By Ernica de Guzman and Edmark San Antonio
Members of the University of the Philippines (UP) community on Wednesday encouraged their ranks to join the protests and show a united stand against charter change, eight days after the House of Representatives approved House Resolution 1109.
Student organizations, faculty members, workers and residents of UP convened in a press conference held at Quezon Hall to object the approval of HR 1109, or the measure seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) to amend the 1987 constitution.
In a statement, U.P. Community Against Cha-Cha & Gloria (UPAC Gloria) said the move to form a Con-ass is an attempt to “manipulate the constituent to advance the personal political agenda of the President and her minions.”
“It’s really a national concern that affects all sectors so we’re trying to enjoin everyone to participate,” said University Student Council ( USC ) chairperson Titus Tan to Tinig ng Plaridel.
Tan said it is important to invest in an information drive to attract the attention and consciousness of the students. The council is currently tapping the possibilities of spreading information online via their own renovated website and social networking websites such as Multiply.
College of Mass Communication ( CMC ) chairperson Rupert Mangilit said that the council will use college assemblies to formally address the issue and encourage students to join the walk-out on July 10.
“Most students are just looking for a venue [to voice their opinion on issues],” Mangilit said.
Meanwhile, newly-elected Student Regent Charisse Banez said, “Calling for mass action is we’re doing as student-leaders. We’re also ensuring the increase of our numbers in preparation of the SONA [State of the Nation Address] on July 27.”
She also asked for the support of student organizations, dormers and college councils to participate in educational discussions on the issue.
The press conference was only the beginning of the series of demonstrations to show UP’s opposition on charter change, Banez said. The protesters later joined other groups in Makati in objection to HR 1109.
Various political groups denounced the resolution as a plot to extend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine years in office beyond May 2010.
Although HR 1109 stated and “resolved with finality” that the terms of the incumbent president, vice-president, senators, congressmen, and other elected officials will not be extended.
Cha-cha’s impact on media
The ownership of media was at the chopping block if charter change is passed, said CMC dean Roland Tolentino during the press conference.
He said charter change might increase the media industry’s problems by paving the issue of foreign ownership aside from the issue of journalists killing under Arroyo’s regime.
“We can organize forums, create opinions and speak to others so we’d further be enlightened regarding this issue, and see its implications, especially in the ownership of local media,” he said.
Tolentino said that he will be focused on consulting the faculty, staff and students on creating the stand of the college.
On Thursday, Arroyo called on her allies to place HR 1109 on hold in favor of prioritizing bills that enhanced the country’s revenue.