By Celine Isabelle Samson
Discussions in the annual Diliman Student Summit held Wednesday tied the pork barrel scam to the looming P1.43 billion budget cut for the University of the Philippines.
UP Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma said the current budget allotted for the university was not enough, with neglected construction and repair projects from the past years adding to the already large amount of dues.
“Because of the importance of having a 2014 UP Budget that will realistically address our needs in the University, we made a statement why the national government should continue increasing the budget for UP,” said Saloma.
Pork barrel funds, Saloma said, are “unprogrammed funds” which would result to a great unpredictability in making a budget. The Chancellor said that strategic planning regarding the budget for UP and SUCs should be implemented, along with the budget increase.
Representatives Felix Pariñas of the All UP Workers’ Union and Jun Cruz of the Multi-Sectoral Alliance also explained how the budget cut and the pork barrel affect the labor sector.
“There is money in the pork barrel, but none for salary increase and for social services,” said Pariñas.
Pariñas said that the budget cut pushes the University to hire contractual workers whom they could not provide enough benefits.
Representatives from the University Student Council (USC) invited students to participate actively in the call to abolish pork barrel. Student Regent Krista Melgarejo and USC Students’ Rights and Welfare Committee Head Charlotte France also initiated the call for unity-building with the Strength Week, set from September 18 to 20.
“Our Student Summit this year is extremely special and meaningful, for we are in a very dramatic and meaningful time in Philippine history,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Ma. Corazon Tan.
After the Summit, students were invited to participate in a lantern parade in front of Quezon Hall and to the Katipunan Kontra Korupsyon alliance against pork barrel. The alliance is a joint endeavor of the Katipunan schools namely UP, Ateneo de Manila University, and Miriam College.