Crowd at AS steps reaches 3,000
By Alexandra Gabrielle Francisco
At least 1,500 students, faculty and staff joined the Diliman-wide strike today against the P1.39 billion budget cut in the University of the Philippines (UP).
Students boycotted their classes in protest of President Benigno Aquino III’s proposed P5.5-billion budget cut for the university, less than a third of the P18.5 billion UP demands.
Protesters from the Palma Hall, Plaridel Hall and College of Arts and Letters merged as they neared the UP Oblation.
At least 500 protesters marched along the hallways of Palma Hall and the Academic Oval, stopping over at Melchor Hall as they urged more students to join the strike.
At the College of Mass Communication, students burned photocopies of their registration forms to symbolize their dissent (Link: http://www.tinigngplaridel.net/sections/news/2010/11/25/cmc-on-strike-form-5-copies-lit-as-students-protest-up-budget-cut/).
Upon reaching Quezon Hall, protesters, numbering at least 1,500, barricaded both lanes of the University Avenue, carrying banners which included an 18-meter banner spanning the length of the road’s right lane.
After a 30-second noise barrage, the mob proceeded back to the Palma Hall steps (AS steps) for the formal program.
University Student Council (USC) chairperson Rainier Sindayen said he received reports that the crowd at the AS steps from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. reached a maximum of 3,000.
Local councils oppose cut
Student councils throughout the UP system supported the strike, Sindayen said.
Fourteen Diliman colleges joined the protest: College of Science (CS), College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP), College of Home Economics (CHE), College of Engineering, National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), College of Mass Communication (CMC), College of Education (Educ), College of Arts and Letters (CAL), College of Fine Arts (CFA), School of Statistics, College of Architecture, Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT), and the College of Law.
Sindayen questioned President Aquino’s budget policy of allowing state colleges and universities (SUCs) to find income-generating activities to fill in for their deficits. He called it a continuation of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s policy of commercializing and privatizing education.
“Sa totoo lang, mahirap lumiban sa klase, lalo na sa panahong ang iminumulat sa atin na kultura ay investment ang edukasyon. Ang laki ng matrikula, and therefore dapat pagkakitaan mo ang edukasyon mo. It’s beyond that. It’s beyond your individual interest. It’s for the collective interest of your fellow students,” said Sindayen.
Cultural presentations were held at the AS steps and representatives from various student organizations, college administrations and Kabataan party list Rep. Raymond Palatino called for higher state subsidy.
Student groups also held educational discussions in front of the AS steps to enlighten students about the state of the UP budget.
Meanwhile, officials caught a 17-year-old male vandalizing Palma Hall walls during the heat of the protest.
Several people spray painted Palma Hall’s walls and the road fronting it as part of the protest activities.
The teenager, who is a non-UP member of artists’ group Alay Sining, was brought to the UP Police station, but was released since he is a minor.
According to police records, the teenager shall be helping in the repainting of the walls, which should be completed by 12:30 tomorrow.
USC vice-chairperson Fermina Agudo said the Fine Arts Student Council shall be providing the paint, while the USC will help in providing manpower.
Neil Martial Santillan, CSSP Associate Dean for Administration and External Affairs, said the college’s administration is willing to help the students repaint the walls.
As of press time, protestors will continue to occupy Palma Hall overnight in preparation for the protest actions in the morning, which shall be discussed at the All Leaders’ Conference of student organizations and student councils.
Sindayen says that they are encouraging the students to join the demonstrations at the University Council meeting at the NCPAG tomorrow.
Current plans are that the mob will head to Mendiola afterwards.
With reporting by Dean Lozarie.