by Anna Biala
The funds for the UP system might be dwindling, but the UP community is not running out of ways to express their allegiance to the university.
Hundreds of UP students held a series of protest actions last week to condemn the impending P2.2-billion budget cut in the university for 2016, the largest slash in UP’s budget under the Aquino administration.
On September 24, Thursday, the Palma Hall lobby was not only filled with voices shouting the usual raging chants – the iconic building also resounded with loud music and laughter as various groups and individuals performed during the solidarity program conducted after a snake rally in Palma Hall as part of the two-day walkout protest organized by local student councils and organizations.
During the walk-out, groups went from room to room and encouraged students and teachers to step out of their classes and join the protest against the looming budget slash.
Aside from flash mobs and unity marches, various groups under Rise for Education – UP, a UP Diliman-based alliance of organizations calling for free and accessible education, also organized different college-based activities to express their opposition against the proposed budget cut and to raise awareness about the issue to their fellow students.
UP naging mahal
Only three words but a hundred times strong, “UP naging mahal”, a statement printed in some students’ shirts for free by Rise for Education – UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) and Anakbayan Media Collective, showed how education in the country has become more of a privilege than a right.
Based on the 2016 National Expenditure Program submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the Congress, UP’s budget is set to drop from P13.14 billion in 2015 to P10.9 billion in 2016.
At least 10 SUCs are also set to suffer cuts in their 2016 budgets. These include Philippine Normal University, Marikina Polytechnic College, Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, Laguna State Polytechnic University, Surigao del Sur State University, Carlos C. Hilado Memorial State College, MSU – Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, Bulacan State University, Mindanao State University and UP.
Meanwhile, teach-ins which aimed to educate students about the current state of education in the country and the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs) were conducted in the AS lobby on Sept. 23.
On the same day, more than 30 students had their hair shaved in protest of the P2.2 billion budget cut.
Rise for Education – UP CMC initiated free undercut services at the CMC Freedom of Information (FOI) garden and at the Palma Hall steps in solidarity with the call for higher government subsidy to SUCs.
“Ito ay pakikiisa sa panawagan na tutulan yung budget cut. It’s a sign of solidarity, at nakakalakas ng loob, lalo’t matindi yung kalaban natin na P2.2B budget cut (This is in unity with the call to challenge the budget cut. It’s strengthening, especially because the P2.2 budget cut is a severe opponent),” said University Student Council (USC) Councilor Beata Carolino, who also participated in the said activity.
On Sept 24, Rise for Education – College of Fine Arts also organized a “hair color against budget cut” campaign.
These activities were offered free for participants as a contrast to the continuously increasing tuition and other school fees.
On the other hand, Student Regent Mico Pangalangan said it’s clear that the UP administration, under the leadership of UP President Alfredo Pascual, will not fight against the budget cut.
According to Pangalangan, Pascual calls the impending P2.2B budget cut as a “ghost budget cut,” because the money reduced from the system’s capital outlay is for the completion of the modernization program of Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
“Mobilizations such as these are essential for the students to realize that our administrators will not take the lead in defending our right to accessible education and for us to build alliances and assert our rights,” Pangalangan said.
Last week’s series of protests capped off with a Cultural Night organized by militant group Alay Sining which featured shadow play acts, live music and spoken word poetry at the Palma Hall lobby on Thursday night.