Compromise and consensus

The University of the Philippines’ (UP) militancy has proved its legacy of victories for decades, but in the debate on a document formally declaring our rights as students, questions and doubts remain.

In these times of uncertainty, however, it is important to assess if we, students, are asking the ideal questions and fighting the right struggle.

The Students’ Magna Carta has divided the UP community to choose between two polar premises—that the Magna Carta will weaken UP’s long-running student movement and that the document will safeguard the rights of its students.

The much-debated codified students’ rights was first drafted by student council chairpersons, sectoral representatives, and randomly selected UP students in the summer term of A.Y. 2014 to 2015. The representatives who crafted the document came from the different organizations and political parties, proving that it is not an endeavor only of a sole political party.

After the process of drafting, informing the students, and conducting a referendum that resulted to a 94 percent support from the student body, the University Student Council of has finally made their stand last January 24, 2016 to support the Magna Carta.

On November 4, the current USC made a decision to suspend a stand-making on the Magna Carta. The University Student Council garnered widespread attention on their treatment of the Magna Carta, and drew criticisms from the student body.

Recognizing the growing public concern on the issue, the USC released a statement regarding the decision, stating that among the most contentious provisions of the document was in Section IV of Article 4, where the “students shall have the right to be consulted on any proposed increase or creation of school fees” by the Board of Regents (BOR).  As of January 13,  the USC voted to support the Magna Carta in a 19-10-1 vote.

Following the basic premise of RA 9500 that gives power to the BOR to increase school fees, and that the Magna Carta cannot in any way, supersede the law, students must realize that it is not the document that they should be questioning in the first place but the very law and system that the document falls under.

Another point of contention raised is that the document allows the administration to “facilitate the operations of campus publications.” This phrase is in fact derived from Article V, Section 1 which exactly states that: “Students shall have the right to establish and run structures of self-governance, mechanisms for advocacy, and systems of decision-making. To this end, the University shall support and facilitate the creation and operation of student councils and student publications.”

The contention is clearly taken out of context as it implies that the document condones the administration’s control over the operations of publications– the exact opposite of what it truly suggests. Section 6 further supports student publications when it stated that: “All publications produced by students shall be self-regulated. School authorities shall not unduly sanction members of campus press and media.”

If students want their rights to be recognized by the UP administration, they must work around a multifaceted approach with the passage of the Magna Carta being but one aspect of it.

Rather than debating on whether UP students ought to have a formal declaration of rights, we should address the fact that while the document should be seen in good faith, it will never be enough, and this is where collective action comes to play.

Since the document is being created under a framework that is presently governed by repressive policies, it must be subjective to further amendments in the future, amendments that shall be representative of all students and for students.

While the system is obviously flawed, students must work around it, not as a form of compromise but as a way to gain better footing against those in power through both legal and collective action.

UP has been known for its long-running mass movement, and it should not limit itself to such. The UP community must remember that the means to defend students’ rights have no hierarchy and that there are other avenues to forward students’ rights. The success of Kabataan Partylist in representing the youth to the Congress and the continuous forwarding of sectoral groups’ demands by the Makabayan bloc are some concrete examples that a different approach in attaining change does not preclude the mass movement.

We have achieved victories in part because we know the rights we are entitled to and because we are determined to fight for them. History has also witnessed that no code, or law for that matter, is ever superior to our own voices. After all, the document can only be maximized by the junking of existing repressive policies through the student movement.

Establishing a document codifying UP students’ rights is but a single step. What more progressive action we can do is to see the bigger picture and fight for a nation where free education for every student is upheld. The bigger battle for a quality and accessible education across the country still holds.

However, it is time we give support where support is due. Questions and doubts have been answered, and should continuously be, as long the lines of communication of all parties involved are open. Students must go beyond party politics and focus on continuously watching for those who are in power.

The Student’s Magna Carta is neither the supreme solution nor a signal to devalue collective action. The struggle for attaining our rights must grow stronger now, more than ever. #

Editorial: A shift in perspective

Far beyond the confines of its walls, the University of the Philippines (UP) has long stood for causes bigger than itself.

More than the prestige of its academe, the university prides itself in the artists, politicians, and activists who have upheld the tenets of honor and excellence.

Since its establishment in 1908 during the American occupation in the country, UP has been living up to the mandate that comes with the title of being the Philippines’ premier university: to be at the forefront of defending the rights of the Filipino people.

Generations of Iskolar ng Bayan have been pulling the tides of the country’s narrative, raising the discourse and struggles of different issues such as gender emancipation, education and national industrialization to the national level.

History witnessed UP’s studentry against state oppression in the form of widespread corruption in the government and oil price hikes during the First Quarter Storm of the 1970s. Together with students from schools nationwide, UP led the movement to overthrow former President Ferdinand Marcos from his second term. These series of protests in the first three months of the turn of the decade led Marcos to declare Martial Law, using the threat of communist insurgency as an excuse.

In 1971, UP Diliman barricaded itself from Marcos’s Metrocom police, marking the university’s reputation as a hotbed for militant and progressive activism with what the Philippines now calls the Diliman Commune.

This period in UP’s narrative gave recognition to names such as Ma. Lorena Barros, Maria Elena Ang and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison.

Alongside the university’s solid foundation in fighting oppressive hegemonies, however, exists at least six years of ironic divergence from UP’s militant, pro-people nature.

The term of current University President Alfredo E. Pascual bore witness to several protests from different sectors of the UP community brought about by anti-student and anti-people policies.

One policy that marked the Pascual term is the replacement of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) with the Socialized Tuition System (STS) in 2013.

Pascual had deemed STFAP, established in 1989, as “no longer responsive to the needs of UP students,” after a UP Manila student committed suicide apparently for being unable to pay her tuition fees.

With an online two-page application process instead of STFAP’s required 14-page application form, STS also has a different income bracketing system from the previous tuition system, yet students still condemn the new system for the same problems the administration promised it would solve: mismatches between students and brackets, non-comprehensive application process, and inadequate provisions and benefits for those in the lower brackets.

Pascual’s term impacted not only the university’s academic community. In 2014 threats of eviction from the Business Concessions Office worried the campus vendors, in addition to an order for the removal of chairs and tables in front of the kiosks.

The latest in the list of anti-student decisions is Pascual’s controversial eUP Project.

Opting to import technicians and computer systems instead of utilizing homegrown talents, the current UP President shows no plans of relenting in the face of the opinions of the biggest stakeholder in the university–its students.

With the selection of the 21st UP president comes the hopes for change—for the readiness of the university’s highest official to listen and consider.

With the selection of the newest member of the highest decision-making body in the university, the UP community emphatically calls for a shift in perspective, for the biggest stakeholders to be the priority and be included in the decision- and policy-making processes in order to be represented properly.

We call for no hesitance in standing with the marginalized. We call for the scrapping of oppressive policies that plague our students, our faculty and our employees. We call for approachability, transparency, and accountability.

With the selection of the new UP president, we call for change.

Editorial: What Never Truly Left

When President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972, the military and police were granted a dangerous amount of power.

Human rights were immediately stripped from the Filipino people with the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which allowed the arrests of people without access to due process.

The moment people rose against the dictator–with angry shouts and clenched fists–they were immediately chained back down and put behind bars, and those who live to tell the tale speak of heinous torture methods—electric shocks delivered to private parts, gallons of water forcefully pumped in one’s mouth, sexual assault and constant beatings, among others.

Human Rights advocacy group Amnesty International tallied 34,000 Filipinos who had become victims of such human rights violations in one of the darkest periods of the country’s history.

The non-government organization also listed 70,000 arrested individuals, 3,240 victims of summary executions, and at least a thousand victims of enforced disappearances in said era.

More than 40 years later, the Philippines remains subject to much of the same conditions as it was before.

The culture of impunity persists with President Rodrigo Duterte’s iron rule, which pays little regard for due process and human rights, scarily reminiscent of the ousted dictator’s regime characterized by fascism and heavy reliance on the country’s armed forces.

While the Philippines may no longer under Martial Law, Duterte has declared a “state of lawlessness” in the Philippines, authorizing armed forces to suppress any deemed lawless violence.

The writ of habeas corpus may still be intact, however, fairness still escapes alleged drug pushers and abusers, or at least those from the lower class.

While the poor are targeted and killed in cold blood, those from the other end of the spectrum–such as radio DJ Karen Bordador, who was caught selling illegal drugs amounting to P 2.2 M at a club in Fort Bonifacio last month–enjoy the human right to a fair trial.

Since Duterte’s inauguration in June 30, the drug-related killings have claimed more than 3,000 lives according to a Philippine Star report dated Sept. 11.

The president refuses to acknowledge these as human rights violations, despite many of the victims allegedly having willingly surrendered. Only recently, he had called the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon a ‘fool’ after he condemned the cases of summary killings in the country and said these acts were illegal and clear violations of human rights.

However, it is not only Duterte who has kept the country shrouded in Martial Law.  

The administrations following Marcos have continued this tradition.

Not one president has been spared these accusations, and despite his promised change, Duterte has not extinguished the fascist actions of the state. Instead, he has enforced it.

Despite the Constitution stating that no person shall be imprisoned by reason of political beliefs and aspirations, Filipino political prisoners still await their freedom while the numbers of enforced disappearances–2,300 since the 1970s according to the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD)–cannot be unseen.

These political prisoners include UP College of Mass Communication film student Maricon Montajes, who, together with Ronilo Baes and Romiel Cañete, are collectively known as the Taysan 3. In 2010, the group was unjustly detained on yet-to-be proven allegations of illegal possession of explosives and firearms.

While it cannot be denied that human rights violations have become rampant under the first stages of Duterte’s regime, one of the current administration’s commendable efforts is the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front (NDF).

This initiative has resulted to 16 political prisoners released for participation in the peace process. However, these releases are only temporary and account for so much less than the total of 550 unjustly arrested.

While chants of opposition against historical revisionism and Martial Law ring louder more than ever, the Duterte administration has chosen to respond to this by honoring Marcos with a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LMNB), repeatedly insisting that the former president’s service as a soldier is what makes him qualified for the burial.

In doing so, the Duterte administration has ignored the National Historical Commission of the Philippines proof that Marcos lied about the war medals he received as well as soiled his hands with the lives his regime claimed during Martial Law.

Even the Official Gazette of the Philippines has not escaped from the clutches of historical revisionism. In a publicity material released Sept. 11, the online graphic tried to conceal the atrocities of the Marcos regime by stating that the former president and dictator had “stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed” in 1986.

While the caption was edited later on to remove its initial inaccuracies, the fact remains that Duterte not only shares similarities with the former president but as well as aids in turning history to his favor.

Allowing this burial to ensue, along with the persistence of the ideology that Marcos is a hero, is historical revisionism at its finest, a negation of the freedom and the democracy the Filipino people have fought for and paid for in blood.

Nevertheless, it is not too late to fight back and oppose these human rights violations.

While social media may no longer be a desirable platform due to the persistent hate comments arising whenever an online user criticizes the president, the streets are more than open to those who wish to express dissent towards the administration’s war on drugs—its war on the poor—as well as its decision to bury the deceased dictator among heroes and brand him as such.

The streets are more than welcome to those who wish to support reconciling with Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency as well the release of those who have been imprisoned due to a different political ideology.

The streets are more than unobstructed to hear the voice of the people that has long since cried for societal change targeting the destruction of fascism and with that, the persistent culture of impunity.

The streets are open to the cries of ‘never again to what never really left.’

 

Editorial: No hits, all miss

Has there been an assault on academic freedom and freedom of expression?

When the eUP Project Team released a statement against Krixia Subingsubing and Ronn Bautista’s report on said initiative, they labeled the Department of Journalism’s best investigative thesis a “witch hunt disguised as an academic endeavor” and a “poorly conducted research work.”

In response to the statement, UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) Dean Elena Pernia aired a response, Aug. 25, saying there was no attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression upon the eUP Project Team’s critique of the investigative report.

While the eUP Team has every right to criticize the Bautista-Subingsubing thesis, it has no right to defame students’ reportage on an issue that not only involves UP students but also the general public with outgoing UP President Alfredo Pascual acquiring and utilizing government funds to implement his project, one he fought for tooth and nail since its implementation in 2012.

Ironically and surprisingly, instead of defending an academic work from a department that has been hailed a Center of Excellence by the Commission on Higher Education, the dean chose to place herself in a grey area, defending everyone’s “freedom of expression.”

It is disappointing that the dean of the College of Mass Communication, full of students repeatedly taught to defend itself against censorship and pressure from governing bodies and authorities, has failed to defend the role of a journalist as the public’s watchdog and even more so, the right of the public to information and to the truth.

In calling the investigative thesis a “witch hunt” that contains “misleading claims, questionable conclusions and false allegations” without concrete basis to counter the evidence presented in the report, officials behind the project have made direct attacks not just against Bautista and Subingsubing but also against the public to whom they owe transparency.

It is a shame that the college’s topmost official has no clear grasp of the idea of freedom of expression, and that she has reduced such a pillar of mass media to merely choosing a thesis topic and posting opinions online.

Freedom of speech is not limited to disseminating information on social media or bagging the award for best thesis. Rather, it encompasses the right of citizens to criticize those in power without the threat of being shot down, especially when there is sufficient proof to back their conclusions.

Most of all, freedom of speech does not equate to one’s right to repress another’s freedom of expression as done by the eUP Project Team and the UP administration.

On issues like that of eUP, discussion and debate are integral; however, repressive retaliations, which exude a chilling effect, are not.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis put it this way: ‘If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.’”

However, in defending the eUP Project Team’s allegations against the rigorously conducted and thoroughly verified thesis, Pernia has been an agent of enforced silence, gagging students who wish to criticize the programs and policies of a university that has been implementing repressive neoliberal schemes.

So, has there been an assault of freedom of speech? Has there been any attempt on the part of UP administration to prevent the exercise of the freedom of expression?

As a publication that upholds campus press freedom and defends journalists who are constantly repressed by those in position or power and as future media practitioners who will soon use our skills to expose anomalies and provide a voice to the unheard to serve the people, we rise and respond to Dean Elena Pernia: yes, the UP administration has committed the highest form of oppression against free speech, and ironically, in defending the eUP Team’s malicious claims and watering it down as merely right to express, she has also done the same.

Editorial: No Punchlines

Davao City Mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte was recently recorded joking about the rape of an Australian missionary in 1989. Outrage from women’s groups, international organizations and social media users ensued, but in an interview with reporters, the mayor has categorically refused to apologize.

Rape is not a laughing matter to be joked about by anyone, more so by a frontrunner in the presidential race.

Duterte, who is known for candidly admitting his womanizing habits and seeming objectification of women during his electoral campaigns, has lashed out once again, prompting an outrageous hubbub in social media after saying he should have been first in the gang rape of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill in 1989.

“Nirape nila lahat ng mga babae so ‘yung unang asolte, kasi nagretreat sila, naiwan yung ginawa nilang cover, ang isa doon yung layminister na Australyana. Tsk, problema na ito. Pag labas, edi binalot. Tiningnan ko yung mukha, ‘tang ina parang artista sa America na maganda,” Duterte told a laughing crowd of supporters in a campaign rally in Quezon City.

Putang ina, sayang ito. Ang nagpasok sa isip ko, nirape nila, pinagpilahan nila doon. Nagalit ako kasi nirape, oo isa rin ‘yun. Pero napakaganda, dapat ang mayor muna ang mauna. Sayang,” he added.

Hamill was among the five hostages killed in a hostage-taking incident by inmates of Davao City’s prison in 1989, when Duterte, the city’s long-standing mayor, was incumbent.

Hamill was raped, her throat slashed, before military troops stormed the prison, killing all 15 hostage-takers, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune dated August 16, 1989.

It is not the first time Duterte, who has recently been leading opinion surveys, has been put under the spotlight for his actions towards women. As a candidate, he is often seen campaigning and kissing girls at times without consent as well as bragging about his two wives and two girlfriends, a clear and direct affront to women’s rights.

He prides himself in his machismo, speaking in thuggish language to assert his iron fist, creating for himself an image of a dictator, ruling the public with fear and controlling the people with his infamous Davao Death Squad who has been responsible for extrajudicial killings in Mindanao.

Earlier, he even claimed he would not take back what he said and would not apologize for being honest. Furthermore, Duterte also says he would rather lose the presidential elections than apologize for being himself.

Duterte issued a statement of apology on April 19, saying he had no intention of disrespecting women and victims of rape, adding that his mouth can sometimes get the better of him.

While the mayor claims his comment on Hamill as part of a narrative that forwards his role as the country’s “crime fighter,” he does nothing to fight rape, despite the fact that it is indeed a crime, as he let his supporters, his very own constituents laugh about the Australian missionary’s demise.

He has done nothing to chide his supporters upon laughing at Hamill’s fate. He does not even ask them to be silent or sympathize with the victim. Instead, he allows the laughter to flourish in the crowd and by that, allowing the prevalence of rape as a trivial matter to become the dominant thought in his miseducated audience.

Despite issuing an apology for his recent remark, Duterte has failed to apologize for his past actions against women. For the presidential aspirant to prove he respects women, he must acknowledge the past offenses he has made against them. The issue of his rape joke must not be singled out. Rather, it ought to be viewed together with Duterte’s previous behavior and his handling of the women sector.

Although Duterte has also said in interviews with major media outlets saying that he had only made such comment due to anger, creating a joke out of anger does not justify it, especially if the subject of the joke is highly sensitive and utterly dehumanizing.

If one must be truly angry at the persistence of rape culture, one must make statements that would fight against it instead of transforming it into a trivial matter that can be easily dismissed or laughed about.

Contrary to what his cult-like supporters believe who would defend him until death, Duterte is not a crime fighter. He is not a hero. Rather, with the recent incident and with his fascist disposition, he is the embodiment of crime itself.

Duterte is a candidate who allows rape culture and the oppression of women to persist by allowing his supporters to propagate them both as seen in this instance. He has done nothing to contradict it in his campaign. Instead, he has promoted to the public the male gaze, the idea that women can become separate from themselves and viewed as bodies men can easily own.

Remarks like these become a looming threat, a dangerous thinking promoted to a vast number of followers both online and off-ground who would readily build walls to protect their candidate, treating him ‘holier than thou’ despite his morally wrong principles.

Duterte supporters have been known to stick by Digong despite the seemed immorality of his actions. They have been known to have violent tendencies online when a social media user dares to criticize their candidate for his behavior and unorthodox ways.

Renne Karunungan, an outspoken advocate against Duterte’s presidency, has filed a police report against Duterte supporters who have made threats against her, hitting her with insults such as “Sana ma-rape ka.” and calling her “pokpok.” She says the mayor’s online supporters have used her womanhood against her in an attempt to silence her from campaigning against Duterte.

Rape jokes and acts committed towards Karunungan are not new and are so common in a patriarchal society such as the Philippines’, and these japes and threats perpetuate the stigma of rape, all the more making it prevalent.

Even though our right to free speech is enshrined and protected by the constitution, it does not mean we have the right to use it to malign and degrade a certain sector of the society who remains powerless in this system—the women.

More than condemning the actions of Duterte, citizens must engage in the struggle against the patriarchy that have so long oppressed us and controlled our society. It is not the time for armchair activism to prevail when what is at stake is the future of the country, a future that may be in the hands of a misogynist and fascist mayor who has no respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Now that the issue has become viral and picked up even by international media, it is high time that Filipinos reflect on the state of gender equality in the country and along with that, fight against the persistence of rape culture.

With Quezon City now implementing a law criminalizing catcalling and street-level sexual harassment against women, it is time for the Philippine society to reevaluate its moral principles and its perspective on women. It is time for us to expand these laws and strengthen them, especially now in a society where being a woman, just being a woman, is equivalent to being a threat.

It is also time for us to break the double-standards and acknowledge that men, too, can become victims of rape and sexual abuse. They, too, are victims of the system. Instead of shaming men and labelling them as weak, Filipinos must join them in their fight to lift this horrible stigma in society, a result of the patriarchy which has deemed women as weak and men as strong. With that, Filipinos must work collectively to crush the patriarchy that has burdened us, that has constantly victimized all of us, keeping in mind that this pressing gender struggle is related to a larger class struggle, which can only be resolved through societal change.

Editorial: All but a numbers game

We are no strangers to the University Student Council (USC) drama, and its all-star cast clad in blue, red and yellow.

The USC, the University of the Philippines’ student government, with its general assemblies lasting until the wee hours of the morning have become online sensations for Iskolars ng Bayan who care to know, especially when juicy bickering and witty banter are included in the package.

But if we care enough to look at the USC and criticize its leadership during the previous year, we can say it has practiced a certain game—a game of numbers. The conflict within the grounds of the USC has been merely reduced to a battle of numbers instead of being a healthy discourse on principle.

Discourse has always been present in all forms of government, yet it is surprising that UP’s USC practices a number game where discourse becomes futile as decisions have been made beforehand by the dominating party.

More often than not, the opinions of the minority members of the council are easily diminished or disregarded, and the party with the most number of members in position prevail when it comes to the council’s projects, advocacies and decisions.

Instead of executing an open-minded exchange of ideas between parties, what should have been fruitful and rational debates have become arenas where political parties engage in low-blow combats where a sure advantage is strength in numbers.

Text messages asking particular party members to adhere by the decisions of their respective political affiliations do not allow members in position to decide for themselves nor to listen and understand what is being said or forwarded by those in opposing parties.

They do not allow critical thought to enter the process of decision-making, as they rely on their personal biases to make the decisions for them, turning a deaf ear to what is being said by another side and a blind eye to the different perception of another group.

This kind of leadership—one that is deaf and blind—is what prevails in a university that ironically encourages its students to question what they know and to act upon it.

This is the student leadership that governs a university that produces students and professionals who ought to be able to challenge the status quo and think for themselves, a university that claims to promote honor and excellence in the service of the Filipino people.

Effective leadership requires going beyond what is necessary—even shying away one’s political color just to arrive at a consensus where everyone will benefit from.

Because of this mandatory adherence of the members to the decisions made by the prominent political party, the fight of the minority during council affairs become a pointless, voiceless battle they wish to carry despite being outnumbered.

The student body, therefore, does not get the adequate representation it demands and deserves from its council, and the struggles of other Iskolars ng Bayan who side with the minority or believe in the minority are easily dismissed due to the lack of effective leadership dynamics.

We have seen the same phenomenon occur in present Philippine society where minority sectors are repressed and neglected by those in power or position.

Hacienda Luisita farmers remain landless after countless agrarian reform programs. The Lumad of Mindanao continue to be ravaged by the military and the paramilitary as they attack their schools and communities, terrorizing the lumads with the brutal and chilling murders of their kin. The culture of impunity persists, and journalists continue to be slain while the masterminds behind the heinous Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 32 media practitioners, remain free to roam and even run for office. State universities and colleges continue to experience budget cuts with each year’s cut increasing and the state of tertiary education getting worse.

Even the mainstream media cannot escape the guilt from such act of repression as they, too, have frequently drifted towards reporting the trivial or the trending rather than focusing on the unheard voices of society.

With such institutions retaining the same dynamics of power play, those unheard continue to be oppressed and pushed back in the corners of society. Although it is not a unanimous choice among these institutions as there are some who still wish to forward the struggles of the people, the prevalence of neglect towards these repressed sectors reflects their inclination to side with society’s ruthless oppressors. With this year’s student council elections coming up fast, students must call for and vote for a leadership with sufficient and genuine student representation.

The USC must not be a numbers game. Rather, as a council representing the student body, it must push for pro-student rights and seek to include advocacies, decisions and projects that can and would cater to all students, regardless of their political affiliations or personal ideologies.

The USC must be an avenue that reaches out to Iskolar ng Bayan whom they serve and not a battleground for whose political principle must prevail and dominate the campus.

The elected must dare to be different from the leaders seated in the country’s current administration. As those in position, they ought pay attention to the unheard voices of the university and engage them in a discourse that would not only benefit the student body but would also be good for the student government.

It is time to get back the University Student Council we have long lost—a USC that will continuously fight for the rights not only of the students but also those of the greater masses outside the university.

Review: M Café

There’s a new “M” in the college.

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Text by: Andrea Adan and Clarist Zablan

Photos by: Glenn Barit, TNP Resident Photographer
(Updated Oct.26, 2014 |16:00)

PLARIDEL HALL, UP Diliman – There’s a new “M” in the college.

A new food provider opened its doors late August that provided some students, faculty, staff and college visitors a proximate fix to their growling stomachs.

Manterey Food Services operates the new canteen. They also run the food facility in the UP College of Human Kinetics.

The café offers a wide menu where its customers can select their pick of the day: the typical viand-rice meals, sizzlers, pasta selections and sweet fix-ins. And of course, the café is not complete without its coffee bar – a stopover perfect for students and professors who stay up too late the night before and needs quick caffeine boost.

The college canteen facility is now equipped with an air conditioning unit, providing a more comfortable eating experience to its customers even when the sun is at its peak.

However, the price range of the menu items is dramatically higher than that of the last food provider that occupy the spot – a typical viand-rice combo now ranges from P70 to P99 compared to the P35 to P50 of the past concessionaire. With this, students with tight budget normally buy their lunch from the kiosk outside the college or  the “siomai rice” food stop at the Media Center Building instead.

Also, vegetable selections seem almost absent from their daily menu aside from the spoonful side dish they provide in every viand-rice order, making vegetarians and veggie lovers go to nearby college canteens to eat instead.

Service is also slow. Even though it is rare that a queue emerges, typical time of completing a purchase transaction is five minutes, and can even be longer especially for take outs. This is very disadvantageous to those with tight schedules, especially to students who sneak out of their classes to buy food to fill their empty tummies.

Given all this, it is apparent that M Café serves a very specific market: those who have a hefty daily budget. For a canteen that serves a college in a state university, it is advisable for the canteen to trim down their prices so that more students can afford their offerings.

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A different call

As repeated chants resonated among thousands converging at one end of Luneta Park, a certain participant of the day’s protest preached of his own take on the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as well as his presidential dream to passers-by and picnic-goers relaxing on the other end.

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by Maverick Russel Flores and Bryan Ezra Gonzales

With many Filipinos still skeptical of the administration’s commitment to dispose of the pork barrel, the Million People March saw an inevitable sequel this year.

Resisting the scorching afternoon heat, various groups returned to the vast open space in front of Quirino Grandstand to express their disapproval of the alleged continuation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) ,also known as pork barrel, in the 2015 national budget and to register their support for the people’s initiative to dismantle all kinds of pork.

At the site, people lined the different stations located around the open space, hoping to change with their signature the future course of the country’s political train.

As repeated chants resonated among thousands converging at one end of Luneta Park, a certain participant of the day’s protest preached of his own take on the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as well as his presidential dream to passers-by and picnic-goers relaxing on the other end.

Armed with his own megaphone and a spurt of passion, Manong Ignacio walked the stretch of Luneta park and tirelessly attempted to convince ordinary park visitors to believe in his grand vision of running for the presidency. His 13-year-old daughter and a sympathetic neighbor accompanied him in his campaign, distributing statements which he himself wrote.

But Alejandro Ignacio, 76, was unlike most “presidentiables” who found their immediate beginnings in the plenary halls or showbiz industry. His only claim to fame was having been featured in GMA Network’s public service program, “Wish Ko Lang!”

A native of Pampanga, he now resides in Rodriguez, Rizal and drives a cab around Metro Manila, which gets him around P800-1000 a day to spend for his 12 children.

With none of his children having finished their studies, Ignacio remains the family’s sole breadwinner.

“Wala silang aasahan kundi ako (I’m the only one they can rely on),“ Ignacio said.

Despite his family’s situation, however, he worries more about the fate of his countrymen under the current government system.

Manong Ignacio once wrote a complaint to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), regarding the widespread cheating and vote-buying happening in every election. He said the commission appreciated and even admired his letter.

“[They told me that] the time will come that I will make the country a better place,” he said.

In hopes of erasing these election offenses for good, along with the rampant graft and corruption in the country, Ignacio has resolved to file for candidacy in the 2016 presidential race. He said, however, the battle he is about to enlist in does not favor principle, rather, which candidate has more “show money.”

“Ang pera, galing sa pork barrel scandal. Ang puhunan po nila, hindi nila pera, pera ng taumbayan (The money came from the pork barrel scandal. The capital they use is not their money, it’s the people’s money),” he said.

For Manong Ignacio and many others, the number of people who trooped to Luneta this year proves that the fight against the pork barrel system has definitely continued beyond the Million People March in 2013.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. estimated the crowd to be at around 20,000 people, while police estimated a peak attendance of 5,000.

But Manong Ignacio was not just a mere addition to these figures.

For a day, Manong Ignacio was able to present himself as a potential player in the country’s political arena, unfazed by the disgusting realities of the game and confident in his personal platform. All Filipinos possess such potential, but for now, they will continue to watch from the stands while those in power control the playing field.

Will we ever see the day when a humble taxi driver will triumph in the race for the highest position in the land?

Whoever crosses the finish line first is still uncertain, but the 2013 Million People March and its sequel this year have shown that ordinary people, like Mang Ignacio, are growing tired of sitting quietly on the bleachers.

The need for game-changers is greater than ever, and more people are getting ready to step up to the challenge.

Pre-SONA Throwback: DOE and DENR

Our countrymen are tired of seeing band aid after band aid put upon the deep wounds of our energy insufficiency.

by: Andrea Jobelle Adan

A year has raced its way past us since President Aquino’s 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA). Salvage and make ends meet – this was the mission set upon the shoulders of the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) on the July 22, 2013 speech.

Though the call for resolutions is urgent, Aquino acknowledged that the road to triumph will be a lengthy one. “From the very beginning, we have been working on a solution for this—but we are also aware that a problem that has been ignored for an entire decade cannot be solved overnight,” he admitted. Nonetheless, the DOE has been implementing remedies to thwart, if not lessen, the blow of energy deficiency in our country.

Our countrymen are tired of seeing band aid after band aid put upon the deep wounds of our energy insufficiency. Accordingly, the DOE along with the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) delved into long-term planning strategies for our country’s power sector. Under their scrutiny was the Australian Energy Market Operation (AEMO), which is known for its integration of Renewable Energy (RE) in the market.

Renewable energy has long since been debated upon. Aquino himself publicized his opinion on this during his fourth SONA saying, “I believe in renewable energy and we support its use, but there should also be baseload plants that can ensure a steady supply of electricity for our homes and industries.”

But these energy plants do not sprout like mushrooms.It will take years to serve the growing need for energy. The country’s growing economy is squeezing every last drop from the energy reservoirs.

It would be disastrous if ways will not be implemented to stop the river that is our energy from running dry. Thus, “Kapag maiksi ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot.”

In line with this, there have been conferences about energy-efficient technologies as well as simple day-to-day practices that contribute to this.

The DOE, in association with the Japan Business Alliance for Smart Energy Worldwide (JASE-W), ASEAN-Centre for Energy (ACE) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Japan (METI), hosted a conference which introduced energy efficient technologies that targeted to boost the implementation of energy efficiency in the building industry.

“The best way to avoid building more power plants is to focus on energy efficiency,” energy secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said.
These gizmos which include heat pump technology, energy-efficient chiller application and other “green” products from Japan come to the rescue. Net metering is also on the rise.

But these technical terms tend to make the public apprehensive. Fear not then, for DOE, along with other stakeholders, launched a guide for the public known as the Net Metering Reference Guide. The guide is an essential for everyone who’s interested in availing solar roof tops and other renewable energy (RE) installations for own electricity consumption. It is an ultimate step-by-step reference to becoming your very own energy producer which includes permitting procedures, investment computations and the like.

Under the rules of net-metering, a qualified residential or commercial consumer is permitted to set up facilities that promote the use of RE such as solar roof panels as long as it does not exceed 1oo kilowatts. This move aims to banish the days when heads of the household tremble at the very sight of an electric bill; truly, every Filipino’s fantasy has come alive.

To further prove the innovations it can give, the guide also includes a simulated electric bill of a net-metering user who saves a total of Php 2,244.36 per month. The benefits are not merely enclosed upon the four walls of the home or the industry; it extends to the whole country.

In these changing times, we must adapt in order to survive. True enough, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje reminds us, “There is nothing we could do but adapt to climate change and the only way we could be prepared for it is to accept that these recent developments in our country like intense weather disturbances, heavy rainfall, and long dry seasons are now the ‘new normal.”

When life throws problems at you, turn them into solutions.

Our country has been battered by storms one too many. Then, after floods that swept so many, the draught that seems from a thousand suns begins to batter the people. In order to solve this, Paje fully supports creating more water catchments in upstream locations of the country.

“Rainwater can be managed as a resource if it is captured upstream and use it during summer for agriculture,” Paje said. This will alleviate the yearly damage brought about by storms plus, it will aid the farmers in having a more fruitful harvest.
However, this is only supplementary in carrying out the widespread reforestation under the Aquino administration’s National Greening Program.

The DENR has also taken steps to ensure the protection of aquatic treasures such as the Coral Triangle which contains a third of the world’s total coral reefs. In view of that, a coastal cleanup was held where an alarming 1.3 million kilograms of trash were removed from the shoreline, inland waterways and even underwater by volunteers.

This year’s local theme, “Bayanihan Para sa Malinis na Karagatan,” and the international theme “Working for Clean Beaches and Clean Water,” cries out so much about volunteerism and the need for a united drive. But the countrymen did not disappoint as the Philippines remains one of the top countries with the number of volunteers falling second only to the United States.

But as Paje emphasized, it would be better if we were known not only for the great number of volunteers, but also for the lessening of the trash picked up. According to the World Bank’s Philippine Environment Monitor of 2003, tracked losses due to water pollution cost about P56 billion annually. More than a thousand families would be driven up the poverty line if the country comes together to put a stop to such.

To further broaden the country’s efforts for a cleaner and environmental state, DENR has also conducted searches for eco-friendly learning institutions. They aimed to instill into the minds of the country’s hope that our ecosystem is not something to be abused.

As the year has gone, many changes have occurred and much more changes are expected to happen. The Filipino’s ears have gone numb from promises. What the people need are evident results that the “Sick Man of Asia” has really come to vitality. And it is for the head of the state to lead them to a day when talk of adapting to shortened blankets has come to a stop.

Pre-SONA Throwback: DepEd

During the first quarter of 2013, the backlogs in books and chairs inherited from the previous administration were erased, according to Department of Education (DepEd) reports.

by: Pathricia Ann V. Roxas

For the past decades, the education sector had been struggling with unresolved issues: lack of instructional materials, poorly paid but overworked teachers, lack of facilities, and in some instances, absence of schools in far flung areas. But in the 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA), it can be remembered that President Benigno Aquino III stated that the goal of “raising the quality of learning so that our children can seize the opportunities now opening” has been accomplished. He even lauded education secretary Armin Luistro for successfully erasing some of the long-standing problems the sector faces.

During the first quarter of 2013, the backlogs in books and chairs inherited from the previous administration were erased, according to Department of Education (DepEd) reports. The department also reduced the 135, 847 shortage in sanitation facilities to 98, 196 and the 99, 628 deficiency of teachers to 11, 648. By February 2014, 66,813 classrooms were turned over to elementary and secondary public high erasing the 2010 shortage.

Inside the 309 billion peso 2014 budget for the DepEd is a 7.45 billion item intended to help families who are sending their children to private schools. In the latest government report, more than 800, 000 students in private school have been assisted by the Government Assistance for Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) program. The programs enables eligible students to pursue secondary schooling in private schools through a fixed annual subsidy covering tuition and other school fees.

However impressive the numbers are, the present and perceived situation of public education, shows otherwise.

When DepEd announced that the classroom shortages were resolved, many resort in disbelief. Students, teachers, and even school principals themselves have proven DepEd wrong. During the opening of classes last June 2, the number of students ranging from 50-80 per classroom attested the deceitful information, as overcrowding in schools is still synonymous to lack of classrooms and insufficient education budget.

Even with DepEd’s GASTPE, 30 to 40 percent of pupils earlier enrolled in private schools transfer to public schools due to the high cost of tuition and miscellaneous fees. This just proves that no scholarship or student loan will really make students finish studying and go up to college without spending so much.

“GASTPE is actually GASTOS. These dole-outs only show that DepEd and especially the Aquino government are saying that public education has not been funded well, and that to get the ‘quality education’ that parents want for their children, they may opt to go GASTPE for financial assistance,” National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP)  National President Sarah Elago said.

On the other hand, in line with the K-12 Program, CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 20, series of 2013, created a new General Education Curriculum (GEC) that reduces the number of units for General Education (GE) courses from 63 to 36. The memorandum became controversial as educators and advocates of Filipino and Philippine Literature have expressed anger over plans to drop the mandatory Filipino subjects in the revised general education (GE) curriculum.

One serious consequence of the policy is threatening the jobs of teachers. It will cause over 10,000 full-time and 20,000 part-time professors be displaced and lose their jobs or income, and until now, no concrete plans were administered by CHED on this matter.

Just as the present basic education difficulties require careful analysis and logical solutions, so do the problems confronting tertiary education. Prominent among the problems of higher education are quality and accessibility. Despite the decrease in quality, tuition and other fees continue to increase which makes higher education inaccessible for a large percentage of Filipino youths.

This veracity may not sound new to many. Despite receiving the highest budget among other departments, it is crucial to note that the increase remains grossly insufficient in addressing the needs of basic education. This insufficiency forces some State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and other schools to pass the burden of making ends meet to the students and parents. Efforts exerted by the education department will remain unfelt unless genuine determination be intensified to make every Filipino youth believe that quality education is a right, not than a privilege.

 

Pre-SONA Throwback: DOST and DOTC

During last year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino enjoined the nation in his cause to “foster, accelerate and expand the transformation of society.” But as the Departments of Science & Technology (DOST) and Transportation & Communication (DOTC) find themselves in a race to erase shortcomings and produce results, the chief executive might have fallen short in revving up the engines for a better nation.

by: Maverick Russel Flores

During last year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino enjoined the nation in his cause to “foster, accelerate and expand the transformation of society.” But as the Departments of Science & Technology (DOST) and Transportation & Communication (DOTC) find themselves in a race to erase shortcomings and produce results, the chief executive might have fallen short in revving up the engines for a better nation.

Aquino set a fast pace for development in his last SONA and he wants it evident on disaster preparedness. He gave ample attention to measures such as the National Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH).

Created by the science department under Secretary Mario Montejo in 2012, its mandate was to enhance geo-hazard vulnerability maps, which pinpointed areas most prone to flooding. The maps were expected to provide a six-hour lead time warning for citizens of certain danger areas, according to the project’s website.

During last year’s SONA, Aquino boasted that multi-hazard mapping of 28 of the most vulnerable areas, and of 496 municipalities and cities were finished. He envisioned that those of 1,138 more areas in the country will be completed by 2015. 525 water level monitoring stations were also installed in 18 major river basins since 2012.

As it celebrates its second-year anniversary, NOAH now showcases flood hazard maps for 5,060 barangays and villages nationwide, reports said. These maps helped in identifying areas that are safe to establish evacuation centers on.

NOAH also paved the way for Weather Information-Integration for System Enhancement (WISE), which enables the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to forecast what the weather will be 7 days in advance. It is also envisioned to soon predict seasonal weather from 6 months ahead.

These weather-forecast advancements, however, will not be as useful if not for developments in PAGASA’s equipment. Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) helped the bureau to acquire high-quality Doppler radars and set up Doppler radar stations in Iloilo, Zamboanga and Busuanga in Palawan, said PAGASA acting administrator Vicente Malano in a Philippine Star report.

These acquisitions—plus the enhancement of their research facilities and training for weather and climate predictions—reportedly improved PAGASA’s forecast accuracy, especially during the onslaught of Typhoons Yolanda and, more recently, Glenda.

“If not for DAP and if not for PAGASA’s restored credibility, a colossal typhoon like Typhoon Glenda could have been deadly for a lot of people. It’s good that our people now believe in PAGASA’s weather forecasts,” Malano said.

As PAGASA aimed for the sky, DOST tinkers with another Aquino-encouraged project inside the nation’s flagship university.

As early as his 2011 SONA, Aquino pushed for the development of the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT), an emission-free, electricity-powered elevated train system that runs on two parallel beams. Aquino brandished the project as the solution to the country’s mass transportation problems, and “could result in more kilometers of cheap transport, decongesting urban centers and allowing rural communities easier access to centers of commerce and industry.”

In April 2013, he, along with Montejo and UP President Alfredo Pascual, rode the now working prototype that sprawls inside UP Diliman. Aquino called out DOST to even the suspension system and bumps on the tracks, for the comfort of UP students and professors.

There is a hasty demand for such developments, though, as transport in Metro Manila grows into an even more bumpy situation.

In last year’s SONA, Aquino pushed for a fare hike for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT), to alleviate the government subsidy on the cost of maintaining and operating Metro Manila’s current mass transit systems.

“Perhaps it is only reasonable for us to move the fares of the MRT and LRT closer to the fares of air-conditioned buses, so that the government subsidy for the MRT and LRT can be used for other social services,” Aquino said.

Recent events, however, call for more government attention on the transits’ maintenance.

Over the last months, the MRT 3, used to serving 600,000 passengers daily, was a picture of long lines and frustratingly waiting passengers. On March 22, 2014, the signal system flopped for Ayala and Buendia stations, stopping all trains from passing through and operations for hours. Mis-signaling occurred again two days later, and one such incident in March 26 reportedly caused a train to abruptly stop, injuring dozens of passengers.

Faulty signal systems were not the only problem for MRT. In fact, reports said that aside from faltering maintenance, broken track segments were only replaced by “cannibalized” parts from the parking depot, and broken windshields fixed just by spraying sealant. And as for the bumpy ride, the tires and the tracks were apparently no longer grinded.

Former MRT 3 general manager Al Vitangcol III also indicated in April that all of the 73 14-year-old trains were fully operational, yet at least eight trams a week, and six more for longer periods, reports said.

It doesn’t help, too, that Vitangcol might have awarded the 10-month maintenance contract in 2012 to PH Trams in favor of an undeclared relationship with one of its board members—his uncle-in-law, Arturo V. Soriano. This allegation reportedly pushed DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya into sacking Vitangcol.

But it’s not only the MRT’s wheels that need grinding.

On May 28, 2014, the Senate called a hearing on “the impact of slow and expensive internet.” During the hearing, Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV cited the United Nations report recognizing the Internet as a human right; yet Senator Loren Legarda, in front of major telecommunication companies Smart and Globe, complained about her either slow or absent internet at her home and office, even after paying costly fees.

Legarda also indicated that Singapore only charges P1,300 for 15 Mbps internet speeds, and Thailand only P1,100 for 12 Mbps—while the Philippines charges P1,000 for our speed average of 2.0 Mbps.

With the World Bank stating that 36.2% of Filipinos are internet users, the demand for faster internet continues to be a pressing issue. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto responded by filing Senate Bill 2238, which aims to mandate a minimum Internet speed of 10.0 Mbps on local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Until this is implemented, though, Filipinos will continue to lag behind other Asian countries in Internet speeds, as indicated in a recent online infographic.

Developments have taken place, improvements have been realized. But so long as Aquino patronizes his “tuwid na daan,” the picture will not ever be complete unless these bumps are evened.

In this light, however, this year’s SONA must not be mere praises and woes—the man in power must propose firm and immediate resolve. The Palace is done setting the pace last year—it’s time to assess the progress, and assure results.

 

Worth the Gamble

Five years back, Autre Porte Global Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dan Stephen Palami went out the box and accepted a challenging job.

By: David Tristan Yumol

 

Five years back, Autre Porte Global Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dan Stephen Palami went out the box and accepted a challenging job. He took the role of team manager of then-unknown and fledgling Philippine Azkals, and through his genuine leadership and drive for success, drove the team to unprecedented success and a spot on the map of Asian football.

Now, Palami faces some sort of déjà vu. He is tasked to manage the UP Men’s Basketball Team, the perennial whipping boys of the UAAP. The only question asked by many upon hearing this news is, can Palami resurrect the snoozing Fighting Maroons, just like what he did to the football team?

Aside from being the CEO of a railway engineering company, the credentials of this 44-year-old native of Tacloban in doing sports management is remarkable. Before handling the Azkals, Palami used to guide the U-19 national football team for a short time. Currently, he serves as chairman of Global FC, which plays in the Division One of the United Football League. But his real success as a team manager was truly evident in his stint with the Azkals.

He was in charge of the recruitment of Fil-foreign players Phil and James Younghusband, goalie Neil Etheridge, and midfielder Stephan Schrock, among others. He also brought to the team several home-grown talents like winger Chieffy Caligdong, striker Ian Araneta, and defender Aly Borromeo.

Because of the man’s desire to raise the Azkals from the grave, the fruits of his hard work bore in just a matter of time. A year under the coach rule, the Azkals reached the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time, highlighted by their 2-0 upset win against powerhouse Vietnam in the preliminaries. Following that feat, the football team also participated in several high-profile tournaments like the Long Teng Cup, Peace Cup, and the recent AFC Challenge Cup where they bowed with a bridesmaid finish.

All these achievements in his five-year tenure as the manager of the Azkals are enough for the state university to hire him as the coordinator of its men’s basketball team. Adding to that is the fact that Palami is a product of the premier state university. He finished his accountancy degree at UP Mindanao and attended law school in Diliman but stopped on his fourth year to focus on his railway firm.

In an interview with UP College of Human Kinetics Dean Ronualdo Dizer, he said that Palami was approached by a group of alumni who volunteered to help the sports program of UP. This group named themselves “UP Alumni Boosters” which seek to supplement the finances of the sports teams especially the Men’s Basketball Team. They chose Palami since they felt the need to be organized, thus naming him as the UP Alumni Boosters team coordinator. Dizer also mentioned that Palami is unofficially holding that position since the chancellor is yet to sign his appointment papers, although he already agreed on this matter.

When asked about Palami’s specific plans for the Maroons, Dizer said that the timeframe the new manager gave for the growth of the team will take two to three years to prosper. At this early, Palami already did a lot for the players according to the CHK dean.

The food allowances of the players were increased as well as having brand new shoes and practice jerseys for them. Also, Palami donated a brand new 22-seater coaster bus that will be used by all players to go to their playing venues. He is also raising funds to build an artificial football pitch in the campus that can also serve as a playing venue for the Azkals.

Regarding the financing of varsity-related initiatives, Dizer said that the Alumni Boosters, guided by Palami, will be in-charge of that.

“As what they want, everyone can give their own fair share to the teams voluntarily because they want to unify the alumni. They aim to change the environment here in UP wherein the sponsors will not be limited to a few and big-time ones but it is a collective effort in helping our sports program,” Dizer said.

If the success of Azkals under his instruction will be followed, Palami certainly can be a worth gamble for to revive the men’s basketball program of the country’s premier state university. With his passion for sports and sincerity to restore the glory of his beloved alma mater in basketball, Palami can be the saviour that we are long waiting for in order to be at par or beyond with the other teams. Of course, it will take a lot of effort before Palami could transform the Fighting Maroons into a title contender.

We do have a common dream for our beloved dribblers. That is to win majority of their outings, and eventually advance to the Final Four. The pressure is understandable since this is the most sought-after sport in the UAAP.  What we have to do now is to observe whether the magic of Palami can work with the Maroons. Hopefully, the people behind the team made a right decision to pick him and not lose their gamble to him. Padayon, Palami!