwala kami na negative ang naibibigay na message sa mga walkout.”

This was countered by opposing candidate Nickolo Domingo of STAND UP CMC, who said the R4E Alliance does not require its members to participate in the walkouts.

“Lahat tayo naniniwala sa Rise for Education Alliance, na lahat ng kaya nating iambag para sa pagpapabasura ng laboratory fees at upang maisulong ang ating karapatan sa edukasyon, ay ating gagawin, pag-walkout man ‘yan o hindi o kung ano pang mga porma na nakikita natin,” he said.

The issue of student representation was also highlighted during the debate.

With STAND UP CMC lobbying against the students’ Magna Carta, UP CMC ISA USC representative runner Mary Nicole Fabian questioned STAND UP CMC’s ability to represent the students as their party is against the document that garnered 94 percent of favorable votes from 7,000 students from last year’s referendum.

STAND UP CMC chairperson aspirant Mikko Ringia quickly countered Fabian’s point.

“Hindi kailangan ng Magna Carta dahil jinu-justify niya ang commercialization ng edukasyon,” Ringia said.

Meanwhile, UP CMC ISA, which has been for the passage of the Magna Carta since its drafting, was asked by a member of the audience on whether they would change their stand on the issue, should students be against it in a referendum.

“Makikinig tayo sa mga estudyante,” said UP CMC ISA chairperson bet Arjay Torno. He added that they will always side with the students.

Voting for SCE begins tomorrow, 8 a.m. Students are required to bring their UP ID or Form 5 in order to cast their vote.

BOTONG ISKO: CSSP SC bets clash over Magna Carta

By Jeuel Barroso

College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSP SC) bets clashed at the discussion of the students’ Magna Carta in PASABOG, CSSP’s annual SC election debate at the Palma Hall Lobby, Friday.

Drafted by the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman University Student Council (USC) 2014-2015, the Magna Carta is a codified list of UP students’ rights that cannot be found in any other university document.

While the Magna Carta has yet to be lobbied to the UP administration as of January, the issue remains a hot topic among SC hopefuls.

SALiGAN sa CSSP (SALiGAN) councilor candidate Christopher Kahulugan explained that his party is against the Magna Carta because the document surrenders students’ rights to the Board of Regents (BOR), which, according to SALiGAN, has been proven anti-student throughout the years.

He further stated that the Magna Carta allows the BOR to increase tuition fees and undermines the power of the student movement.

“Napatunayan naman natin… na hindi natin kailangan ng isang codified set of rights para ipaglaban ang ating mga karapatan,” Kahulugan said.

However, BUKLOD CSSP (BUKLOD) Vice Chairperson hopeful Mariel Louisse Cunanan argued against this, citing the board’s power over UP’s tuition fees as long as there is student consultation.

“The BOR has the right to increase our tuition fee,” said Cunanan. “Hindi pinapayagan ng Magna Carta ang tuition fee increase. Almost lahat ng problema natin, natutuunan ng Magna Carta.”

Independent Philosophy Department Representative candidate Kwen Kwen Cabalag also supported the need for the Magna Carta to ensure students’ rights.

“We have to have a legal, concrete document that will ensure our rights as students,” Cabalag said. “It’s not about talking about your rights… we have the right to have this legal document.”

Meanwhile, independent chairperson runner Allyson Maraon stressed that the Magna Carta for Students’ Rights complements the student movement, adding that the fact that a lone student representation in the BOR must be addressed to eliminate the BOR-related contentions against the Magna Carta.

“Patuloy pa rin nating ipaglalaban ang Magna Carta for students’ rights kaakibat ng ating pag-push for more student representation sa BOR,” he said. “Hindi Magna Carta ang end-all, be-all solusyon sa unibersidad.”

Maraon was formerly SALiGAN’s bet for the CSSP SC’s top post before deciding to run an independent bid to forward his stand on the Magna Carta.

During the debate, he clarified that he was given a choice by the CSSP College Student Electoral Board to stay under SALiGAN or revoke his candidacy. Formally, Maraon remains under the party; however, he runs unaffiliated.

Later in the event, Maraon also admitted his mistake in his Facebook post, now deleted, which read that SALiGAN and the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) imposed on him to go against Magna Carta.

“SALiGAN and STAND UP did not impose anything on me,” he said. “Sinasabi sa statements na nag-impose sila. Mali po ako.”

Maraon also clarified that educational discussions were conducted in the SALiGAN slate and that he was able to express his contentions of being pro-Magna Carta.

Bringing the debate to a college-level discourse, the candidates addressed impending relocation of CSSP organizations’ tambayans, which had been assessed as fire hazards by the Campus Maintenance Office.

BUKLOD councilor aspirant Kristine Kyla De Torres affirmed the rights of UP students to organize and to have their own spaces as per the CSSP SC Constitution, which states that corresponding spaces must be provided to organizations upon their transferring.

De Torres was supported by her slatemate, BUKLOD chairperson candidate Lorenzo Miguel  Relente who added that his party has been forwarding these tambayan guidelines for years along with the CSSP SC.

This was countered by SALiGAN vice chairperson candidate Renz Pasigpasigan, who asked if BUKLOD had consulted CSSP organizations on the demolitions during the previous years.

According to Pasigpasigan, SALiGAN cooperated with the Rise for Education Alliance to write to the CSSP administration to delay the demolition.

“Tayo sa SALiGAN sa CSSP, malinaw sa atin na hindi lang mere document ‘yung ating ginagamit para itaguyod ang ating karapatan, bagkus ‘yung sama-samang pagkilos at pagtindig ng mga konsensya ng bayan para sa ating karapatan sa tambayan,” he said.

BUKLOD’s Cunanan rebutted by saying that the Magna Carta is not a simple document but one that enforces student rights, not just tambayan guidelines.

Independent runner Maraon shared the same sentiment, adding that the Magna Carta can provide students’ tambayan rights.

“Ngunit kaabikat nito [Magna Carta] dapat din nating ipagpatuloy ang kakayahan ng student movement para patuloy na i-assert ang ating karapatan,” he added.

Besides discussing the students’ Magna Carta, the CSSP bets also debated on the Free Higher Education for All Act, the influx of new establishments in UP, as well as government accountability for the homeless occupying idle housing projects at Pandi, Bulacan.

BOTONG ISKO: USC councilor bets debate on free education

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Pathricia Roxas

With the impending responsibility of representing the University of the Philippines (UP) student body, UP Diliman University Student Council (USC) candidates expressed their sentiments on free education at UPFRONT 2017, Thursday.

In the largest USC election forum held at the UP Film Institute, the USC councilor aspirants explained their respective stances on the issue and proposed alternatives to the current state of the country’s education sector.

“Simula’t sapul malinaw ang tindig ng STAND UP (Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP) that we are for free education, not just free but also nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented,” said STAND UP councilor bet Almira Abril.

Abril further rooted the cause of the absence of free education in UP to “neoliberal attacks” such as the Socialized Tuition System (STS), which decides students’ tuition discounts via an online questionnaire.

The system has been in the works since 2011 but was first implemented in the first semester of 2014.

The councilor hopeful also expressed opposition against the Magna Carta for Students’ Rights, which she claimed would only legalize STS.

“Yung mga dating nagsasabi na ang edukasyon ay isang pribilehiyo, biglang nagsasabi na karapatan na raw ang edukasyon,” she said.

“Kailangan maging malinaw ang tindig ng STAND UP; tayo ay para sa libreng edukasyon, para sa lahat, regardless kung may kakayanan kang magbayad o wala,” Abril added.

UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA) councilor aspirant Cassie Deluria argued against this, however.

“UP ALYANSA has always been for accessible education, and the reason why we say accessible is because we have to remember that even when everybody’s tuition is free, there are still other expenses that will prevent other UP students from coming here to UP,” Deluria said.

She also emphasized that while students deserve free tuition, student leaders must also question its accessibility in terms of transportation, dormitories, books, and other expenses.

The ALYANSA councilor also said their party was part of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, the team that drafted the Free Higher Education for All Act.  

“This bill is not yet free education that we deserve,” Deluria said. “And until it is, we are not ready to stop fighting for accessible education for everybody, for every Filipino student.”

The Senate Bill 1304, approved on its final reading by Senate last March 13, aims to provide a tuition-free policy in the country’s 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) and private higher learning and vocational institutions. However, students can only qualify based on merits, similar to UP’s STS.

Independent councilor candidate Paolo Sevilla also vouched for accessible education, saying that it would be possible if students would not let it turn into a business.

“[Education] should not be commercialized. I believe that we should fight not only for free education, but free basic social services,” he added.

KAISA-Nagkakaisang Iskolar Para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan councilor runner Arvin Agapay also agreed with Sevilla and said that education should not be a businsses but a right.

Agapay also expressed his party’s support for free education that goes beyond college education.

“Kailangan pati na rin sa primary [at] secondary [level] ay free ang ating education, dahil ang buong education system ang kailangan natin ina-address as an issue,” Agapay said.

Independent councilor hopeful Carlos Cabaero also expressed his support for quality and accessible education; however, he also brought up other sectors in need of funding besides the education sector.

“When we talk about 8.5 billion going towards free education, we also need to think that yes, it gives access to the poor, which is something that we want,” Cabaero said.

“But it also gives funding to people who are rich and people who can pay,” he added.

The aspiring councilor further explained that the every funding that goes to those who can pay “is less funding in ways to improve our educational resources.”

“And that’s why we believe that we need the money to go to the sectors of the people that need it the most,” Cabaero said.

Abril, however, rebutted Cabaero’s statement, saying that free education will not cut the allotment for other sectors.

“Walang matatanggal sa free education. Ang matatanggal lang ay yung kita ng unibersidad na hinuhuthot mula sa bulsa ng bawat isa sa atin,” the STAND UP councilor said.

“Magbibigay siya ng access sa mga anak ng magsasaka, manggagawa, katutubo na hanggang sa kasalukuyang ay hindi nakakatamasa ng edukasyon,” she added.

As for independent councilor aspirant Juan Gonzaga, he believes that every student deserves free education.

“Everybody deserves a right to learn about our futures and everything that we need to equip ourselves for a better future,” said Gonzaga.

Besides free education, the USC bets also discussed other issues such as the General Education reform and the improvement of the registration process in UP, among others.

Meanwhile, Deluria insisted the STS be fixed, despite the system being criticized as “ineffective and a profiteering scheme” by student groups.

“If it’s a question of a system that doesn’t work, then we’re going to work to fix it. If it’s a question of equality inside the university then we can look at reforming taxes outside so it will be equal for everybody,” Deluria said.

Sevilla however, rebutted it saying that free education and having a system which commercializes and turns it into a profiteering scheme do not go together.

“If a system is fundamentally dysfunctional, if a system is fundamentally oppressive, you do not fix it, you remove it,” Sevilla said.

UP falls to UST in three sets, puts Final Four spot on the line

Text by Luisa Morales

Photo by Mark Kevin Reginio

Diliman fans are holding their breaths for the Final Four.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons failed to cement their spot in the Final Four in their first attempt, as they bowed down to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses in straight sets, 20-25, 21-25, 16-25, at the Mall of Asia Arena, Sunday.

The game started out tight, with both teams going at it. Neither team was giving up any ground, and the ecstatic crowd was at the edge of their seats with every rally.

It was neck and neck until the second technical timeout with UST up only by a point, 16-15, but the España squad pulled away late in the set with blocks and costly errors from the Lady Maroons to draw first blood, 25-20.

Things looked brighter for State U in the second set. Starting out strong, the Diliman team held a five-point cushion in the middle of the set, 11-6.

However, a barrage of attacks from the Tigresses proved too much for the Lady Maroons. UST dominated the rest of the set to take a 2-0 lead against UP, 25-21.

By the third set, the Maroon squad looked out of steam. Riding on the momentum of their 2-0 lead, UST pounded State U leading at one point by 10.

Despite a mini-run from State U courtesy of veteran Nicole Tiamzon, UST’s lead proved too big to overcome.

The Tigresses eventually won the match, 25-16.

Sophomore Tots Carlos led State U with eight points while Isa Molde and Tiamzon contributed seven markers each.

Ennajie Laure powered UST with 15 points, while skipper Cherry Ann Rondina followed closely behind with 14.

“They [UST] really played well, and it was, again, our errors that killed us,” UP Captain Ayel Estrañero said.

State U ended the match with 26 errors, five more than UST’s 21.

The Lady Maroons are set for a do-or-die match for a Final Four spot against Far Eastern University (FEU) on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

“There is no time to be down after this game. Kailangan namin bumawi, kailangan gandahan ang training to gain some confidence going into Wednesday’s game,” the captain said.

Fight for holistic UP education continues for concerned faculty, students

By Nacho Domingo

In condemnation of the University Council’s (UC) approval of the General Elective (GE) reform, the Sagip GE Alliance, composed of faculty and students opposing the reduction of minimum required GE units from 45 to 21, held a press conference March 28 at the Palma Hall steps to fight for holistic UP education.

Speakers hailing from different college faculties in UP united in the belief that the GE reform will deny UP students a well-rounded education and instead, will funnel them into employment for international corporations.

“Kailangang pagtibayin pa ang GE program, pagyamanin at di ito mapapayaman sa 21 units,” said UP Professor Vlad Gonzales of Tanggol Wika.

Currently, the university follows the Revised General Education Program (RGEP), which was first implemented in 2012. It requires students to take 15 units each of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and Math, Science and Technology subjects.

According to journalism professor and member of Sagip GE Alliance Danilo Arao, the importance of GE units lies in providing students with a broad skill set, rather than one that only focuses on subjects directly related to the career paths offered by a degree.

“Ang layunin nito ay mapalawak ang ating isipan. Kailangan natin ma-expose sa iba’t ibang disiplina anuman ang ating spesyalisasyon,” said Arao.

On the other hand, Professor Mico Panis of the Industrial Engineering department defended the reduction of units, saying it will allow engineering programs to be completed in four years instead of five.

“In my opinion, this allows us to stay competitive and attractive with other engineering universities,” Panis said in a separate interview.

Panis also said, “[The] GE reform also removes redundancies ng ibang subjects na natuturo na dapat sa K-12,” adding that GE units are not the only ones to be reduced but also major and cognate subjects.

In contrast, Arao believes that part of what Sagip GE calls “Tatak UP” is how the program develops students’ critical thinking and interrelational skills.

Despite many of the students branding these subjects as unnecessary and a burden to enlist, he said, Arao believes in the values that these develop in the students.

“Ang kailangan lang natin tandaan nung nangyari noong March 20. Nagwagi ang pro-21 proposal para bawasan itong sinasabi nating hybrid general education program,” Arao said.

This was in reference to the poll held among UP professors on March 27. During this meeting,  302 members of voted for, 31 voted against, and 41 abstained the implementation of the reform.

He also said the votes in favor of the reform coming from the Colleges of Science and Engineering played a big hand in its approval, as they account for over 46 percent of the UP student population.

Nevertheless, Arao believes that despite the decision, the fight for a well-rounded education is still ongoing.

“Tuloy-tuloy ang laban, at sa kasaysayan ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, malaki ang posibilidad na marereverse ang mga desisyon lalo na’t mayroong malinaw na public pressure mula sa estudyante at alumni,” added Arao.

Meanwhile, USC Chairperson Bryle Leaño described the reform as a neoliberal attack on education that continues to exploit the students.

“Sabi pa nga ni Chancellor Michael Tan na tayo ay narerestructure ng GE reform upang matapos ang ating pag-aaral sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas,” said Leaño.

“Tayo ay matutulak na maghanap ng trabaho sa mga malalaking korporasyon hindi man sa loob ng Pilipinas kundi sa labas.”

Leaño then described how GE program’s restructuring does not suit the needs of a country like the Philippines, which is heavier on agriculture than science and engineering fields.

He concluded his speech by stating the importance of instilling an educational program that suits the needs of the country.

“Dapat alamin natin kung ano ba ang pangangailangan ng Pilipinas upang tunay na mailapat natin ang ating kagalingan at tunay na magspecialize tayo para sa sambayanan,” said Leaño.

The official approval of the GE reform will take place in a Board of Regents meeting at Quezon Hall on April 5.

Along with progressive student groups, Sagip GE has called for another mobilization to take place in protest of the reform’s implementation.

Sakadas continue fight against labor violations, seek support from government

By Ara Nacario

Three months after being rescued from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Bukidnon-based migratory cane cutters—more commonly known as sakadas—filed their third labor exploitation complaint March 20, against recruiter Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative (GLSC) and principal employer Agrikulto Inc.

The 17 sakadas filed their most recent formal complaint at the National Labor Relations Commission Regional Arbitration Board (NLRCB) in San Fernando, Pampanga, while their first two filed in the Cagayan de Oro city branch of NLRCB two months ago.

“Ang habol namin [sa pagtatrabaho sa Tarlac] ay yung malaking sweldo na pinangakong maka-700 sa isang araw,” one of the sakadas said.

“Isipin mo yung 700 kada araw, tapos libre pa lahat, sino naman hindi sasama dun.”

National progressive group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) rescued and brought the sakadas to the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City after traveling from Tarlac.

The sakadas were all recruited from Brgy. Pangantucan in Bukidnon Province. The recruiter rented a bus to bring all the sakadas to Hacienda Luisita in November 2016.

A few weeks into their five-month work contract, the sakadas escaped Brgy. Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City after suffering from exploitation under the hands of their recruiter in the 6453-hectare hacienda.

‘Tarlac package’

According to UMA, Cojuangco-led firm Agrikulto requested recruitment agency Greenhand Labor Service Inc. to produce around 1,000 cane cutters to work in Hacienda Luisita.

Currently, Agrikulto Inc., a Filipino company that farms and markets sugarcanes and leases land for these purposes, is the biggest owner of the illicit leaseback system in Hacienda Luisita. A leaseback is an arrangement where the buyer of a property leases it back to the seller.

Davao-based sakada Edmond Prayon recalled how a certain Greenhand recruiter “Bong” promised daily P450 to P700 in wages, additional cash, benefits including hospitalization, PAG-IBIG, PhilHealth and SSS and P1500 worth of groceries, along with free hotel accommodation, clothing and workwear.

The victims said they were previously given an initial payment of P2,500 and told it was all part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “livelihood program.”

“Pinangako nila sa amin na bibigyan nila kami ng P5,000 tapos yung P2,500 muna yung ibigay nila sa amin para may maiwan sa pamilya,” Prayon said. “Ngayon, ang sinabi nila, yung natirang P2,500 po, pagdating ng Tarlac, saka na nila ibigay.”

On a normal day, sakadas earn P200 a day for their labor in Mindanao. They also had to pay for their own food, provide food for their own families, and transportation.

Parang ‘selda’

Sakadas coming from different provinces including Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Koronadal, Pampanga and South Cotabato arrived in batches in Tarlac.

They stayed in poorly-ventilated, constrained compounds they described as “selda,” with windows obstructed with metal bars. Their compound was located near the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

They had to endure the heat, bad smell coming from the main plantation and poor facilities. They were guarded with armed security men and were not allowed to leave at night. The sakadas slept on the floor with only carton sheets.

“Nung nag-umpisa na kaming magtrabaho eh walang tubig kasi malayo yung pinagtrabahuhan namin tsaka yung pagkain, kaunti lang. Kaya yung iba, medyo nagkasakit na dahil sa sobrang init at sobrang pagod,” Prayon said.

There were many nights when they had to make do with what little amount of food that they were given.

“Sampu kami, isang kilo lang ibibigay sa isang grupo. Tapos limang piraso ng sardinas, tapos, limang pirasong noodles. Hindi naman magkakasya ‘yun,” another sakada, Bernie Caha said.

They said they were also forced to work from 4 a.m. until 5 p.m. even with empty stomachs. For their labor, the agency only provided panapas or bolo used to cut canes.

“Pangako rin ‘yang [mga helmet], wala nga kaming dalang jacket kasi ang sabi ‘wag na kaming magdala dahil libre lahat doon (sa Tarlac). ‘Yung helmet, gwantes, botas, wala. Yung panapas lang po ang binigay,” Prayon said.

These conditions led to the cane cutters suffering coughs, fever and colds, which eventually left one dead.

Based on the payrolls UMA reported, the sakadas received weekly wages from P 66.21 to P 898.20 a week, which ranges from P 9.46 to P 128.31 per day. In Central Luzon, the supposed minimum wage for plantation agricultural workers is P 334 a day.

UMA organizer Angie Ipong said victims were even offered a pakyaw rate (group rate).

Based on UMA’s consolidated reports, cutting and hauling cane costs P220 per ton. Victims were also given a quota of 18 tons a day which is physically impossible for a 8-13 team of cane cutters given the additional work of hauling canes.

On the night of Dec. 25 last year, the sakadas left the compound while the others were enjoying a small party prepared by GLSC. Unnoticed, one sakada jumped at the opposite side of the wall to gather all their bags while the rest told the guards about buying cigarettes.

“Wala po silang bag na nakita sa amin. Kasi yung bag, hinagis na po namin sa bakod, kaya po nakita nila, wala naman po kaming dalang bag, pumayag sila,” Caha said.

“Ang paalam namin, bili lang kaming sigarilyo.” he added.

The sakadas travelled on foot to the bus terminal going to Cubao, and again by foot going to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Elliptical Road, Quezon City.

Andronel Campo, 20, previously rescued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) called Edmond Prayon to inform Prayon’s group what to do next.

“Siya po ang tumawag sa amin na, para tayo makauwi ng Mindanao. May tumulong sa atin taga-DSWD, pumunta kayo rito para pag-usapan natin yung dapat natin gawin,” Prayon said.

To the present, UMA is assisting the sakadas to avail government assistance and file appropriate charges before returning to their hometowns.

Call for government support

Ipong said the government should provide financial support to local farmers.

According to her, without support service, rent is the only way farmers can gain from their lands.

Support service includes irrigation, machineries, inputs, seeds, fertilizers and other chemicals for farming.

“Hindi pwedeng lupa lang kasi ibebenta ‘yan, ipapa-renta ‘yan, kasi anong gagawin sa lupa kung walang gagamitin?” Ipong said.  

“Support system ang palalaguin ng industriya natin dapat, ‘yun ang kailangan ng ating agriculture,”she added.

UMA demands for a full-blown investigation on the trafficking of sakadas, stopping the operations of Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative and the status of land reform in Hacienda Luisita.

Prayon said his fellow sakadas are determined to push the charges against the recruiter. For now, some sakadas consider staying in Quezon City to work as laborers.

“Support system ang palalaguin ng industriya natin dapat, paano magkaroon ng machinery, traktor, irrigation, yun ang kailangan ng ating agriculture,” Ipong said.

“Doon mapupunta yung sinasabing national industrialization. Mai-industrialize lang ‘yun at dapat naka-focus sa agrikultura natin,” she added. #

(Image grabbed from Luisita Watch’s Facebook page.)


Student groups denounce Duterte regime’s state fascism, GE reform

By Abigail Zara

Progressive groups from University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman staged a protest at Palma Hall, Tuesday, condemning all fascist attacks under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The groups also decried the University Council’s decision to reduce UP Diliman’s General Education units from 45 to 21 starting 2018.

Expressing their rage, the students slammed repressive government actions such as counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, the recent bombing operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Abra, and the eviction of urban poor groups from housing projects in Pandi, Bulacan.

“Daan-daan na mga mamamayan ang dini-displace sa kani-kanilang mga komunidad at ilan-ilan ding mga lehitimong aktibista at mga progresibong organisasyon ang kinukulong at dinadakip,” said League of Filipino Students (LFS) member Renz Pasigpasigan on Oplan Kapayapaan.

Also known as Development Support and Security Plan Kapayapaan, Oplan Kapayapaan is the AFP’s security strategy to supposedly reduce terrorist groups to a “minimal strength” within six months, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

In the same interview, AFP Chief General Eduardo Año said 51 battalions were deployed in Western Mindanao and parts of Central Mindanao to fight terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Contrary to its purpose, Oplan Kapayapaan is being used to spread fear among communities where communist groups express their dissent, said Pasigpasigan during the protest.

According to the LFS member, the program is intended to suppress those in the countryside who oppose the government and to breed terror within civilians as well to discourage them from joining the fight.

“Malinaw kung ano ang isinusulong ng ating administrasyon at rehimeng Duterte sa kasalukuyan,” Pasigpasigan said.

“Naghahasik siya ng takot sa hanay ng mga mamamayan para tayo ay tumigil sa ating paglaban, para tayo ay magpasupil,” he added.

The protesters also denounced AFP’s bombing operations in Malibcong, Abra , following a firefight between members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the AFP on March 15.

A day after, Imelda Tabiando of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) confirmed that the AFP dropped 14 bombs over the town, causing a forest fire and the suspension of elementary and high school classes in the area.

A take over for rights

Student groups also condemned the recent eviction of urban poor groups from idle housing projects in Pandi, Bulacan.

Led by urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), thousands of homeless individuals from Taguig, Navotas, and Malabon cities occupied more than 5,000 unused units in Villa Elise, Pandi Village 2, Villa Louise, and Padre Pio housing projects in a campaign known as Occupy Bulacan on March 8.

Kadamay member Elizabeth Aguirre said in an Inquirer interview that the movement was done because of NHA’s refusal to provide them with “decent homes,” despite many dialogs.

“We were willing to pay [for government housing which] we could afford, yet, we were always told that there were no vacant houses. But based on our inspection, all these houses were unoccupied,” Aguirre added.

The National Housing Authority (NHA) issued eviction notices for the informal settlers on March 20.

According to NHA data, the 52,341 idle houses nationwide were intended for members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and AFP, but only 13 percent or 8,327 of these were being used.

The eviction efforts are further proof of the government’s continuous deprivation of rights to basic social services like shelter, according to Anakbayan CSSP member Kiko Caramat.

“Sapilitan silang pinapadaan sa mga burukuratikong proseso gaya ng napaka-mahal na mga fees, kaya sa pinaka-matagal na panahon din ay wala silang sariling pabahay,” Caramat said during the protest.

Caramat said that because of this deprivation, Filipinos all over the country are asserting their rights through collective action.

“Kaya naman sila na ang mapagpasyang kumilos para angkinin ang higit limang libong tiwangwang na pabahay sa iba’t ibang relocation sites sa Pandi, Bulacan,” he added.

Call for critical, holistic general education

Further worsening the issue of these fascist state attacks is the implementation of the General Education (GE) Reform within UP Diliman, according to the student groups.

With votes of 302 for, 31 against, and 41 abstain from members of the UP Diliman University Council in the GE Reform Conference on Monday, the minimum number of GE units was lowered from 45 to 21 beginning 2018.

Supporters of the GE Reform insisted during the conference that the reduction of GEs will alleviate the academic burden of students by lessening tuition fees and the number of years of certain degree programs, like Engineering courses, which would go down from five years to four.

Institute of Mathematics instructor Ma. Cristina Bargo said in a Facebook post that the curriculum of Engineering and Science majors requires taking service courses before major subjects, allowing for too little room for students to take GEs.

The professor refused to be interviewed further on the issue, as of press time.

However, student groups acknowledged the reform as a scheme to produce graduates in a shorter time in order to further fuel the cheap labor pool demanded by the global market.

“Ang reporma sa GE na ito ay magsisilbing daluyan, magsisilbing balon, magsisilbing poso ng murang lakas paggawa ng mga kabataan,” Anakbayan CAL member Alix Matute said during the rally.

Moreover, LFS Engineering said in a Facebook statement that reform would further expose graduates to unfair and abusive labor policies.

“The influx of fresh graduates would only limit the number of jobs available for them, creating conditions that would make them more vulnerable to low wages, contractualization, and poor working conditions,” LFS Engineering said in a Facebook statement.

UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan joined the protest to express his opposition of the GE Reform.

“A true UP product is not for the existing distorted job market. A true UP student will question the job market,” the chancellor said in his solidarity message during the rally.

Tan, who served as chair in the conference, expressed his dismay because the discussion in the event failed to tackle the wider issues surrounding the reduction of GEs, like its connection to neoliberalism and struggles under the Duterte regime.

“We tried to get things discussed. Umaasa pa ako na magkakaroon ng kompromiso dito, pero mainit na ang ulo ng mga tao dito,” the UPD chancellor said.

“Basta nahirapan na ako mag-ano dito ng malayang talakayan. And I’m very disappointed,” he added.

Student groups agreed that limiting GE subjects will also lead to the lessening of the holistic quality of UP education and reducing subjects that teach students to think critically and act in the face of these issues under the Duterte Administration.

“Yung edukasyon natin ay nagsisilbi hindi para paunlarin yung kakayahan ng mga kabataan, kundi para supilin ang ating kakayahan upang mag-isip nang kritikal, upang gamitin ang ating abilidad upang baguhin ang lipunan,” Matute added during the protest.

Because of these ill effects, Chancellor Tan urged for a stronger campaign to oppose the GE Reform.

“We will create new niches that serve the country, not serve the interest of others,” Tan said.

The chancellor also called for the students to exhaust more actions and venues to counter the GE reduction aside from the existing protests.

“Kailangan din may discussions na kung bakit may posisyon kayo, tayo, tungkol sa GE, at ano ang implications nito para sa buhay ng mga estudyante afterwards… Pwede pa tayong mag-meeting para ma-plano kung ano ang pwedeng content dito,” Tan added.

The chancellor agreed with the students’ call to seek accountability from the Duterte Administration and its fascist attacks.

“Ang hamon sa atin ay patuloy na ipanawagan ang paniningil sa rehimeng Duterte at ipagpatuloy ang pakikipag-kaisa natin sa iba’t ibang mga organisasyon sa ating pamantasan,” Pasigpasigan said. #

UP emerges victorious against ADU, looms over top seed Ateneo

By Luisa Morales

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons continue their pursuit of the top spot as they defeated the Adamson University (ADU) Soaring Falcons, 3-1 at the Far Eastern University-Diliman field, Sunday.

Once again playing without veterans Daniel Gadia, Ace Villanueva and Ian Clarino, the young Diliman squad was in top shape despite the handicap.

It was a strong start for UP as they kept Falcon goalie Carl Viray busy. Viray turned away shots from the Maroon offense but soon enough, one got through.

Rvin Resuma got the offense going for State U, scoring a goal at the 35th minute mark with help from teammate Christian Lapas.

With the momentum on their side, it wasn’t long until Lapas rushed past Viray for another goal to give the Maroons a two-goal cushion before the half ended.

But the Soaring Falcons weren’t going to let up just yet. Just before the whistle blew at the half, ADU’s Marc de Guzman took advantage of a defensive error by State U. The goal got Adamson on the board, 2-1 by the half.

Any chance of a comeback from the Falcons was quickly dashed as Javier Bonoan got the ball to the back of the Falcons, with the help of a free kick from JB Borlongan.

By the 49th minute mark, State U regained a two-goal lead.

Despite ADU still pushing until the end, UP goalie Jose Yared and the rest of the defense held their opponents back to keep the score as it was.

The defending champions are breathing on the necks of first-seed Ateneo as they trail only by two points. UP looks to strengthen their title defense against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) on March 30 at the Moro Lorenzo Field.

UP strengthens Final Four bid, dominates NU

by Luisa Morales

The Lady Maroons are back with a vengeance.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons overpowered the  National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs as they win in four sets, 25-14, 25-27, 25-21, 25-12, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Sunday.

The Diliman volleybelles dominated every aspect of the match, avenging their first round loss to Jaja Santiago and the Lady Bulldogs.

UP veteran Nicole Tiamzon did not see action the whole match, with reserve Aiesha Laine Gannaban starting in all four sets.

It was a great day for UP fans. The Lady Maroons were on fire from the get-go, taking advantage of the poor reception of their opponents.

Loaded serves and powerful spikes from the Diliman squad allowed them to cruise through the first set, 25-14.

But the Bulldogs weren’t afraid to bite back. The second set was tighter with both squads going back-and-forth until the end.

NU had a set point 24-23 but the Lady Maroons managed to extend the set. Despite UP getting a set point of their own, NU was able to win the set 27-25; tying the game at one set a piece.

By the third set, State U looked poised to dominate again. Great floor defense and attacking from the Maroons looked too much for NU to handle.

It was all UP as they led the set 17-5, but NU did not go down without a fight. With a stunning 15-3 run, they caught up with UP at 20-all.

The UP fans were at the edge of their seats as the set was suddenly within NU’s reach.

Key plays from State U, however, powered the Diliman-based squad to take a 2-1 lead, 25-21.

Unfazed by the fierce comeback of their opponents, UP came into the fourth set looking to finish strong.

NU looked tired as State U kept pounding the Lady Bulldogs with loaded serves, while UP veteran Kathy Bersola answered everything Santiago had to offer.

The Lady Maroons ended the match on a high note, dominating NU all throughout the set, 25-12.

UP finished the match with five Lady Maroons in double figures – Bersola, Isa Molde and Tots Carlos had 14 points apiece, while Gannaban and Ali Buitre chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Captain Jaja Santiago led NU with 18 points, followed by Aiko Urdas with 12 markers.

With the crucial win, the Lady Maroons tie the Lady Bulldogs at fourth place with a 7-5 win-loss card, and more importantly, keep their Final Four hopes alive.

UP is set to face the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses, currently at solo third, on April 2, at the Mall Of Asia Arena.

Undermanned UP booters power through UE, 3-1

by Luisa Morales

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons inched closer to defending their crown as they outlasted the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors, 3-1 at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field, Thursday.

The Diliman team emerged victorious despite playing without captain Daniel Gadia, Ace Villanueva, and Ian Clarino, who are preparing with the national Men’s U22 team, set to compete in the upcoming Southeast Asian games.

UP started the match hot, with Maroon JB Borlongan hitting a goal only four minutes after the opening whistle blew.

But the Warriors answered back just as quick.

Right after the restart, UE booter Regil Galaura raced past the Maroon defense to get the ball to teammate Mar Diano to even it up 1-1 at the fifth minute mark.

It was the Maroons who dominated the rest of the first half, Borlongan scoring another goal 13 minutes before half time to take the lead back, 2-1.

By the second half, UP did not seem to be content with a one goal lead.

At the 77th minute mark, Maroon Miggy Clarino’s shot bounced off the UE keeper, allowing Sean Patangan to guide the ball to the back of the net.

The goal further cushioned UP’s lead, 3-1.

The Diliman squad’s defense held their ground to keep UE goal less in the second half.

With the victory, the defending champions improve to 21 points as UP trails behind league leaders Ateneo de Manila University only by two points.

Still without their leaders, UP will take on Adamson University, Sunday at the Far Eastern University (FEU) field.

UP CMC ISA fields new bet for CMCSC chair

Arjay Torno has replaced Andrea Andres as the UP CMC Independent Student-Centered Activism (ISA) candidate for chairperson of the CMC Student Council (CMCSC).

By Beatriz Zamora

Arjay Torno has replaced Andrea Andres as the UP CMC Independent Student-Centered Activism (ISA) candidate for chairperson of the CMC Student Council (CMCSC).

As per the hearing held by the College Student Electoral Board (CSEB) yesterday, Andres’ withdrawal of candidacy and Torno’s appeal were considered valid.

The party filed an appeal for former vice chairperson candidate Torno to replace her on March 20.

According to the CSEB, the replacement of a candidate by another person in the original lineup does not violate election rules.

UP CMC ISA’s appeal to peg Andrea Duldulao as vice chairperson candidate of the CMCSC was denied.

In a statement issued earlier today, UP CMC ISA said that Andres can no longer campaign her candidacy for chairperson due to personal matters.