UPD students walk out, commemorate Kristel Tejada’s 3rd death anniversary

by Teresa Barre

Students gather at the Palma Hall lobby after walking out of their classes to protest against school fees. Photo by Teresa Barre.

Four days before Kristel Tejada’s third death anniversary, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman students walked out of their classes to protest against school fees, March 11.

Tejada, a UP Manila Behavioural Sciences student, would have been in senior year today had she not committed suicide on March 15, 2013. This was after she was forced to file for a leave of absence due to her family’s failure to pay her tuition on time.

Following the incident, the UP Manila administration lifted its no late payment policy, only to implement it again months later.  

UP also revised its Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) which have set the amount of tuition students need to pay based on their socio-economic status.

Student leaders who gathered at the Palma Hall, however, stressed that the current tuition scheme remains unaffordable for the poor majority.  

Sa halip na tanggalin ang mga repressive policies katulad na lamang ng STS (Socialized Tuition System) sa loob ng ating pamantasan, lalo pang tumaas ang tuition fee per unit nating mga iskolar ng bayan…Ang STS ay isang malaking IGP (income generating project) at hinuhuthutan tayo ng pera para pagkakitaan, (Instead of removing repressive policies inside the university like the STS, students had to shoulder higher tuition fees…STS is a bigtime IGP that milks students of money for profit),” said Rise for Education Convenor Shari Nina Oliquino.

STS is the revised socialized tuition scheme implemented in 2013. Under the STS, student’s default tuition is set at P1,500 per unit unless they apply to be assigned to lower-paying brackets, a P500 increase from the default tuition of its precedent tuition scheme.  

Students also protested against other school fees in UP such as registration, energy, laboratory, physical education and NSTP fees, among others.

The March 11 walkout is the second protest by UP students regarding oppressive state policies on education in a month. The first being on Feb. 24 dubbed as the National Day of Walkout wherein students from UP joined those from other universities to protest the impending rise of tuition fees in both public and private higher education institutions.

The top newsmakers of 2013

The year 2013 is definitely one for the books for the triumphs and mishaps both in the university and out. Take a look back on the events that shook and shaped the University of the Philippines (UP) and the nation before the year comes to a close.

By Tinig ng Plaridel

The year 2013 is definitely one for the books for the triumphs and mishaps both in the university and out. Take a look back on the events that shook and shaped the University of the Philippines (UP) and the nation before the year comes to a close.

Browse: UP students take the spotlightDisasters strike Visayas, MindanaoPolitics |  Campus policies, controversiesUAAP sportsPoverty and human rights

UP students take the spotlight

Arida is Miss Universe third runner-up. Photo from ABS-CBN.
Arida is Miss Universe third runner-up. Photo from ABS-CBN.

2013 proved to be a year for UP students to take the world spotlight. UP Los Baños alumna Ariella Arida placed third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant Nov. 10. When asked about possible solutions to lack of jobs around the world, Arida said “education is the primary source and ticket to a better future.”

Hannah Espia’s film Transit, which discussed the plight of overseas Filipino workers in Israel, was chosen by the Film Academy of the Philippines as the country’s official entry to the Academy Awards or the Oscars in September. It figured with the films On The Job by Erik Matti and Thy Womb by Brillante Mendoza for the spot. Espia, alumna of the UP Film Institute, was also hailed as best director for the Cinemalaya film fest 2013.

The UP Pep Squad, despite losing the UAAP cheerdance crown to National University, placed third in the 7th Cheerleading World Championships held in Thailand last Nov. 22. The UP Streetdance Club also bagged bronze for the Megacrew division of the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas for the second year.

In July, Economics graduate Jonathan Allen Yabut emerged champion of the first Apprentice Asia, a reality show for top business tycoons hiring junior executives. Yabut went home with a one-year contract with show sponsor AirAsia.

Photo from Kristel Tejada’s Facebook page
Photo from Kristel Tejada’s Facebook page

Kristel Tejada suicide

UP Manila freshman Kristel Tejada, 16, took her own life March 15 allegedly due to her inability to settle tuition loans for the previous semester. She had to file a leave of absence a few days prior to her death, which caused uproar against the university’s retention policies.

In response to the calls of the Justice for Kristel Alliance, the Board of Regents passed a policy in April which reads: “no qualified student will be denied UP education due to financial incapacity.” Revisions to certain provisions in the Student Code were also approved in December.

Solis’ award-winning but plagiarized photos

Graduate student Mark Joseph Solis became a center of social media buzz this year when he submitted a plagiarized photo and won in a Chilean Embassy contest. The owner of the photo is Brazil-based photographer Gregory John Smith who cried foul over the internet and exposed Solis’ deception. In an interview with GMA News, Solis apologized and said that poverty forced him to enter the contest using Smith’s photo.

Urged by Solis’ former coworker, UP President Alfredo Pascual instructed the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), Solis’ home college, to form a fact-finding committee to conduct a lifestyle check and recommend measures to be taken regarding the case.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines immediately issued a statement deploring Solis’ act of plagiarism. The Chilean Embassy also took back his winnings and chose another winner for the competition.

In October, the committee discovered that Solis submitted at least seven stolen photos in different photography contests, which put Solis in danger of losing his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. The UP administration is yet to decide on the case as of this writing.

Disasters strike Visayas, Mindanao

Photo from Micaela Papa of GMA News
Photo from Micaela Papa of GMA News

National disasters, both natural and man-made, struck the country in 2013. Less than a month after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Visayas in October, super typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the still recovering areas of Bohol and Cebu and left the entire city of Tacloban, along with neighboring provinces, in ruins due to a storm surge. More than 200 people were killed in the quake, while the Yolanda death toll already reached beyond 6,000, while at least one million families lost their homes, according to authorities. Yolanda destruction is estimated at nearly P37 billion.

Meanwhile, the rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked Zamboanga City in September, which resulted in a 12-day standoff with the military. The arrested 266 MNLF men were recently transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Anderson Cooper, Korina Sanchez and the question of ethics 

Anderson Cooper of international media CNN, without prior announcement, travelled to Yolanda-struck Tacloban to report on the current situation of those affected. Cooper was warmly accepted by Filipinos in the area. When he reported on Nov. 14 about the slow pace of relief efforts by the national government, news anchor Korina Sanchez, coincidentally the wife of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who was in-charge of the operations, cried foul over his reports and called Cooper out for his allegedly flawed reportage. That was the last day Sanchez was seen on TV. Rumors spread that due to the incident, Sanchez was suspended by the ABS-CBN management, but she immediately refuted the rumors and said she was away for a special feature on Tacloban.

 Home away from home

When supertyphoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas on Nov. 8, UP Tacloban (UPT)  was not spared from the devastation, leaving only its Oblation statue standing. UP Pres. Pascual later released a memorandum urging all units to accommodate students from UPT as cross-registrants. In Diliman, particularly, cross-registrants whose families were affected by the typhoon were reassigned to STFAP bracket E2 which waived them of their tuition fees and gave them a monthly stipend. They were also given dorm slots for their stay in the campus, as well as a return trip to their homes in Visayas for the holiday break.

The UP satellite health sciences campus in Palo, Leyte also suffered extensive damage. The two campuses are now under relief and reconstruction.


The political battlefield remained to be an arena to keep a watchful eye on, both in and out of UP.

Photo by Antonio Jose Galauran, UP Aperture
Photo by Antonio Jose Galauran, UP Aperture

Napoles and the P10-B pork barrel scam 

This year, Janet Lim Napoles pierced through the consciousness of Filipinos as the face of the P10-billion pork barrel scam. In an article published by the Inquirer on July 12, Napoles was revealed as the person responsible for the scam allegedly made through her bogus non-government organizations (NGOs), exposing the involvement of 28 lawmakers including Senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada. The exposure of the pork scam sparked outrage among private individuals and organizations both locally and abroad. A Facebook event, dubbed as the “Million People March,” was created to gather Filipinos in a march to Luneta Park on National Heroes’ Day, which lead to one of the most momentous non-violent protests in the country since the People Power with almost 75,000 attendees.

 Towards electronic polls and back

In the May 13 midterm elections, newbies Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Nancy Binay and Bam Aquino made it to the top 12 of the race, much to the surprise of analysts. But aside from the victory of these political rookies, the glitches in the transparency servers were also a highlight during the May polls, which earned the Commission on Elections (Comelec), election watchdog PPCRV and Smartmatic Asia a lot of flak from the confused public. Add to that the apparent rush of Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. to proclaim winners prior to the completion of transmission and canvassing of votes from all over the country.

The barangay elections, meanwhile, were spared from all the doubts surrounding the midterm polls for Comelec enforced manual balloting. This was mostly due to the poll’s smaller scope, as the Sangguinang Kabataan elections were also postponed to allow the Congress to introduce reforms to the system.

The Commission is currently making sure that 2013 candidates properly declared their campaign contributions, as the law mandates a cap in their expenses.

Magaling’s impeachment and the ‘colorful’ USC drama

The University Student Council (USC) issued a suspension to Councilor Christian Lemuel “Lem” Magaling through a memorandum on Aug. 30 after earning 6.5 demerits allegedly due to violating the USC constitution and house rules. Magaling placed second in the councilor race during the Feb. 28 elections.

Under USC rules, a councilor with six demerits is automatically suspended. After a series of trials, which lasted until wee hours, Magaling was suspended and reinstated twice by his colleagues. Formal charges were filed by members of the Education and Research Committee which Magaling heads, but these were eventually dropped Nov. 15.

Magaling is back as councilor but is placed “under close provision,” according to USC Chairperson Ana Alexandra Castro. (Read more: USC drops all charges against Magaling)

Hits and misses with foreign relations

In August, the Philippine government apologized to the family of the Taiwanese fisherman shot and killed by the Philippine Coast Guard in May. The PCG reportedly fired the fisherman’s boat when it allegedly entered the Philippine territory near Batanes. The Taiwanese government placed sanctions on the country such as freeze hiring, which reportedly resulted in the loss of 10,000 jobs for Filipino workers.

On the other hand, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada apologized to the Hong Kong government in October for the killing of eight tourists in the 2010 Manila hostage taking incident. Despite threats of economic sanctions, President Benigno Aquino III refused to apologize, saying that “one lone gunman” is responsible for the tragedy.

Campus policies, controversies

BOR revamps STFAP, student code

The UP Board of Regents (BOR) approved reforms to the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and revisions to the University Student Code last Dec. 13, following controversies surrounding the body’s Nov. 28 meeting.

In the newly-approved Socialized Tuition Scheme which would replace the STFAP, bracket cut-offs were modified and the benefits enjoyed by Bracket E2 students were increased. The number of pages required for submission during the bracket application process would also be reduced. Revisions in the University Student Code covered Articles 330, 430, and 431. (Read more: BOR approves STFAP, Code revisions)

Despite the absence of Student Regent Krista Iris Melgarejo and the lack of quorum among its members, the BOR continued with its regular meeting allotted to discuss these proposed revisions. The move was met with criticism and protest from the students. In a meeting with USC officials, Pres. Pascual explained that the BOR’s decisions during in November were “not binding.” A university-wide consultation was initiated before the Dec. 13 meeting, which led to the passing of administration-backed proposals.

Campus security threats

On Oct. 16, Political Science professor Dr. Perlita Frago-Marasigan was reportedly attacked and robbed at the Palma Hall (AS) parking lot. Marasigan was handcuffed and driven around the campus by unidentified men before taking her possessions and leaving her in broad daylight. This occurred after similar security breaches in campus, such as the stabbing of Sampaguita dorm lady guard Marlyn Sudario on June 27.

These security lapses urged the university to improve safety measures, part of which is the proposal to put up CCTV cameras around the campus. The UP Diliman Police (UPDP) said additional security forces have been assigned around UP Diliman’s 493-hectare lot to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Renaming of UP CBA sparks debate 

The renaming of the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) to the Cesar EA Virata School of Business (VSB) early this year has been subject to questions of legality and validity, not only in CBA but among the entire UP community. The hasty BOR approval of the proposal to rename the college, along with the reputation of Cesar Virata as a former personality of the Marcos dictatorship are among the points of inquiry cited by critics.

According to an excerpt of the BOR’s minutes of the meeting, “Virata has served UP, the Philippine government and the country for many years and with clear distinction.” This justification, however, was not good enough for the majority of CBA students. On July 17, the School of Business Student Council conducted a survey among their students and alumni on the issue of the renaming and found that 97 percent of their sample were against the change. An official position paper supporting the decision of the student majority to denounce the renaming was submitted to the BOR for final decision.

The issue, however, was not included in the agenda of the recent BOR meeting due to lack of a formal report from UP Diliman. Virata’s brand on the institution stands as of this writing.

UP Town Center occupies UPIS lot

The UP Town Center, a commercial hub built on the UP Integrated School (UPIS) lot along Katipunan Avenue, opened in September this year. Constructions are still ongoing for the planned call center, supermarket, and shopping center, but various restaurants and shops already started operations.

The Ayala Land Inc. won the bidding for lease of the land in 2012 and signed a 25-year contract with the UP administration. UPIS students, however, have yet to make a full transfer to their new building located in the former Narra Residence Hall inside the campus, reportedly due to lack of classroom facilities.

In November, three people were hurt when a portion of the Town Center’s ceiling collapsed around the time when supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country.

Anonymous pages rise to fame   

2013 saw how “anonymity” can serve different reasons. The year saw two Facebook pages creep to popularity amazingly fast: the annual election commentary page Factcheck Diliman and the controversial The Diliman Files.

Now on its fourth year, Factcheck Diliman remained to be the go-to site of students for tales and insights during the colorful season of the USC elections. But this year, Factcheck’s credibility was questioned as it received demands to strip off their anonymity and bare their principles.

Another page, The Diliman Files or TDF, continues to bask in anonymous confessions sent in through an online form. Entries range from controversial school escapades (may it be academic, sexual or excretory), professor-student interactions, and the usual crush confessions spanning all gender labels. The popularity of the page can be seen in the sudden rise of subscribers, climbing up to thousands in just a few days. Social media is really an unpredictable arena — you will never know what it is going to serve next.

UAAP Sports

UP swimmer gets TRO, competes for UP

Freshman Mikee Bartolome filed a formal complaint against her former school University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) for its controversial two-year residency rule on Aug. 28. The rule obliges high school graduates transferring from one UAAP member school to another to wait two years before competing again as an athlete.

Bartolome, the reigning UAAP juniors swimming MVP, was refused by UST to represent UP on the seniors swimming tournament. She was represented by her father Vic, and they were assisted by Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Presiding Judge Manuel Sta. Cruz, Jr. released a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the UAAP rule on Sept. 3 “in order not to render the issues in this case moot and academic.” Thanks to the TRO, Bartolome was able to swim for UP, bagging a gold, a silver and two bronze medals in four events.

UP took the championship in the said meet to complete a five-peat. UST, meanwhile, boycotted the tournament in protest of Bartolome’s participation.

Maroons team shaken up, 0-14 record remains

The UP Men’s Basketball Team started the season with wrong footing when point guard Mikee Reyes decided to leave the team after one game. Turning to twitter to announce his departure after allegedly having a misunderstanding with Coach Ricky Dandan, Reyes later told the details in an interview with spin.ph. “I wasn’t asked nor told to leave, but I was told (by Dandan) that they didn’t need me. They didn’t need me to win,” Reyes said. “I don’t see that as quitting. I just didn’t see the reason to stay and play so I decided it was time to move on.”

Seven games later, it was Dandan’s turn to bid the team goodbye. It was confirmed that Coach Ricky turned in his resignation Aug. 19, leaving the coaching job to team manager Rey Madrid. The change in system was critical for the team, as the Fighting Maroons went on to lose the next six games under Madrid, finishing the season in the cellar with a 0-14 win-loss card. The only consolation for the Maroons’ woeful season was the naming of Kyles Lao as the UAAP Season 76 Rookie of the Year.

Poverty and human rights

PH a rising tiger… in prices of commodities

Consumers experienced numerous price hikes throughout 2013. Particularly towards the end of the year, prices of basic needs such as gas, petroleum and electricity skyrocketed. Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) prices rose by more than P14 per kilo. The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) declared an increase in electricity charges by over P4 per kiloWatt hour citing the annual maintenance shutdown of several power plants. Oil prices continued to increase, to which transport groups responded with a proposed two-peso increase in transport fares. Talks on fare hikes to public trains LRT and MRT were also closed in August for a P10 increase to be implemented within two years.

pope-francisPope Francis the ‘liberal’

Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina succeeded as the new head of the Catholic Church after Pope Benedict XVI resigned Feb. 28 due to the latter’s “deteriorating health.” Naming himself in honor of the saint from Assisi, Pope Francis became the first Jesuit and non-European pope.

Contrary to his predecessor, Pope Francis’ early term highlighted his liberal stand on issues. On his way back to Vatican from Rio de Janeiro, the 77-year-old pope said homosexuals should not be marginalized and should be integrated to society. Pope Francis also attacked the global economic system and capitalism as “a new tyranny” and asked world leaders to fight poverty and inequality. However, the Pope was “shocked” by same-sex adoption in Malta.

TIME named Pope Francis as its Person of the Year and was the December cover of LGBT magazine The Advocate.

Workers cry against the masters

Throughout 2013, several labor unions made noise to assert labor rights.

In April, workers from the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and Pentagon Steel Corporation held strikes against their respective companies. The Digitel Employees Union (DEU) picketed in front of the PLDT main office along Ayala Avenue, Makati and  before the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office in Intramuros, Manila to express their frustration against contractualization and for the integration of operations with PLDT. Aside from a reinstatement notice by DOLE in August, no updates regarding their case have been released.

In late May, Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. employees also held a picket in front of their factory in Santa Rosa, Laguna to call for wage increase and tenure. Three days after the start of their strike, the management and the unions reached agreements for financial assistance and regularization.

The Pentagon Steel Workers Union, on the other hand, picketed in front of their Quezon City factory to cry foul against their management’s mass layoff. At present, there has been no progress in their case. By Melissa Luz Lopez, Mariejo Mariss Ramos, Marisse Gabrielle Panaligan, Darlene Cay, Beata Carolino, John Edison Ubaldo, Jodesz Alysa Gavilan, Dexter Cabalza, Bryan Ezra Gonzales, Ardelle Costuna and John Reczon Calay

BOR approves STFAP, Code revisions

Following system-wide student consultations, the Board of Regents (BOR) approved on Friday the admin-proposed revisions to the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and the University Student Code, with seven out of nine present members voting yes to the reforms.

By Maria Feona Imperial and Dexter Cabalza

Following system-wide student consultations, the Board of Regents (BOR) approved on Friday the admin-proposed revisions to the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and the University Student Code, with seven out of nine present members voting yes to the reforms.

According to Student Regent Krista Melgarejo, the BOR approved UP President Alfredo Pascual’s proposed Socialized Tuition Fee Scheme (STS), which seeks to streamline and automate the STFAP bracket assignment process.

The STS will replace the current STFAP scheme which was implemented in 1989 and amended in 2007. It features a 30 percent increase in income cut-offs for brackets A to D, and retains the income bases for brackets E1 and E2, as follows:

Pres. Pascual's Socialized Tuition System
Pres. Pascual’s Socialized Tuition System

Melgarejo and Staff Regent Anna Razel Ramirez voted against the admin-proposed reforms, which will apply to incoming freshmen the following academic year.

Matagal na nating kinokontest itong STFAP. Pero sa kasamaang palad ay patuloy pa ring ino-optimize at mina-maximize ng administration yung isang scheme na nakita natin na history has shown na hindi naman nakakatulong sa mga estudyante (We have long contested the STFAP. Sadly, the administration continues to optimize and maximize a scheme which history has proven inefficient for the students),” Melgarejo said.

The BOR also agreed to implement changes in articles 330, 430 and 431 of the University Student Code and to an increase in the laboratory fees of chemical engineering students.

The BOR adopted Pascual’s version of Article 430 which stipulates zero interest in student loans settled within one semester, and Article 330 which requires students to register and pay tuition fees before they are allowed to enter classes.

Among the nine members, Melgarejo solely opposed the revisions in Article 430 and 330.

The board unanimously approved the Justice for Kristel Tejada (JFK) Alliance’s version of Article 431, which allows students with unpaid tuition fees to attend classes. Students with unsettled loans will also be allowed to register in the following semester.

Kristel Tejada was a Behavioral Science freshman in UP Manila who took her own life in March allegedly due to her inability to pay her tuition loans.

The revision on Article 431 was in accordance to a BOR policy which states that “no qualified UP student shall be denied access to education due to financial incapacity.”

The three article revisions are effective immediately, according to Melgarejo. They read as follows:

Though Melgarejo’s counterproposal was welcomed by the board, she said it was a minimal win for the students.

Melgarejo said that for Pres. Pascual, the solution for financial incapacity is still tuition loans.

“In essence, yung UP nakakalimutan niya na na yung edukasyon natin sa loob ng UP ay isang karapatan. Pero it seems that with the policies that are being approved right now, ‘yung karapatan ay kailangan mo nang bayaran (In essence, UP seems to overlook that UP education is a right. It now seems that with the policies that are being approved right now, you have to pay such right),” she said.

Melgarejo added, however, that the administration is open to their proposal of rolling back tuition rates. Based on consultations, students have expressed dissent to the high tuition fees and are demanding for a new framework instead.

Hindi na siya [UP] yung ‘university of the people’ na nakilala natin. Ka-level niya na yung mga private universities ([UP] is no longer the ‘university of the people’ we knew. It is now in the same level with private universities),” Melgarejo said.

Tinig ng Plaridel is currently gathering more information about this story. Updates will be posted soon.

No consensus on student consultation due to poor attendance

Students failed to reach a consensus during the consultation on revisions to the UP Student Code led by the University Student Council (USC) Tuesday at the School of Economics Auditorium.

By Dexter Cabalza

Students failed to reach a consensus during the consultation on revisions to the UP Student Code led by the University Student Council (USC) Tuesday at the School of Economics Auditorium.

According to the USC, only 60 students attended the consultation. In fact, only one of the three sessions pushed through.

The morning (9-12 noon) session at the College of Education Auditorium and the evening session (4-7 p.m.) at the SE Auditorium were cancelled because of low student attendance, said USC Vice Chairperson Jules Guiang.

Yung request kasi namin supposedly sa administrators, especially kay Chancellor Saloma, yung pinaka-maximum namin is to suspend classes at least for a specific time (We requested the administrators, especially Chancellor Caesar Saloma, to suspend classes at least for a specific time),” he said.

Instead, the Chancellor released Monday a memorandum which “strongly urged” students to participate in the consultation.

Primarily, the students discussed the proposed changes to Articles 330, 430 and 431 of the University Student Code and the proposed Socialized Tuition Fee System of 2013 (STS 2013).

If approved, the STS 2013 would replace the current Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) implemented since 1989 and amended in 2007.

The STFAP places students under six brackets, which determine the tuition rates according to his/her family income.

Under the current system, students who do not apply for STFAP are automatically placed under bracket A and pay P1,500 per unit. Those who which for lower tuition brackets must submit certain requirements, such as copies of his/her parents’ income tax return, utility bills and declaration of assets, including a 13-page application form.

President Alfredo Pascual’s STS 2013 aims to reform the STFAP by “streamlining and automating” the bracket assignment process, currently done manually by staff members of the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS).

A 30-percent “upward adjustment,” however, will be made for the income cut-offs for brackets A, B, C and D due to inflation, according to Pascual’s presentation to the USC.

The following revisions to Student Code admission and retention policies are also being proposed:

These provisions came under fire when UP Manila freshman Kristel Tejada took her life on March 16 allegedly due to her inability to pay tuition loans from the university.

According to Guiang, the consultation led by the USC was in response to the Dec. 2 meeting of the USC and the League of College Councils (LCC) with Pascual to discuss the results of the Nov. 28 BOR meeting. (Read: BOR decisions ‘not binding’ due to lack of quorum)

Pascual was absent during Tuesday’s consultations due to illness. Former OSSS Director Richard Philip Gonzalo and Special Assistant to the President Lourdes Portus presented the STS 2013 and Student Code provisions respectively.

Base sa sinabi sa amin ni Pres.Pascual, walang consultation na naganap [saDiliman], walang report na nagawa [ang Office of the Student Regent (OSR)] (Based on what President Pascual told us, there was no consultation in UP Diliman and the Office of the Student Regent did not made a report),” said Guiang who is also the convener of the LCC.

The LCC is the official alliance of local student councils in UP Diliman.

Guiang said they were surprised that there were such proposals, and copies of the proposals were submitted to the OSR in September.

BOR Secretary Lilian De Las Llagas issued a memorandum on Dec. 3 stating that “all matters that were brought up to the BOR for decision were not acted upon” since the meeting lacked quorum. Student Regent Krista Melgarejo was absent during the meeting due to a medical condition.

Melgarejo released an official statement through the OSR’s Facebook page which questioned the intent and timing of the Dec. 2 meeting of the UP administration with Diliman student leaders.

“I cannot help but conclude that the meeting on Dec. 2 was a ‘divide and rule’ tactic on the part of the administration,” the statement read.

Melgarejo said she called for a consultation in Dilimanduring the second week of November but only members of several local student councils came.

Prior to the Diliman consultation, Melgarejo said the OSR made consultations regarding the STS 2013 and the Student Code Provisions in different university constituent units, except for UP Visayas Tacloban and Palo, Leyte which were hit by typhoon Yolanda.

The USC called for an emergency meeting Wednesday night on how it would treat the result of the consultation, Guiang said.

The BOR is the university’s highest policy-making body composed of 11 members from executive and legislative offices and UP sectors. The next BOR meeting is set on Friday, Dec. 13.

BOR decisions ‘not binding’ due to lack of quorum

By Bryan Ezra Gonzales


The Board of Regents’ (BOR) approval of the amendments to the UP Student Code was not binding due to lack of quorum, according to the Staff Regent.

In a phone interview, Regent Anna Razel Ramirez said BOR will discuss its decisions again in its next meeting, as relayed by the University Secretary.

On Nov. 28, the BOR amended certain parts of the UP System Code, focusing on the revisions on the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).

Of the 11 members of the Board of Regents, only five were present: Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, UP President Alfredo Pascual, Appointed Regent Magdaleno Albarracin, Jr., Faculty Regent Lourdes Abadingo and Staff Regent Anna Razel Ramirez.

Student Regent Krista Iris Melgarejo was not able to attend the meeting dueto an illness. Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Higher Education Senator Pia Cayetano, Alumni Regent Ponciano Rivera, Jr., Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, and Appointed Regent Gizela Gonzalez-Montinola were also absent.

The chairperson of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education Rep. Roman Romulo sent his secretary to attend the meeting on his behalf, despite calling the Board to confirm his attendance before the meeting.

The agenda of the meeting included Pascual’s proposed STFAP reforms, amendments to Articles 330, 430 and 431 of the Revised University Code, and a laboratory fee increase in the College of Engineering.

Some of Pascual’s proposed reforms include reducing the number of pages for STFAP application, increasing the benefits for students from lower brackets, adjustments in the cut-off for each bracket and the creation of safeguards to prevent dishonesty among applicants.

Staff Regent Ramirez and Faculty Regent Abadingo moved to defer all decisions on student issues since the quorum was not met and the Student Regent was absent.

The board assigned Melgarejo to discuss her position paper on the proposals presented during the BOR meeting last October.

Instead, Ramirez and Abadingo proposed that the Board discuss pending memoranda and the benefits to be received by students affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

Licuanan, who was also the presiding officer, moved to have an approval on the meeting’s agenda despite the lack of quorum. This was supposed to be in time for the next academic year, Ramirez said.

Ramirez added that Pascual persisted in having his proposed STFAP reforms approved, claiming that a consultation was already conducted among the constituents and that discussions on the reforms were already delayed in past meetings.

Despite Licuanan’s motion, no voting occurred during the meeting.

Meanwhile, Student Regent Melgarejo expressed her dismay on the proceedings of the recent BOR meeting. She described the decisions pushed in the meeting as “anti-poor, and anti-student.”

Melgarejo explained that the proposed STFAP reforms and amendments to the Revised University Code prolong the problem currently faced by students instead of lowering the high cost of education in UP.

Nakakagalit talaga yung nangyari. Di nakapag-establish ng quorum. Yung hamon sa ating mga estudyante ay tumindig at lumaban. Di nirespeto ang student representation (It is really infuriating. There is no quorum. The challenge to our students is to stand up and fight. The BOR did not respect student representation),” she said.

The BOR did not discuss the proposal preventing freshmen to join organizations, fraternities and sororities. The issue on renaming of the UP School of Business Administration to Virata School of Business was not included in the agenda because the Board did not receive a formal report from UPD, Ramirez said.

Pres. Pascual will be holding a dialogue with the University Student Council tomorrow to address student concerns with the BOR’s decisions. – With reports from Jinky Cabildo

STFAP: What’s your cup of coffee?

As the University of the Philippines School of Economics auditorium became jam-packed with avid audience for a much-anticipated debate, a cup of coffee was definitely the only thing warmer than the hall.

By Apple Cruel and Roleen Delos Reyes

As the University of the Philippines School of Economics auditorium became jam-packed Friday with avid audience for a much-anticipated debate, a cup of coffee was definitely the only thing warmer than the hall.

The blockbuster hit was “Kapekonomiya: Surveying the Financial Affair Policy of the University of the Philippines”— a project spearheaded by the School of Economics Student Council (SESC) and UP Economics Towards Consciousness (UP ETC).

Kapekonomiya is a staple talk of the UP SESC to promote the field of economics to students and highlight trends and pressing issues in the national context. This year, the event focused on UP’s Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), which classifies students under six income brackets.

Students coming from families with an annual income of a million pesos or higher are placed under bracket A, and pay the full cost tuition rate of P1,500 per unit. Such is assumed of UP students upon entry to the University, unless they submit the necessary documents for them to qualify to lower-paying brackets.

Those placed under bracket B pay P1,000 per unit. Bracket C and D students pay P600 and P300 per unit, respectively, while those under brackets E1 and E2 pay no tuition fees, with the latter also entitled to a 12,000-peso semestral stipend.

Prerequisite to these tuition discounts, however, is a 13-page application form, accompanied by a number of documents requested by the STFAP office on a case-to-case basis.

Polarized views on whether the mechanism should be scrapped or reformed resulted to undeniable tension between two opposing camps. Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) Chairperson Sarah Isabelle Torres and Professor Ramon Guillermo from the College of Arts and Letters pushed for the scrapping of STFAP, while Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (ALYANSA) Chairperson Juan Carlo Tejano and School of Economics Professor Solita “Winnie” Monsod forwarded their reform advocacy.

A panel of colors made of individuals from different political student groups were also present, namely: Eduardo “Eds” Gabral (Chairperson, Kasama sa UP), Bea Achacoso (former Vice Chairperson of Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan), Amiel Ayson (Vice Chairperson, UP ALYANSA) and Franzine Foronda (Councilor, SESC and member, UP ETC).

Atty. Rowena Daroy-Morales, Director of the Office of Legal Aid from the UP College of Law, moderated the lecture-cum-debate during the said event.

Why scrap?

“Education is devalued to a commodity,” Sarah Isabelle Torres begins her opening statement as she discussed the failure of treating education as a public good.

Torres emphasized that education is a right, citing the 1987 Constitution and the UP Charter. Tertiary education is not a private good, she emphasized, in contrast to what the defenders of socialized tuition are implying.

Dr. Ramon Guillermo focused on the advocacy of social equity as the principal cause for scrapping STFAP. As a state-supported institution, the university would enjoy fairness and social justice through such action, he said.

Torres added that in 1991, 20 percent of the student population are full scholars in UP but it stooped to 2 percent come academic year 2010 to 2011.

Through the years, Torres said that STFAP merely served as a smokescreen for tuition fee increase. In 1989, the implementation of STFAP increased the base tuition from 150 to 300. The same thing happened in 2007’s rebracketing, with the base rates moving from P300 to P1000 per unit.

Torres also cited that even UP President Alfredo Pascual admitted the current STFAP was designed as an “income generating scheme” during an earlier dialogue.

According to Guillermo, 60 percent of the national population fall under the lowest income brackets E1 and E2, while only 22 percent belong to bracket B, given the current measures for STFAP assignments.

Assuming that a hundred percent of the earnings from STFAP were to be used to financially support the underprivileged, Guillermo enumerated hypothetical results and inferred that a flat rate approximation would make UP education accessible.

‘Imposible ang libre’

“Scrap, and then what?” was Tejano’s question after Torres’ opening statements.

For Tejano, the ‘Scrap STFAP’ option was a select-your-own-adventure story with only three dead-end options: rollback base tuition rates to P300 per unit, use Congress pork barrel to fund the deficit, or free tuition for all students. Such ends were “impossible,” he said.

Professor Monsod elaborated on the reason for focusing on tuition discount.

“The highly unequal access to education is there, UP can’t solve it,” she said, citing the high dropout rates in the country.

Monsod traced the bracketing system of STFAP, emphasizing the need for well-to-do students to pay as much as they can to help the poor. With the present tuition fee system, everybody is actually being subsidized. Such was a flaw, she said.

“Why would you subsidize those who can pay?” Monsod added.

While she agreed that education is a right, Monsod believed that UP education is a privilege. It was quite impossible to expect that the University would get full state subsidy from the government –thus, that reform is more doable, according to Monsod.

Contrary to Guillermo’s argument, Tejano also claimed that scrapping STFAP was an injustice since in that scenario, students in bracket A and B would pay less while those under brackets C to E would pay beyond their means.

He asserted that “Reform STFAP Now” was a more viable advocacy, offering a 13-point proposition which aims to add, improve or repeal certain provisions in the current bracketing system to ensure efficiency.

“STFAP is not an income generating program, it is an income redistribution program,” Monsod pointed out. She added that if the program is revised accordingly, each would be accommodated according to need and according to ability.

Tejano also assured that there will be no tuition fee hike in reform since it is all about adjusting and rearranging the income threshold. This also aimed to prevent lower brackets from paying tuition that is more than their incomes.

The verdict

The murmurs were almost deafening as the panel, who also served as student reactors, delivered their individual judgements on the issue.

Eds Gabral sided with Scrap STFAP, saying that socialized tuition would not assure whether a student can continue or finish his UP education. As Gabral used Kristel Tejada’s case, all eyes fell on a man in a gray shirt—Christian Tejada, Kristel’s father.

Kristel Tejada was a UP Manila freshman who committed suicide last March, allegedly due to her inability to settle her dues in the University. According to reports, she was assessed and placed under bracket D, which was far from their actual financial capacity.

Tejada disclosed his experience with the inefficient socialized tuition program and aired his complaints on the system. He further discussed anomalies on the claims of the administrators regarding the promises to those who cannot afford to go the University.

Francine Foronda and Amiel Ayson, however, joined the Reform STFAP advocacy, rooted with their ALYANSA affiliations. Foronda said that it was a grave injustice to the Filipino people to “use their taxes on someone who doesn’t need it that much.”

Ayson also called everyone to “wake up and smell the coffee” that reform had concrete and achievable means.

KAISA’s Bea Achacoso straddled the fence as she called for repeal, banking on the reform propositions offered. She also stressed that full state subsidy would not be sustainable unless their party’s “Six Will Fix” campaign breaks through Congress, which calls for the allocation of six percent of the country’s gross national product to the education sector each year.

In the end, it all boils down to the crucial role of information dissemination for the awareness of not only University officials, but more importantly of the Iskolar ng Bayan whose involvement in this issue is the steering wheel behind the battle to correct the current system.

As two cups of coffee sat in front, it is the choice of every UP student to drink the blend that suits him/her.

Cutting down the loan line

By Beata Carolino

Updated and corrected 8:52 PM

Lines are nothing new to students from the University of the Philippines.

Dubbed as the University of Pila, an abundance of long, seemingly never-ending lines crowd UP offices especially during enrolment, with spirals of students lining up for an elusive subject, or falling into yet another maze for tuition payment.

But there is another line that dictates a student’s stay in the University – the lifeline of students who can’t afford to settle their semestral dues on time. It fills the otherwise empty corridors of Vinzons Hall with anxious faces, hoping they get called in before cut-off time.

This is the loan line.

No other option

John Morillo is a graduating student from the College of Science. Since freshman year, he has always been assigned under bracket E1 of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).

Under the STFAP scheme, a student belongs to the E1 bracket if his family’s total yearly income ranges from P80,001 to P135,000.

Although students under Bracket E1 no longer have to pay for their tuition, John still seeks help for his other dues and expenses for the rest of the semester, such as class requirements and his daily allowance.

John recounts that loan lines are one of the longest during enrolment, with each application requiring very detailed information similar to the 13-page STFAP form.

Recently though, he says that getting a loan approved is a lot easier and faster. The Loan Board only asks for a copy of the student’s photo, Form 5 and a note from a guarantor, along with two valid IDs – nothing like an intense interrogation, John says.

However, the entire process becomes a headache just before the following semester.

The loan, along with a six percent interest, must be paid in full one month before finals week. If not, students will be tagged as ineligible in their Computerized Registration System (CRS) accounts, which will affect the otherwise smooth flow of their next enrolment.

Students are also not allowed to file a new loan unless the previous loan has been settled.

It did not help, either, when John was tagged as bracket B this semester after the delayed results of the second batch of STFAP applications, which were only released during the second day of the registration period.

At the cost of P1000 per unit, there is no way John can afford the tuition fee, with only his mother shouldering their daily expenses.

Thankfully, his real bracket appeared a day before the registration period ended.

This year, John shares that the loan line has become less brutal and a lot easier compared to the other years that he has lined up for it.

“Madali naman ang pila, kahit mahaba,” he said. “Parang yung pila ‘pag nagbabayad sa enrolment (The line moves fast, even though it is long. It’s like the line during payment in enrolment).”

Towards accessible education

On May 31, UP President Alfredo Pascual issued an executive order which allows the heads of various UP units to grant a bigger amount for student loan applications to ensure a more accessible education.

This was the result of the approval of the University’s policy, which says that “no qualified UP student shall be denied access to quality education due to financial incapacity.”

All chancellors were then authorized to approve loans to as much as 100 percent of assessed fees, and to grant appeals made to the Student Loan Board – but only on a “case-by-case basis.”

Prior to this order, students can only borrow 70 to 85 percent of their total assessed fees, leaving them still scrambling for resources to pay the remaining amount.

However, the six percent annual interest for loans still stands, and the sum must be settled by the second week of September.

According to Ma. Corazon Tan, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the move to allow full loans may have come from the student uproar following KristelTejada’s death a few months back, as various groups lobbied for a more accessible UP.

Last March, Kristel Tejada, a UP Manila freshman, committed suicide allegedly because she was asked to file a leave of absence (LOA) due to her unsettled tuition and loan fees. Her death sparked various mobilizations from student groups, asking for the abolition of the “forced LOA” policy in UPM and other provisions in the Student Code.

Tan also said that there are currently a few provisions in the UP Code which are questionable, such as those which do not allow students to enter the University unless their fees are paid in full.

“It goes against the very essence of UP, especially [against] the financially disadvantaged sectors of the country,” Tan shares, saying that her office aims to fully revoke such provisions.

The Office of the Student Regent also said in a statement that the order was brought about by the pressure from the UP community to revise existing rules to best respond to the situation of students.

Even prior to Tejada’s death, the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS) proposed a new STFAP scheme which would ideally lessen the burden of applying for lower tuition fee rates.

Filed January 25, the 51-page proposal drafted by former OSSS Officer-in-Charge Richard Philip Gonzalo adjusts the measures for STFAP bracketing.

The original scheme assigns a student to a bracket based solely on his or her family’s annual gross income. The proposed revision will look into a student’s socio-economic classification, or one’s “means to afford the costs” of a UP education.

The proposed amendments also provide more benefits to students from lower brackets, giving monthly stipends, lodging, book and grade-based allowances on top of free or discounted tuition rates.

These reforms, however, remains on hold after the Board of Regents deferred voting on the matter in their April 12 meeting.

Not a debt sentence

While students lining up in enlistment and payment centers may go with luck alone, others can only dream of the accessible education UP promises to offer while waiting in the loan line.

John envisions a day where loans and STFAP lines no longer exist, and when the sole determinant of staying a UP student lies on passing the necessary exams.

While he is thankful for the new loan policy, John couldn’t simply shake off the burden of paying the loan later in the semester.

Merong improvements [sa proseso ng loan], but the point is hindi na kasi dapat inuutang ang edukasyon,” he said. (There are improvements [in the loan process], but the point is that education should not be loaned).”

More applications cause delay of STFAP results – OSSS

By Ardelle Costuna and Elizabeth Escaño


The release of results of the second batch of applications for the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) was delayed due to an increase in the number of applicants, said Aristeo Dacanay, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of Scholarships and Student Services (OSSS).

The OSSS was able to post the bracket assignments late afternoon of June 4, already the second day of enrolment.

Prior to the release, all students with pending STFAP applications were temporarily assigned to Bracket B, which is pegged at P1,000 per unit – a far cry from the tuition rates for brackets C to E2.

For UP Diliman, those placed under bracket C and D would only pay P600 and P300 per unit, respectively, while students under brackets E1 and E2 are given full subsidy, with the latter receiving a semestral stipend of P12,000.

 “Ngayon, malaki ‘yung volume ng mga natanggap naming applications kaya na-delay [ang results]. Hindi natapos on time ‘yung pag-encode sa Computer Center (This time, we received a huge volume of applications that was why the release of results got delayed. The encoding in the Computer Center was not finished on time),” Dacanay said.

Dacanay cited the lack of personnel who would handle the volume of STFAP applications.

“Hangga’t di nagbabago yung sistema ng STFAP tuition, talagang mahihirapan [ang aming staff] (As long as the STFAP tuition is not reformed, we (the staff) will really have a hard time),” he said.

UP President Alfredo Pascual proposed to revise the current STFAP process to the Board of Regents, but the body failed to reach a decision during their April 12 meeting.

Dacanay also explained that the UP Diliman Computer Center is in charge of encoding and processing applications. The STFAP office in Vinzons Hall only accepts application forms and evaluates a student’s compliance with the list of requirements.

The current STFAP application process requires a student to fill out a 13-page form and submit supplementary documents such as electricity and water bills, income tax returns of family members and a statement of assets and liabilities. Other legal papers may also be required on a case-to-case basis.

In light of the temporary bracket reassignments, the University Student Council (USC) set up a grievance desk to receive complaints from students, which was located one floor below the STFAP office.

Generally, tungkol sa temporary bracketing ang natanggap naming complaints (Generally, the complaints we receive are about the temporary bracketing),” said USC Students’ Rights and Welfare Committee head Charlotte France.

France explained that they advised students to continue lining up for subjects while waiting for their bracket assignments.

“Inadvise muna namin na mag-prerog muna sila ng mga klase para hindi sila maubusan ng slots, tapos hintayin na lang ‘yung paglabas ng resulta ng STFAP (We advised them to prerog for classes first while slots are available. We told them to just wait for the release of the results from STFAP),” she said.

The Office of the University Registrar has extended tuition payment until June 14, which was originally due June 5. – With reports from Vince Nonato