BOTONG ISKO: Hot Off 2017 sparks debate on frat politics, student representation

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Dale Calanog

This year’s Student Council Elections (SCE) continues to blaze as University Student Council (USC) aspirants and College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) candidates squared off in Hot Off the Grill 2017 at the CMC Auditorium, Tuesday.

Addressing questions thrown by their would-be constituents, USC bets from KAISA – Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA) and Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) as well as independent councilor runners Paolo Sevilla and Carlos Cabaero gave insights on the issues such as free education, the Socialized Tuition System (STS) and student consultations with the Board of Regents, among others.

The issue of fraternity politics did not also escape public eye as KAISA standard-bearers Leandro Anton Castro and Jose Rafael Toribio, who are both members of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity, were asked on how they would face and lead the student body, when their fraternity glorifies one of its brothers, former President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.

“I don’t glorify Ferdinand Marcos; however, in our fraternity, we recognized him as our history,” Castro clarified.

STAND UP chairperson aspirant Ben Te argued against this, saying that the golden era of Martial Law is but an illusion.

“Hindi maliit na bagay ‘yung nangyari noong Batas Militar,” Te said. He added that in essence, Martial Law stepped on the rights of the Filipinos.

Te added that there should be no hesitation in condemning a dictator, especially for UP students,  who, in history opposed Martial Law and the Marcos regime.

“Siya [Marcos] po sa huli’t huli ay isang diktador. Kapag kinondena po natin ang isang diktador, kinukundena natin ito nang buong-buo, the chaiperson candidate said.  

Toribio further explained that while Upsilon recognizes Marcos as part of their fraternity’s history, its members do not discredit the atrocities he has committed during his administration.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has tallied 70,000 illegally arrested individuals, 34,000 torture victims as well as 3,240 slain through summary executions during the Martial Law period. The same organization also recorded 1,000 victims of enforced disappearances during the said era.

Besides countless human rights violations, the Marcos regime also brought about massive inequality, with 42 percent of the Filipino population living below the poverty line by 1980, according to data from the World Bank.

“After all, as part of the fraternity, our loyalty is with the country,” the KAISA vice chairperson hopeful said.

Marcos was not the only Upsilonian brought up during the forum as both Castro and Toribio were asked to assess their fraternity brother, former UP President Alfredo Pascual, and his six-year term as the university’s top official.

“As a brod lahat ng ating analysis in line with what is better for the students and the people,” Toribio said.

“We are clear in condemning what happen during his administration,” he added, saying that KAISA continues the call to hold Pascual accountable.

Meanwhile, his running mate, Castro, said he was able to register his dissent towards Pascual whenever he and the former UP president would run into each other.

STAND UP councilor Almira Abril spoke against this, however, saying KAISA has been missing in action when it comes to calling out Pascual.

“Dito makikita natin na ang KAISA ata, hobby nila na maging missing in action sa mga pagkilos ng mga estudyante na nagpapanawagan ng pagcall-out sa isang presidente na walang ibang ginawa kundi pahirapan ang sa estudyante,” Abril said.

The discussion among CMCSC bets was just as heated.

Assessment of the present CMCSC as well as issues of each CMC department dominated the forum, with the hopefuls addressing questions both from the audience and their fellow candidates.

With CMCSC broadcast communication representatives hailing from UP CMC Interdependent Student-centered Activism (UP CMC ISA) for the past two years, this year’s broadcast communication bets Chino Mendiola and Arlan Jondonero were asked  to determine their party’s stand on laboratory fees.

“Nailatag nila [past broadcast communication representatives] lahat ng concerns sa kanilang pakikipag-usap sa administration,” Jondonero said.

Mendiola also brought up the Rise for Education Alliance (R4E), saying that most broadcast communication constituents do not agree with the walkouts proposed by the said alliance.

R4E is an alliance of student councils and publications, youth organizations, members of the academe, parents, and the out-of-school youth from different colleges, universities, and communities, who are fighting for accessible education for all.

Its local chapter in CMC has organized different forms of protest, from free haircuts against budget cuts to dance protests for free education and human rights, aside from the regular call for walkout against lab fees and other school fees and the Socialized Tuition System (STS).

“Naniniwala po kami na bilang isang political party, fino-forward ng R4E na highest point ang mobilization,” the broadcast communication representative bet answered. “Naniniwala kami na negative ang naibibigay na message sa mga walkout.”

This was countered by opposing candidate Nickolo Domingo of STAND UP CMC, who said the R4E Alliance does not require its members to participate in the walkouts.

“Lahat tayo naniniwala sa Rise for Education Alliance, na lahat ng kaya nating iambag para sa pagpapabasura ng laboratory fees at upang maisulong ang ating karapatan sa edukasyon, ay ating gagawin, pag-walkout man ‘yan o hindi o kung ano pang mga porma na nakikita natin,” he said.

The issue of student representation was also highlighted during the debate.

With STAND UP CMC lobbying against the students’ Magna Carta, UP CMC ISA USC representative runner Mary Nicole Fabian questioned STAND UP CMC’s ability to represent the students as their party is against the document that garnered 94 percent of favorable votes from 7,000 students from last year’s referendum.

STAND UP CMC chairperson aspirant Mikko Ringia quickly countered Fabian’s point.

“Hindi kailangan ng Magna Carta dahil jinu-justify niya ang commercialization ng edukasyon,” Ringia said.

Meanwhile, UP CMC ISA, which has been for the passage of the Magna Carta since its drafting, was asked by a member of the audience on whether they would change their stand on the issue, should students be against it in a referendum.

“Makikinig tayo sa mga estudyante,” said UP CMC ISA chairperson bet Arjay Torno. He added that they will always side with the students.

Voting for SCE begins tomorrow, 8 a.m. Students are required to bring their UP ID or Form 5 in order to cast their vote.

BOTONG ISKO: CSSP SC bets clash over Magna Carta

By Jeuel Barroso

College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSP SC) bets clashed at the discussion of the students’ Magna Carta in PASABOG, CSSP’s annual SC election debate at the Palma Hall Lobby, Friday.

Drafted by the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman University Student Council (USC) 2014-2015, the Magna Carta is a codified list of UP students’ rights that cannot be found in any other university document.

While the Magna Carta has yet to be lobbied to the UP administration as of January, the issue remains a hot topic among SC hopefuls.

SALiGAN sa CSSP (SALiGAN) councilor candidate Christopher Kahulugan explained that his party is against the Magna Carta because the document surrenders students’ rights to the Board of Regents (BOR), which, according to SALiGAN, has been proven anti-student throughout the years.

He further stated that the Magna Carta allows the BOR to increase tuition fees and undermines the power of the student movement.

“Napatunayan naman natin… na hindi natin kailangan ng isang codified set of rights para ipaglaban ang ating mga karapatan,” Kahulugan said.

However, BUKLOD CSSP (BUKLOD) Vice Chairperson hopeful Mariel Louisse Cunanan argued against this, citing the board’s power over UP’s tuition fees as long as there is student consultation.

“The BOR has the right to increase our tuition fee,” said Cunanan. “Hindi pinapayagan ng Magna Carta ang tuition fee increase. Almost lahat ng problema natin, natutuunan ng Magna Carta.”

Independent Philosophy Department Representative candidate Kwen Kwen Cabalag also supported the need for the Magna Carta to ensure students’ rights.

“We have to have a legal, concrete document that will ensure our rights as students,” Cabalag said. “It’s not about talking about your rights… we have the right to have this legal document.”

Meanwhile, independent chairperson runner Allyson Maraon stressed that the Magna Carta for Students’ Rights complements the student movement, adding that the fact that a lone student representation in the BOR must be addressed to eliminate the BOR-related contentions against the Magna Carta.

“Patuloy pa rin nating ipaglalaban ang Magna Carta for students’ rights kaakibat ng ating pag-push for more student representation sa BOR,” he said. “Hindi Magna Carta ang end-all, be-all solusyon sa unibersidad.”

Maraon was formerly SALiGAN’s bet for the CSSP SC’s top post before deciding to run an independent bid to forward his stand on the Magna Carta.

During the debate, he clarified that he was given a choice by the CSSP College Student Electoral Board to stay under SALiGAN or revoke his candidacy. Formally, Maraon remains under the party; however, he runs unaffiliated.

Later in the event, Maraon also admitted his mistake in his Facebook post, now deleted, which read that SALiGAN and the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) imposed on him to go against Magna Carta.

“SALiGAN and STAND UP did not impose anything on me,” he said. “Sinasabi sa statements na nag-impose sila. Mali po ako.”

Maraon also clarified that educational discussions were conducted in the SALiGAN slate and that he was able to express his contentions of being pro-Magna Carta.

Bringing the debate to a college-level discourse, the candidates addressed impending relocation of CSSP organizations’ tambayans, which had been assessed as fire hazards by the Campus Maintenance Office.

BUKLOD councilor aspirant Kristine Kyla De Torres affirmed the rights of UP students to organize and to have their own spaces as per the CSSP SC Constitution, which states that corresponding spaces must be provided to organizations upon their transferring.

De Torres was supported by her slatemate, BUKLOD chairperson candidate Lorenzo Miguel  Relente who added that his party has been forwarding these tambayan guidelines for years along with the CSSP SC.

This was countered by SALiGAN vice chairperson candidate Renz Pasigpasigan, who asked if BUKLOD had consulted CSSP organizations on the demolitions during the previous years.

According to Pasigpasigan, SALiGAN cooperated with the Rise for Education Alliance to write to the CSSP administration to delay the demolition.

“Tayo sa SALiGAN sa CSSP, malinaw sa atin na hindi lang mere document ‘yung ating ginagamit para itaguyod ang ating karapatan, bagkus ‘yung sama-samang pagkilos at pagtindig ng mga konsensya ng bayan para sa ating karapatan sa tambayan,” he said.

BUKLOD’s Cunanan rebutted by saying that the Magna Carta is not a simple document but one that enforces student rights, not just tambayan guidelines.

Independent runner Maraon shared the same sentiment, adding that the Magna Carta can provide students’ tambayan rights.

“Ngunit kaabikat nito [Magna Carta] dapat din nating ipagpatuloy ang kakayahan ng student movement para patuloy na i-assert ang ating karapatan,” he added.

Besides discussing the students’ Magna Carta, the CSSP bets also debated on the Free Higher Education for All Act, the influx of new establishments in UP, as well as government accountability for the homeless occupying idle housing projects at Pandi, Bulacan.

BOTONG ISKO: USC councilor bets debate on free education

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Pathricia Roxas

With the impending responsibility of representing the University of the Philippines (UP) student body, UP Diliman University Student Council (USC) candidates expressed their sentiments on free education at UPFRONT 2017, Thursday.

In the largest USC election forum held at the UP Film Institute, the USC councilor aspirants explained their respective stances on the issue and proposed alternatives to the current state of the country’s education sector.

“Simula’t sapul malinaw ang tindig ng STAND UP (Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP) that we are for free education, not just free but also nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented,” said STAND UP councilor bet Almira Abril.

Abril further rooted the cause of the absence of free education in UP to “neoliberal attacks” such as the Socialized Tuition System (STS), which decides students’ tuition discounts via an online questionnaire.

The system has been in the works since 2011 but was first implemented in the first semester of 2014.

The councilor hopeful also expressed opposition against the Magna Carta for Students’ Rights, which she claimed would only legalize STS.

“Yung mga dating nagsasabi na ang edukasyon ay isang pribilehiyo, biglang nagsasabi na karapatan na raw ang edukasyon,” she said.

“Kailangan maging malinaw ang tindig ng STAND UP; tayo ay para sa libreng edukasyon, para sa lahat, regardless kung may kakayanan kang magbayad o wala,” Abril added.

UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA) councilor aspirant Cassie Deluria argued against this, however.

“UP ALYANSA has always been for accessible education, and the reason why we say accessible is because we have to remember that even when everybody’s tuition is free, there are still other expenses that will prevent other UP students from coming here to UP,” Deluria said.

She also emphasized that while students deserve free tuition, student leaders must also question its accessibility in terms of transportation, dormitories, books, and other expenses.

The ALYANSA councilor also said their party was part of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, the team that drafted the Free Higher Education for All Act.  

“This bill is not yet free education that we deserve,” Deluria said. “And until it is, we are not ready to stop fighting for accessible education for everybody, for every Filipino student.”

The Senate Bill 1304, approved on its final reading by Senate last March 13, aims to provide a tuition-free policy in the country’s 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) and private higher learning and vocational institutions. However, students can only qualify based on merits, similar to UP’s STS.

Independent councilor candidate Paolo Sevilla also vouched for accessible education, saying that it would be possible if students would not let it turn into a business.

“[Education] should not be commercialized. I believe that we should fight not only for free education, but free basic social services,” he added.

KAISA-Nagkakaisang Iskolar Para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan councilor runner Arvin Agapay also agreed with Sevilla and said that education should not be a businsses but a right.

Agapay also expressed his party’s support for free education that goes beyond college education.

“Kailangan pati na rin sa primary [at] secondary [level] ay free ang ating education, dahil ang buong education system ang kailangan natin ina-address as an issue,” Agapay said.

Independent councilor hopeful Carlos Cabaero also expressed his support for quality and accessible education; however, he also brought up other sectors in need of funding besides the education sector.

“When we talk about 8.5 billion going towards free education, we also need to think that yes, it gives access to the poor, which is something that we want,” Cabaero said.

“But it also gives funding to people who are rich and people who can pay,” he added.

The aspiring councilor further explained that the every funding that goes to those who can pay “is less funding in ways to improve our educational resources.”

“And that’s why we believe that we need the money to go to the sectors of the people that need it the most,” Cabaero said.

Abril, however, rebutted Cabaero’s statement, saying that free education will not cut the allotment for other sectors.

“Walang matatanggal sa free education. Ang matatanggal lang ay yung kita ng unibersidad na hinuhuthot mula sa bulsa ng bawat isa sa atin,” the STAND UP councilor said.

“Magbibigay siya ng access sa mga anak ng magsasaka, manggagawa, katutubo na hanggang sa kasalukuyang ay hindi nakakatamasa ng edukasyon,” she added.

As for independent councilor aspirant Juan Gonzaga, he believes that every student deserves free education.

“Everybody deserves a right to learn about our futures and everything that we need to equip ourselves for a better future,” said Gonzaga.

Besides free education, the USC bets also discussed other issues such as the General Education reform and the improvement of the registration process in UP, among others.

Meanwhile, Deluria insisted the STS be fixed, despite the system being criticized as “ineffective and a profiteering scheme” by student groups.

“If it’s a question of a system that doesn’t work, then we’re going to work to fix it. If it’s a question of equality inside the university then we can look at reforming taxes outside so it will be equal for everybody,” Deluria said.

Sevilla however, rebutted it saying that free education and having a system which commercializes and turns it into a profiteering scheme do not go together.

“If a system is fundamentally dysfunctional, if a system is fundamentally oppressive, you do not fix it, you remove it,” Sevilla said.