By Tinig ng Plaridel
The year 2013 is definitely one for the books for the triumphs and mishaps both in the university and out. Take a look back on the events that shook and shaped the University of the Philippines (UP) and the nation before the year comes to a close.
UP students take the spotlight
2013 proved to be a year for UP students to take the world spotlight. UP Los Baños alumna Ariella Arida placed third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant Nov. 10. When asked about possible solutions to lack of jobs around the world, Arida said “education is the primary source and ticket to a better future.”
Hannah Espia’s film Transit, which discussed the plight of overseas Filipino workers in Israel, was chosen by the Film Academy of the Philippines as the country’s official entry to the Academy Awards or the Oscars in September. It figured with the films On The Job by Erik Matti and Thy Womb by Brillante Mendoza for the spot. Espia, alumna of the UP Film Institute, was also hailed as best director for the Cinemalaya film fest 2013.
The UP Pep Squad, despite losing the UAAP cheerdance crown to National University, placed third in the 7th Cheerleading World Championships held in Thailand last Nov. 22. The UP Streetdance Club also bagged bronze for the Megacrew division of the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas for the second year.
In July, Economics graduate Jonathan Allen Yabut emerged champion of the first Apprentice Asia, a reality show for top business tycoons hiring junior executives. Yabut went home with a one-year contract with show sponsor AirAsia.
Kristel Tejada suicide
UP Manila freshman Kristel Tejada, 16, took her own life March 15 allegedly due to her inability to settle tuition loans for the previous semester. She had to file a leave of absence a few days prior to her death, which caused uproar against the university’s retention policies.
In response to the calls of the Justice for Kristel Alliance, the Board of Regents passed a policy in April which reads: “no qualified student will be denied UP education due to financial incapacity.” Revisions to certain provisions in the Student Code were also approved in December.
Solis’ award-winning but plagiarized photos
Graduate student Mark Joseph Solis became a center of social media buzz this year when he submitted a plagiarized photo and won in a Chilean Embassy contest. The owner of the photo is Brazil-based photographer Gregory John Smith who cried foul over the internet and exposed Solis’ deception. In an interview with GMA News, Solis apologized and said that poverty forced him to enter the contest using Smith’s photo.
Urged by Solis’ former coworker, UP President Alfredo Pascual instructed the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), Solis’ home college, to form a fact-finding committee to conduct a lifestyle check and recommend measures to be taken regarding the case.
The Cultural Center of the Philippines immediately issued a statement deploring Solis’ act of plagiarism. The Chilean Embassy also took back his winnings and chose another winner for the competition.
In October, the committee discovered that Solis submitted at least seven stolen photos in different photography contests, which put Solis in danger of losing his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. The UP administration is yet to decide on the case as of this writing.
Disasters strike Visayas, Mindanao
National disasters, both natural and man-made, struck the country in 2013. Less than a month after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Visayas in October, super typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the still recovering areas of Bohol and Cebu and left the entire city of Tacloban, along with neighboring provinces, in ruins due to a storm surge. More than 200 people were killed in the quake, while the Yolanda death toll already reached beyond 6,000, while at least one million families lost their homes, according to authorities. Yolanda destruction is estimated at nearly P37 billion.
Meanwhile, the rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked Zamboanga City in September, which resulted in a 12-day standoff with the military. The arrested 266 MNLF men were recently transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Anderson Cooper, Korina Sanchez and the question of ethics
Anderson Cooper of international media CNN, without prior announcement, travelled to Yolanda-struck Tacloban to report on the current situation of those affected. Cooper was warmly accepted by Filipinos in the area. When he reported on Nov. 14 about the slow pace of relief efforts by the national government, news anchor Korina Sanchez, coincidentally the wife of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who was in-charge of the operations, cried foul over his reports and called Cooper out for his allegedly flawed reportage. That was the last day Sanchez was seen on TV. Rumors spread that due to the incident, Sanchez was suspended by the ABS-CBN management, but she immediately refuted the rumors and said she was away for a special feature on Tacloban.
Home away from home
When supertyphoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas on Nov. 8, UP Tacloban (UPT) was not spared from the devastation, leaving only its Oblation statue standing. UP Pres. Pascual later released a memorandum urging all units to accommodate students from UPT as cross-registrants. In Diliman, particularly, cross-registrants whose families were affected by the typhoon were reassigned to STFAP bracket E2 which waived them of their tuition fees and gave them a monthly stipend. They were also given dorm slots for their stay in the campus, as well as a return trip to their homes in Visayas for the holiday break.
The UP satellite health sciences campus in Palo, Leyte also suffered extensive damage. The two campuses are now under relief and reconstruction.
The political battlefield remained to be an arena to keep a watchful eye on, both in and out of UP.
Napoles and the P10-B pork barrel scam
This year, Janet Lim Napoles pierced through the consciousness of Filipinos as the face of the P10-billion pork barrel scam. In an article published by the Inquirer on July 12, Napoles was revealed as the person responsible for the scam allegedly made through her bogus non-government organizations (NGOs), exposing the involvement of 28 lawmakers including Senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada. The exposure of the pork scam sparked outrage among private individuals and organizations both locally and abroad. A Facebook event, dubbed as the “Million People March,” was created to gather Filipinos in a march to Luneta Park on National Heroes’ Day, which lead to one of the most momentous non-violent protests in the country since the People Power with almost 75,000 attendees.
Towards electronic polls and back
In the May 13 midterm elections, newbies Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Nancy Binay and Bam Aquino made it to the top 12 of the race, much to the surprise of analysts. But aside from the victory of these political rookies, the glitches in the transparency servers were also a highlight during the May polls, which earned the Commission on Elections (Comelec), election watchdog PPCRV and Smartmatic Asia a lot of flak from the confused public. Add to that the apparent rush of Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. to proclaim winners prior to the completion of transmission and canvassing of votes from all over the country.
The barangay elections, meanwhile, were spared from all the doubts surrounding the midterm polls for Comelec enforced manual balloting. This was mostly due to the poll’s smaller scope, as the Sangguinang Kabataan elections were also postponed to allow the Congress to introduce reforms to the system.
The Commission is currently making sure that 2013 candidates properly declared their campaign contributions, as the law mandates a cap in their expenses.
Magaling’s impeachment and the ‘colorful’ USC drama
The University Student Council (USC) issued a suspension to Councilor Christian Lemuel “Lem” Magaling through a memorandum on Aug. 30 after earning 6.5 demerits allegedly due to violating the USC constitution and house rules. Magaling placed second in the councilor race during the Feb. 28 elections.
Under USC rules, a councilor with six demerits is automatically suspended. After a series of trials, which lasted until wee hours, Magaling was suspended and reinstated twice by his colleagues. Formal charges were filed by members of the Education and Research Committee which Magaling heads, but these were eventually dropped Nov. 15.
Magaling is back as councilor but is placed “under close provision,” according to USC Chairperson Ana Alexandra Castro. (Read more: USC drops all charges against Magaling)
Hits and misses with foreign relations
In August, the Philippine government apologized to the family of the Taiwanese fisherman shot and killed by the Philippine Coast Guard in May. The PCG reportedly fired the fisherman’s boat when it allegedly entered the Philippine territory near Batanes. The Taiwanese government placed sanctions on the country such as freeze hiring, which reportedly resulted in the loss of 10,000 jobs for Filipino workers.
On the other hand, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada apologized to the Hong Kong government in October for the killing of eight tourists in the 2010 Manila hostage taking incident. Despite threats of economic sanctions, President Benigno Aquino III refused to apologize, saying that “one lone gunman” is responsible for the tragedy.
Campus policies, controversies
BOR revamps STFAP, student code
The UP Board of Regents (BOR) approved reforms to the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and revisions to the University Student Code last Dec. 13, following controversies surrounding the body’s Nov. 28 meeting.
In the newly-approved Socialized Tuition Scheme which would replace the STFAP, bracket cut-offs were modified and the benefits enjoyed by Bracket E2 students were increased. The number of pages required for submission during the bracket application process would also be reduced. Revisions in the University Student Code covered Articles 330, 430, and 431. (Read more: BOR approves STFAP, Code revisions)
Despite the absence of Student Regent Krista Iris Melgarejo and the lack of quorum among its members, the BOR continued with its regular meeting allotted to discuss these proposed revisions. The move was met with criticism and protest from the students. In a meeting with USC officials, Pres. Pascual explained that the BOR’s decisions during in November were “not binding.” A university-wide consultation was initiated before the Dec. 13 meeting, which led to the passing of administration-backed proposals.
Campus security threats
On Oct. 16, Political Science professor Dr. Perlita Frago-Marasigan was reportedly attacked and robbed at the Palma Hall (AS) parking lot. Marasigan was handcuffed and driven around the campus by unidentified men before taking her possessions and leaving her in broad daylight. This occurred after similar security breaches in campus, such as the stabbing of Sampaguita dorm lady guard Marlyn Sudario on June 27.
These security lapses urged the university to improve safety measures, part of which is the proposal to put up CCTV cameras around the campus. The UP Diliman Police (UPDP) said additional security forces have been assigned around UP Diliman’s 493-hectare lot to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Renaming of UP CBA sparks debate
The renaming of the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) to the Cesar EA Virata School of Business (VSB) early this year has been subject to questions of legality and validity, not only in CBA but among the entire UP community. The hasty BOR approval of the proposal to rename the college, along with the reputation of Cesar Virata as a former personality of the Marcos dictatorship are among the points of inquiry cited by critics.
According to an excerpt of the BOR’s minutes of the meeting, “Virata has served UP, the Philippine government and the country for many years and with clear distinction.” This justification, however, was not good enough for the majority of CBA students. On July 17, the School of Business Student Council conducted a survey among their students and alumni on the issue of the renaming and found that 97 percent of their sample were against the change. An official position paper supporting the decision of the student majority to denounce the renaming was submitted to the BOR for final decision.
The issue, however, was not included in the agenda of the recent BOR meeting due to lack of a formal report from UP Diliman. Virata’s brand on the institution stands as of this writing.
UP Town Center occupies UPIS lot
The UP Town Center, a commercial hub built on the UP Integrated School (UPIS) lot along Katipunan Avenue, opened in September this year. Constructions are still ongoing for the planned call center, supermarket, and shopping center, but various restaurants and shops already started operations.
The Ayala Land Inc. won the bidding for lease of the land in 2012 and signed a 25-year contract with the UP administration. UPIS students, however, have yet to make a full transfer to their new building located in the former Narra Residence Hall inside the campus, reportedly due to lack of classroom facilities.
In November, three people were hurt when a portion of the Town Center’s ceiling collapsed around the time when supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country.
Anonymous pages rise to fame
2013 saw how “anonymity” can serve different reasons. The year saw two Facebook pages creep to popularity amazingly fast: the annual election commentary page Factcheck Diliman and the controversial The Diliman Files.
Now on its fourth year, Factcheck Diliman remained to be the go-to site of students for tales and insights during the colorful season of the USC elections. But this year, Factcheck’s credibility was questioned as it received demands to strip off their anonymity and bare their principles.
Another page, The Diliman Files or TDF, continues to bask in anonymous confessions sent in through an online form. Entries range from controversial school escapades (may it be academic, sexual or excretory), professor-student interactions, and the usual crush confessions spanning all gender labels. The popularity of the page can be seen in the sudden rise of subscribers, climbing up to thousands in just a few days. Social media is really an unpredictable arena — you will never know what it is going to serve next.
UP swimmer gets TRO, competes for UP
Freshman Mikee Bartolome filed a formal complaint against her former school University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) for its controversial two-year residency rule on Aug. 28. The rule obliges high school graduates transferring from one UAAP member school to another to wait two years before competing again as an athlete.
Bartolome, the reigning UAAP juniors swimming MVP, was refused by UST to represent UP on the seniors swimming tournament. She was represented by her father Vic, and they were assisted by Sen. Pia Cayetano.
Presiding Judge Manuel Sta. Cruz, Jr. released a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the UAAP rule on Sept. 3 “in order not to render the issues in this case moot and academic.” Thanks to the TRO, Bartolome was able to swim for UP, bagging a gold, a silver and two bronze medals in four events.
UP took the championship in the said meet to complete a five-peat. UST, meanwhile, boycotted the tournament in protest of Bartolome’s participation.
Maroons team shaken up, 0-14 record remains
The UP Men’s Basketball Team started the season with wrong footing when point guard Mikee Reyes decided to leave the team after one game. Turning to twitter to announce his departure after allegedly having a misunderstanding with Coach Ricky Dandan, Reyes later told the details in an interview with spin.ph. “I wasn’t asked nor told to leave, but I was told (by Dandan) that they didn’t need me. They didn’t need me to win,” Reyes said. “I don’t see that as quitting. I just didn’t see the reason to stay and play so I decided it was time to move on.”
Seven games later, it was Dandan’s turn to bid the team goodbye. It was confirmed that Coach Ricky turned in his resignation Aug. 19, leaving the coaching job to team manager Rey Madrid. The change in system was critical for the team, as the Fighting Maroons went on to lose the next six games under Madrid, finishing the season in the cellar with a 0-14 win-loss card. The only consolation for the Maroons’ woeful season was the naming of Kyles Lao as the UAAP Season 76 Rookie of the Year.
Poverty and human rights
PH a rising tiger… in prices of commodities
Consumers experienced numerous price hikes throughout 2013. Particularly towards the end of the year, prices of basic needs such as gas, petroleum and electricity skyrocketed. Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) prices rose by more than P14 per kilo. The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) declared an increase in electricity charges by over P4 per kiloWatt hour citing the annual maintenance shutdown of several power plants. Oil prices continued to increase, to which transport groups responded with a proposed two-peso increase in transport fares. Talks on fare hikes to public trains LRT and MRT were also closed in August for a P10 increase to be implemented within two years.
Pope Francis the ‘liberal’
Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina succeeded as the new head of the Catholic Church after Pope Benedict XVI resigned Feb. 28 due to the latter’s “deteriorating health.” Naming himself in honor of the saint from Assisi, Pope Francis became the first Jesuit and non-European pope.
Contrary to his predecessor, Pope Francis’ early term highlighted his liberal stand on issues. On his way back to Vatican from Rio de Janeiro, the 77-year-old pope said homosexuals should not be marginalized and should be integrated to society. Pope Francis also attacked the global economic system and capitalism as “a new tyranny” and asked world leaders to fight poverty and inequality. However, the Pope was “shocked” by same-sex adoption in Malta.
TIME named Pope Francis as its Person of the Year and was the December cover of LGBT magazine The Advocate.
Workers cry against the masters
Throughout 2013, several labor unions made noise to assert labor rights.
In April, workers from the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and Pentagon Steel Corporation held strikes against their respective companies. The Digitel Employees Union (DEU) picketed in front of the PLDT main office along Ayala Avenue, Makati and before the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office in Intramuros, Manila to express their frustration against contractualization and for the integration of operations with PLDT. Aside from a reinstatement notice by DOLE in August, no updates regarding their case have been released.
In late May, Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. employees also held a picket in front of their factory in Santa Rosa, Laguna to call for wage increase and tenure. Three days after the start of their strike, the management and the unions reached agreements for financial assistance and regularization.
The Pentagon Steel Workers Union, on the other hand, picketed in front of their Quezon City factory to cry foul against their management’s mass layoff. At present, there has been no progress in their case. – By Melissa Luz Lopez, Mariejo Mariss Ramos, Marisse Gabrielle Panaligan, Darlene Cay, Beata Carolino, John Edison Ubaldo, Jodesz Alysa Gavilan, Dexter Cabalza, Bryan Ezra Gonzales, Ardelle Costuna and John Reczon Calay