UP student orgs press Marcos admin for action on key issues

Story by A.M.

Several student formations in UP Diliman called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration to address pressing issues on economy, health and education. 

Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., laid out his government’s agenda for the next six years in his first State of the Nation Address on July 25.

In a statement published the day before, the UP Diliman University Student Council (UPD USC) and other university formations said they expected Marcos to lay out in his debut SONA plans for the economic, health and education crises.

But while the one hour and 14 minute-long SONA touched on development goals, Marcos was mum on the worsening press freedom situation in the country, rights of persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE), among other pressing issues.

During the closing months of his predecessor President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines fell to the 147th spot at the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, as critical media outlets were at the receiving end of judicial harassment and verbal attacks from Duterte.

On June 6, just days before Duterte stepped down on June 30, the National Telecommunications Commission red-tagged and blocked alternative media websites. On June 29, the Securities and Exchange Commission upheld its 2018 decision to revoke the license of media organization Rappler.

UP Solidaridad, the systemwide alliance of student publications and writers’ organizations in the UP system, expressed concern that campus press freedom would also be more vulnerable under Marcos’ term.

“This Marcos Jr. administration is not actually a second term for the Marcos Sr. administration, but rather a second term for the Duterte administration where trolls are ganging up on journalists,” Marvin Ang, outgoing chairperson of UP Solidaridad, told TNP.

Ang added that they are now crafting security guidelines for UP campus journalists to ensure their safety when covering on-ground, especially after Manila Collegian reporter Lloyd Manango was taken by police during a May 21 protest.

Kahit sino pa ‘yung nakaupo dyan, kahit si Marcos, o si Duterte, o kung sino mang Poncio Pilato, lagi’t lagi nating ipaglalaban ang ating mga karapatan hanggang sa marating natin ang isang lipunang may pagkakapantay-pantay,” Ang said.

During the campaign period, Marcos skipped presidential debates organized by CNN Philippines, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and even the Commission on Elections.

The Rise for Education Alliance (R4E) chapter in the College of Mass Communication called out his refusal of interviews and “outright disrespect of the media as an institution.”

Nakapanghihilakbot ang disinformation propaganda at historical distortion campaign ng mga Marcos na pinagkakamalang tunay at totoo sanhi ng deka-dekadang pagtatag sa makinarya na nagsimula sa diktadurya ng kaniyang ama,” R4E-CMC said in a statement on June 30.

“Pregnant with lies”

Regarding Marcos’ June 30 inauguration, Ang said that this administration cannot be expected to be true to its words given that the speech was “pregnant with lies.”

Several media organizations flagged Marcos’ inaugural address for false and inaccurate claims on his electoral mandate, the Ilocos wind farm and food security during his dictator father’s regime.

Even after he was inaugurated, the UPD USC said Marcos failed to address pressing crises including inflation, rising fuel prices and surging COVID-19 cases during the first weeks of his term.

In a July 24 statement, the UPD USC wrote: Kung ang pagkakaisang pinapakita ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ay nakabatay sa sama-samang paglugmok ng mamamayan sa kahirapan …  asahan nilang bukas makalawa ay may masang magkakaisa para basagin ang ganitong sistema.

R4E-CMC also condemned the Marcos family’s refusal to acknowledge abuses and human rights violations that they committed during Martial Law. 

Wala pa ring natatamong hustisya sa mga kasuklam-suklam na pangyayari noong rehimeng Marcos. Hanggang ngayon, patuloy pa rin nilang binabaluktot ang katotohanan upang ito ay pumanig sa kanila,” the alliance wrote.

READ: For Martial Law victims’ children, the 2022 elex is the fight of their lifetime

SONA

In his SONA, Marcos said that reinstating the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for Grades 11 and 12 is one of his priority legislative measures. Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio also expressed her support for students’ military service as early as January.

R4E UP Diliman rejected Marcos’ proposal, saying ROTC “has no place in the curriculum,” and that “the education sector does not need any form of militarization.”

Mandatory ROTC was scrapped in 2001 following the death of Mark Welson Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student who exposed abuses in the program. 

UP Babaylan, an organization supporting persons of diverse SOGIE, is alarmed that the Marcos administration will perpetuate a militaristic form of leadership.

“As much as we are passionate [about] our advocacies, malaking hindrance sa passion na ‘yon if may pumapaligid na takot,” said Julia Labao, the organization’s research head, citing harassment and red-tagging that students in the university had experienced.

READ: UP student-athletes halted by police 

READ: Red-tagging of UP students, orgs worsened during pandemic — student councils

UP Babaylan also grew worried that the SOGIE Equality Bill, which is pending in the Senate, will be used by the administration as a form of ‘pinkwashing’.

UP Babaylan head Anna Cubacub said pinkwashing is when the country is projected globally as “happy, liberal, [and] democratic but all atrocities [and] human rights violations are shoved under the rug.”

Cubacub flagged the potential for ‘performative allyship,’ where politicians use the LGBTQIA+ community for political gains. 

During the campaign period, Marcos Jr. expressed his support for the SOGIE Bill as an “antidote to discrimination.

Kung mapasa man ‘yung SOGIE Equality Bill, hindi naman ibig sabihin utang na loob na ‘yon sa kanila,” Cubacub said.

The organization said that they will continue demanding accountability moving forward, as they remain firm in their stand that LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights amid “very fearing times.”

In its June 24 statement, the UPD USC called on students to continue the fight for the poor and marginalized during Marcos’ term.

Kasama ang masang api, patuloy na[ting] ipaglaban ang ating karapatan sa makataong kabuhayan, sa aksesibleng pampublikong kalusugan para sa lahat, at sa ligtas, abot-kaya, at de-kalidad na edukasyon,” the UPD USC wrote.