By Nephele Fabiola Kirong and Allana Trizia Luta
The Senate approved the second reading of the 2011 budget with an amended P146 million for the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses of state universities and colleges (SUCs) following protests outside the Senate Building on Dec. 1.
Around 6,000 students and faculty members gathered outside the gates of the Senate in Pasay City on Dec. 1 and called on lawmakers to increase the proposed 2011 budget for SUCs.
Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, the former Senate Committee on Higher Education chairperson, joined the rally at one point, saying, “Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? Aanhin pa ang dagdag-budget sa 2012, 2013 kung sa 2011 pa lang nag-drop out na ang mga estudyante?”
Cayetano , who also once served as a member of the UP Board of Regents, said this move is just a partial victory and students need to constantly remind lawmakers the current conditions of the affected academic institutions.
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that school administrations should lobby to the Department of Budget and Management appropriations for needed capital outlay voiced by the students.
Sotto was widely criticized for his previous remarks chastening students for protesting against “ghost budget cuts.”
With only half the Senate in attendance, the upper house passed the P 1,000,387,764,000 budget for the final bicameral reading slated to be on December 6.
Before the budget approval, a program was held where leaders from different organizations condemned the Aquino administration for its seemingly lack of support towards public colleges and universities. Students also burned an effigy of the president to show their resentment against the budget cut.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino urged senators to modify the budget and aid SUCs. “‘Di na nila dapat gawin y’ong mga ginawa naming sa mababang kapulungan na inaprubahan (ang budget) ng walang pagbabago,” he said.
According to League of Filipino Students Chair Terry Ridon, an estimated 6,000 students participated in the rally at its peak despite the police’s estimation of 5,000. Police Chief Inspector Reynaldo Paculan said twenty police officers from the Pasay City police force were dispatched at the grounds.
With reporting by Suzette Dalumpines