Students slam free higher education bill anew, continue to fight for tuition-free PH

Text and Photo by Nacho Domingo

Students from local universities gathered a second time at the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to call for the implementation of free education on a national scale on May 23.

After mobilizing on May 10 with the same call, the students also protested against the approval of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017, which acts as a financial assistance program for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) nationwide.

“We can see that bills such as this one try to make it seem like the government is for free education even though this only helps legitimize the commercialization of our education,” said Misty Pegram of Anakbayan Media Collective.

The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, also known as HB 5663, consolidates House Bill 2771 filed by Albay Rep. Joey S. Salceda, which was first filed in June 2016. The bill offers a 15-billion peso subsidy for tertiary education to be used on tuition and other expenses.

However, according to Kabataan Party-list representative Sarah Jane Elago, the socialization of tuition may be implemented in the SUCs in the Philippines. This means that tuition fees will still be collected, and will be scaled according to the financial income of each student’s household.

According to the protesters, the passage of this bill deviates from President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free education for the year 2017

“Once ma-implement yung HB 5633, kailangan mong patunayan ang pagiging mahirap mo [para makakamit ng libreng edukasyon]. Sisingil pa ng other school fees,” said incoming University of the Philippines Diliman University Student Council Councilor Brian Black.

It can be recalled that the president said earlier this year that free education will only be granted to “poor but academically capable students.”

“It’s one of our basic rights, and you shouldn’t have to worry about having to pay or not when you enroll,” said Pegram.

The students advocated not only the removal of tuition at all levels of education, but the junking of other school fees as well, which again were implemented in the first academic semester of 2017.

The student leaders present at the mobilization were eventually allowed to dialogue with CHED representatives inside the headquarter premises, where their contentions regarding free education were addressed. However, the content of the dialogue was not made public by government institution.

CHED is yet to publicly address the student mobilizations, and has revealed no plans of altering the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education act of 2017.  #

UP caps off Season 79 with street dance podium finish

Text by Luisa Morales

Photo by Antonne Santiago

 

It was an electrifying performance, a fitting end for an electrifying season.

The University of the Philippines Streetdance Club (UP SDC) ends Season 79 of the UAAP with a bang, finishing first-runner up behind the De La Salle University Dance Company – Street (LSDC – Street) during the UAAP Street Dance Competition at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Plaza Mayor, Saturday.

University of the East (UE) opened the program clad in their red letterman jackets. The UE crew energized the crowd, setting the standards for the rest of the competition.

The Adamson University CAST matched their followed suit with their summer-themed routine.

Looking to defend home turf, UST Prime took the stage. The UAAP Season 79 hosts awed the crowd as they danced with confidence and swag.

Going into the competition as three-time champions, UP SDC had a lot on their backs. When it was their time to light up the stage, State U did not disappoint.

Clad in golden jackets, UP SDC enthralled the crowd with a Bruno Mars-inspired routine.

UP’s Katipunan neighbors, the Ateneo de Manila Company of Ateneo Dancers performed right after, followed by the Far Eastern University Dance Company, which sported a safari explorer look.

However, it was the LSDC-Street who capped off the competition with a routine worthy of the championship, garnering a score of 89.

In its attempt to compete a four-peat, State U failed, falling short against LSDC-Street by .25. Meanwhile, season hosts UST Prime won second runner-up with 85.

“‘Di naman talaga namin goal yung 4-peat or yung championship, we just want to share whatever we have [and] the fun that we have with dancing,” UP SDC captain Rap Oronce said.

The street dance competition served as the culminating event for UAAP Season 79. The closing ceremonies followed suit after the announcement of winners.

Season hosts UST bagged both general championships in the seniors and juniors division.

On the other hand, UP settled in fourth place overall with successful title runs in women’s badminton and women’s swimming.

With Season 79 officially over, all eyes are set on UAAP Season 80 hosts FEU. #

 

CHED exec seeks revision of CHED-DBM memo following protests, criticisms

Text and photo by Merryll Red Phae Carao

Following the May 10 protests against the Joint Memorandum by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the  P8.3 billion budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs), CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera called for a meeting to revise the guidelines for the said budget.

The CHED-DBM joint memorandum released April 20 listed implementing rules and regulations (IRR) as guidelines concerning the P8.3 billion budget allocated by the Congress for SUCs as of Dec. 15 of last year.

According to the IRR, students will be prioritized based on socio-economic status and academic excellence to avail of free tuition.

In a statement published by the University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD) College of Science Student Council on their Facebook page, the Council said “such additional and unnecessary procedures to avail of free tuition go against the very nature of education as a right which should be provided to all without prejudice and restraint. This hindrance only perpetuates the notion that those who can pay should.”

On March 13, the Senate passed on the third and final reading the Affordable Higher Education for All Act which aims to institutionalize a tuition-free policy in SUCs.

Senate Bill 1304 was passed with 18 affirmative votes. Under the bill spearheaded by Senator Bam Aquino, CHED is mandated to facilitate the distribution of funds and to resolve issues regarding the eligibility or disqualification of students from the full tuition subsidy.

Meanwhile, another bill, House Bill 4800 or the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Act, filed by  Representative Sarah Elago of Kabataan Partylist, seeks to implement a free tuition scheme in all SUCs and local universities and colleges (LUCs), which include the abolition of other school fees.

This bill seeks to impose the “no-collection” policy on SUCs and LUCs in order to prohibit tuition and other fee collections.

Recent protests against the CHED-DBM memorandum reflected contentions against the Affordable Higher Education for All Act, , with youth groups labelling both efforts as “free tuition scam.”

Free Tuition Scam

Youth groups and students from various state and private universities marched to the doorsteps of CHED, Wednesday, to denounce the CHED-DBM memorandum, calling it a ‘sham’ free tuition policy and an instrument to increase the profits of SUCs.

The protest action was part of  nationwide decentralized mobilizations calling for a legitimate free tuition policy.

College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Secretary General Daryl Angelo Baybado described CHED-DBM memorandum as a “blow against the Filipino youth.”

“It is an initial victory for the youth to have Php 8.3 billion of the national budget allocated for free higher education,” Baybado said in a press release distributed during the protest.

“However, the government was quick to seize this by releasing the implementing guidelines that greatly limit students’ access to free tuition,” he added.

On the other hand, according to progressive youth group Anakbayan, the P 8.3 billion budget is more than enough to abolish tuition fees in SUCs.

“Nakabatay ang pondong P 8 bilyon sa tinatayang kita ng lahat ng SUCs mula sa pangongolekta ng matrikula,” the group said in a press release given out during the mobilization.

“Malinaw na sapat ito upang direktang magbenepisyo ang lahat ng estudyante ng SUCs na aabot higit isang milyong kabataan sa libreng matrikula.”

Meanwhile, based on the provisions in the CHED-DBM memorandum, the IRR reveals the policy’s profiteering scheme which may give SUCs the power to hike other school fees to circumvent possible losses, said Elago.

Youth from Pandi, Bulacan also joined the protest at CHED. Most of them were high school students who dropped out of school because they cannot pay for tuition while some of them were supposedly college students who cannot get into universities because of unaffordable fees.

“Imbis na ang iuna ay ang interes ng mga politiko at mga kapitalista, dapat unahin ang interes ng mga kabataan, lalo na ang interes ng mga kabataan mula sa Pandi, kasi practically malaki talaga magiging tulong nito, lalo na kung ‘di na iisipin ng mga magulang nila na magbabayad pa sila sa kolehiyo,” said Levi Ibanez of Anakbayan Pandi.

Revising guidelines

On the night of the protest, Elago posted an update regarding the CHED-DBM guidelines, citing CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera’s announcement during the House Committee on Appropriations meeting.

According to Elago, the guidelines will be revised to implement the provision that “no tuition shall be collected from all undergraduate students for school year 2017 to 2018.”

In an interview with the Philippine Star, de Vera said that the revision was to “simplify” the guidelines to make their implementation easier, adding that CHED has noted the concerns of various groups. The revised guidelines are expected to be released before classes start next month.

As of press time, both CHED and Commissioner de Vera have yet to respond to questions regarding the guideline revision.

Student groups saw this decision as a victory of their collective protests.

League of Filipino Students – UPD College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Chairperson Renz Pasigpasigan said the answer to free education is not in CHED but in the militant mobilization of the studentry to demand the government for their rights.

“Pagpapakita lamang ito ng lakas ng sama-samang pagkilos ng mga estudyante dahil naitulak muli natin ang CHED na tumugon sa tunay na implementasyon ng libreng edukasyon,” said Pasigpasigan.

Meanwhile, UP Diliman University Student Council Councilor Ben Te believes that the revision may actually be in favor of the students. He also urged the studentry to fight for the abolition of other school fees.

“Maaaring maging pabor sa mga estudyante ang desisyon na ito kung magpapatuloy at lalakas pa ang mga kilos-protesta ng mga estudyante sa buong bansa,” said Te.

“Dito lang natin matitiyak na matutulak natin ang administrasyong Duterte na tuluyan nang ipatupad ang libreng tuition para sa lahat,” he added.

 

Abot-kamay, lagpas sa larawan

ni Andrea Jobelle Adan

Aspalto at mga latag na tagpi-tagping tarpaulin, ilang mahabang tarapal na pilit pinatayo gamit kahoy, at mangilan-ngilang tent–iyan lamang ang kanlungan at panangga ng mga miyembro ng maralitang lungsod mula sa Bulacan at iba pang nayon.

Dinala ng mga miyembro ng Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), isang maralitang organisasyong naipagwagi ang demanda sa libreng pabahay sa Bulacan, at ng iba pang maralita ang dalawang araw ng kanilang buhay sa kahabaan ng Agham road.

Sa kalsadang ito, nagawa nilang makapagluto, makatulog at gumising para sa panibagong araw at pagkakataon lumaban.

Sa kalsada ring ito nagtapos ang milya-milyang martsa na umabot ng apat na oras, marating lang kanilang pagdadausan ng ilang programa at panawagan, mailapit lang sa mga taong duda sa kanilang kalagayan.

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Lahat ito ay nangyari nang harap-harapan noong Abril 29, 30 at natapos sa isang sa lumipas na Araw ng mga Manggagawa.

Lahat ito upang maiparinig sa mamamayang Pilipino at kinauukulan na narito sila, handang idepensa ang kanilang karapatan sa pabahay, ang kanilang karapatan sa buhay.

Ang problema diba alam naman natin na ang gobyerno, hindi naman tayo pinapansin dahil kung ikaw ay walang pera, alam mo na–talagang hindi tayo didinggin,” sabi ni Lea Marali, provincial president ng Kadamay.

“Sa kanila rin ay nagtulak na iyong kahirapan talaga,” dagdag ni Marali, isa sa mga tagapuno at isa sa maraming ina.

Tulad ni Marali, kinailangang pansamantalang lisanin ng iba ang piling ng mga anak, kapamilya, at mahal sa buhay upang makalapit sa kabisera.

Sa katunayan, ang unang araw ng kanilang Lakbayan ay ang ikatlong kaarawan ng kanyang lalaking anak.

Hindi man nakagkaroon ng selebrasyon ang bata, may kalungkutan pa ring ibinahagi ni Marali na hindi niya kapiling ang anak sa mahalagang araw.

Ayon sa kanya, pinapaalalahanan ng mga lider ang kanilang mga miyembro na kung maaari ay huwag na magsama ng bata, may sakit, at nakatatanda, para sa sarili nilang kaligtasan.

Ganunpaman, matatanaw pa rin sa kanilang hanay ang ilang mga matang sabik, wala pang isang dekadang nasisilayan ang mundo at mga kamay na dekadekada na kumakayod makaraos lang ang sa araw-araw.

Sa dagat ng mga nakataas na kamao, mayroong naguhit na sa mga nagbubukulang ugat ang masalimuot na kalahating daang taon, at mayroong mumunting kamay na hindi pa mabitawan ng mga magulang.

20170501_204432

(Kuha ni Andrea Jobelle Adan)

 

Wala sa edad ang pakikiisa

Ayon kay Marali, nais rin makiisa sa laban ng kanyang anak na lalaki sa high school.

“Nag-aaral sila. Pinagtiyatiyagaang pag-aralin kahit na pumapasok sila, nakakaraos sila sa sampung piso lang na baon,” ani ni Marali.

Sa paggawa raw ng school project nadadama ng anak ang kagipitan ng pamilya. Paliwanag ni Marali, hindi pa rin sapat ang kita ng asawa bilang merchandiser sa isang kilalang mall.

Paano pa kaya sa pagpasok ng kolehiyo, ani ni Marali.

Isang mapagpanggap na libreng edukasyong pangkolehiyo raw lamang ang ibinabandera ngayon. At para sa kanilang gipit, walang lebel ng pagpapanggap ang makapagtatago ng tambak na bayarin para sa karapatan sa edukasyon.

 

Ipinasa ng Kongreso noong Marso ang Affordable Higher Education for All Act. Nilalayon nitong gawing libre ang tuition sa mga state-subsidized ng unibersidad at kolehiyo. Bukod sa tuition, kinakailangan pa rin magbayad ng mga estudyante ng miscellaneous fees at iba pang bayarin.

Dahil dito, pati na rin ang kagustuhan sa isang abot-kayang edukasyon, ngayon pa lamang ay nagpapahiwatig na ng pakikiisa sa kolektibong pagkilos ang kanyang supling.

Hindi rin naman raw mapipigilan ni Marali ang anak, aniya, bakas sa mukha ang parehong pag-aalala at marahang pagmamalaki.

Hamon pa nga niya sa mga estudyante ng lungsod, “Ipaglaban din ng mga kabataan ang kanilang karapatan. ‘Wag matakot.”

Tulad ni Marali naniniwala si Len Serote, maybahay ng isang bus driver, na may puwang ang kabataan sa paglaban.

Isa lamang sa kanyang mga anak ang hindi nakayanang makadalo nang sila’y nagmartsa patungo sa Mendiola nitong nakaraang Araw ng Manggagawa.

“Pag lumaki na sila, ganito rin kasi ang kanilang dadanasin sabi niya, habang tinuturuan ang bitbit na dalawang taong gulang na anak paano itaas ang kaliwang kamao. Hindi raw sapat ang sweldong nakukuha ng kanyang asawa kaya hirap silang makawala sa kahirapan.

“Kaya kailangan rin nilang matuto lumaban,” dagdag ni Serote.

Makalipas ang ilang sandali, itinaas ng sanggol ang pareho nitong mga kamay, sabay ngiti nang may pagmamalaki.

Hindi naman magkamayaw ang ilang tao at mamamahayag sa paligid; maging sila’y nahihila ng imahe ng munting mga kamaong nakataas, ng sanggol na mas mauuna pang makabisado ang linya ng masa bago ang mga kantang pambata.

Sa hindi kalayuan, naglatag na ng banig ang ilang magsasaka mula Mindanao. Nakaupo nilang sinalubong ang programang inihanda, ang kanilang mga tuhod ramdam na ang lagpas limang dekada.

Ayon kay Salvador Barsibal Jr., bise presidente ng Marbai farmers mula sa Mindanao, hindi nila itinuturing na pabigat ang kanilang edad at pangangatawan. Anim na pung taon na si Barsibal, namumuti na ang buhok, at bahagya na nakayukod ang balikat.

Para sa iba, ang anim na pung taon ay palatandaan ng pagpapahinga, ng pagtigil sa trabaho at paggamit ng naipong benepisyo. Ngunit para kay Barsibal at sa iba pang magsasaka, hindi pa sila maaaring tumigil hangga’t hindi pa inaaksyunan ang kanilang mga hinaing.

“Pursigido talaga kaming pumunta” ani niya. Kailangan raw nilang personal maipaabot sa presidente ang kalagayan nila dahil hindi naman sila pinakikinggan ng ibang sangay ng gobyerno.

“Ang kanilang suporta ay wala sa aming manggagawa, kung ‘di nasa may-ari ng malalaking lupa,” paliwanag niya.

Bakas na rin ang pagod sa boses ni Barsibal, siyang magdamag nananawagan para sa magsasaka.

Ngunit nagagawa niyang iangat at palakihin ang tinig kasama ang iba sa sabay sabay na paghiling ng hustisya.

Ito ang natitirang puhunan ni Barsibal, nina Serote at Marali, at ng lahat ng mga miyembro ng maralitang lungsod: ang sama-samang pagpapanawagan, ang sama-samang paglaban.

Paninindigan nga ni Marila, ang tagumpay ay abot-kamay lamang kung lahat ay sabay-sabay mananawagan.

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Ito ang organisadong panawagan ng KADAMAY at iba pang mga maralitang tagalungsod.

UP fails to defend crown, bows out in semis

By Luisa Morales

Defending champions University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons failed to return to the finals, losing to the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, 2-1 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, Thursday night.

The Diliman squad started the game on the offensive, bombarding the FEU defense with powerful strikes.

But it was the Tamaraws who drew first blood.

From a corner kick, FEU took the lead courtesy of a header from Rico Andes, 1-0 at the 22nd minute mark; however, the Morayta-based club had little time to celebrate.

Less than a minute after the goal, Maroon Kintaro Miyagi scored an equalizer off the rebound after teammate JB Borlongan cut through the Tamaraw defense.

With momentum on their side, the Maroons continued on the offensive with multiple attempts to take the lead. At halftime, the game remained at deadlock, 1-all.

Come kick-off for the second half, both squads looked to take the upper hand.

At the 56th minute, FEU broke the stalemate.

Despite efforts from the Maroon defense, Andes was able to put the ball at the back of the net to give the lead back to the Morayta squad, 2-1.

Unfazed by the lead, UP continued to attack coming up with numerous attempts and almost goals, but FEU did just enough to hold the lead until the final whistle.

Despite the loss, it was still a great season for the Maroon booters who will miss the services of graduating players Ace Villanueva, Ryan Fermin, and Season 78 MVP Daniel Gadia.

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.

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 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.

Journalism wins 2017 CMC Cup

For the first time since 2013, the College of Mass Communication’s Journalism Department has reclaimed the annual CMC Cup.

Journalism clinched the title after amassing 353 points, followed by the Broadcast Communication Department with 310. The departments of Communication Research and Film rounded out the last two spots with 298 and 211 points, respectively.

Meanwhile, the college also awarded four exceptional students for their participation and dedication in the Cup’s games.

Denver del Rosario, Angela Buensuesco, Arjay Torno and Rocky Morilla were hailed most valuable players for Journalism, Broadcast Communication, Communication Research and Film, respectively.

The three-day-long, points system sporting event among CMC’s departments consists of a variety of games that tests students’ motor skills such as modified relay and running games. The tournament is then capped off with traditional basketball and volleyball matches.

With the goal of fostering “camaraderie, friendly competition, and sportsmanship among Maskom students, faculty, and personnel,” this year’s CMC Cup rolled out with a gaming theme, with matches named after well-known apps such as Angry Birds and Pokemon Go, among others.

(Photo grabbed from the CMC Cup Facebook page.)