by Jhesset Thrina Enano
Candidates for this year’s University Student Council (USC) elections expressed their positions on university issues, as well as their plans of action, in an elections forum Tuesday at Cine Adarna.
Representing each party in UP Front are their standard bearers, along with three candidates for councilors each.
Before the issue-based debate, standard bearers were given the opportunity to deliver their introductory speeches.
Running for chairperson under Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA), Alex Castro voiced the party’s slogan of “pushing the limit.”
“This year, the message is different,” the incumbent USC vice chairperson said, alluding to her prior speeches on organizations and students in the same forum for the past two years. “But I realized it’s the exact same thing. I believe in organizations. I believe in ordinary students. That’s why this year the challenge is to push the limit for one strong UP.”
Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP) standard bearer Mijo Solis, on the other hand, voiced the USC’s role in fighting for the other societal sectors.
“USC is a bastion that will defend the rights not only of the students, but will defend the rights of the Filipinos,” said the incumbent USC councilor.
Carlo Brogalda, the candidate for chairperson from Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (ALYANSA), opened his speech by mentioning the party’s core beliefs: progressive multi-perspective activism, academic excellence, social justice and social progress, and student empowerment.
“ALYANSA gave me the chance to go in front of you and tell you the principles that we carry,” he said.
Brogalda is the only non-USC incumbent fielding for chairpersonship. A local council chair, he is currently the chairperson of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy student council.
Different positions on STFAP
In the debate, the candidates were asked about their stance on issues relating to the university. A question directed to the vice chairperson candidates involved the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).
Only Kei Garcia of STAND-UP moved for scrapping, while ALYANSA’s Alex Santos and KAISA’s Jules Guiang opted for revising the program.
STFAP employs an Alphabetic Bracketing System, sorting students into Brackets A to E2 that will define their base tuition fee per unit. At present, the base tuition fee is at P1,500, a significant increase from the P300 base fee in 2006.
“Our proposal is roll back the tuition, make education accessible,” said Garcia, the second year representative of the Law Student Government, recognizing that as “Iskolar ng Bayan,” the taxes should pay for the students’ tuition fees.
Incumbent councilor Guiang, on his part, calls for a revision, recognizing that many students benefit from the program.
“Ang kailangan natin dito ay comprehensive review at i-revise,” mentioning the main project of KAISA known as “Six Will Fix,” which allocates six percent of the Gross National Product to the education sector.
Santos of ALYANSA echoed both Garcia and Guiang’s statements, believing that education in the right, but also moves for a revision due to its many flaws.
“Mayroong mga estudyante na hindi natin maintindihan kung bakit sila nailalagay sa ganung bracket,” said the incumbent councilor. “We have to really qualify kung bakit tayo binabracket as students. Hindi lang dapat hanggang A to E2. Dapat siguro hanggang Z, hanggang 100.”
On campus security
On the other end, candidates for chairpersonship were asked on the issue of campus security.
STAND-UP’s Solis believed in a “community-based security system.”
“Lahat tayo mga stakeholders, alagaan natin ang bawat isa,” said Solis, touching on the Lordei Hina stabbing incident at Vinzons Hall last year, where the perpetrators were caught through the help of many eyewitnesses, particularly UP vendors.
Brogalda, however, decided to look at the many layers of the situation, from the administration and budget, to the students themselves.
“We should have enough discipline na sundin yung protocols that are in place,” he said, referring to the “no ID, no entry” rule in buildings.
He added, “ALYANSA also proposes to create an information kit for all of us para magkaroon tayo ng proper documentation and protocols on security.”
Castro of KAISA reiterated the party’s rejection of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, scanners and militarization as solutions to the pressing problem.
She suggested that KAISA’s project, “Liwanag sa Dilim,” may be adopted as an alternative. The project aims for the installation of more lamp posts in the campus, the construction of outposts near dormitories and coordination between Special Services Brigades (SSB).