by Pathricia Ann Roxas
Candidates eyeing University Student Council (USC) posts from the three major political parties traded viewpoints Friday on timely university issues in an annual UP mudslinging debate.
Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) councilor candidate Joey Loristo expressed his party’s defiance against the academic calendar shift from June-August to March-May, which was approved by the Board of Regents (BOR) for all UP campuses except Diliman last February 6.
However, he clarified that they are not against internationalization, which is one of the goals of the shift.
“We don’t internationalize and become good. We become good first before we internationalize,” Loristo said.
Citing other problems the UP administration should prioritize first, Red Maines, running as councilor under Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA), did not directly junk the idea of the shift.
“Dito sa ating unibersidad, hindi pa nga natin nabibigyang-solusyon ang sapat na pasilidad. Bakit hindi muna tayo mag-invest sa ating bansa, bakit hindi muna natin ayusin internally at saka na lamang natin pag-usapan ang tungkol dito [sa shift] (Here in UP, we have yet to provide adequate facilities. Why don’t we invest in our country first before talking about [the shift]),”said Maines.
Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (ALYANSA) chairperson candidate Arjay Mercado said that while he acknowledges its potential downfalls such as the rescheduling of board exams, the shift could also open opportunities for UP students. Mercado questioned the negative stance against the shift.
“[N]agtataka tayo na while gusto natin ng equal access to education ay sarado tayo sa posilbilidad na ito (We wonder why there is an opposition to the shift while we want equal access to education),” said Mercado.
He also said that their party sees the need for foreign exchange programs to cater to the needs of students.
Loristo contested Mercado’s statement: “Ibig bang sabihin nito ay wala nang tiwala ang students na dito nila makukuha sa UP yung mga opportunities na kailangan nila? (Does this mean that students no longer believe that they can find the opportunities they need in UP?).”
To which Mercado responded: “Hindi ibig sabihin nito na walang tiwala. We just want to broaden yung opportunities ng mga estudyante (This does not mean a lack of trust from the students. We just want to broaden the opportunities of the students).”
The three parties voiced out their differing stands on the Socialized Tuition System (STS), previously approved by the BOR in December to replace the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program, a six-tier bracketing system which determines tuition rates based on family incomes of students.
Under the STS, there will be 30-percent increase in income cut-offs for brackets A to D while retaining income bases for brackets E1 and E2.
KAISA councilor candidate Zaira Baniaga said her party is against STS. Baniaga also cited Six Will Fix, their banner program, which calls for the allocation of six percent of the gross national product to the education sector.
“Kami po sa KAISA ay naniniwala sa right to education. At hindi kami tulad ng iba na puro oppose at walang propose (We in KAISA believe in the right to education. We are not like others who just oppose without proposing solutions),” said Baniaga.
Loristo negated the accusation and said that STAND UP also proposes solutions instead of mere opposition to STS.
KAISA supporters yelled when Loristo claimed that the Six Will Fix campaign was even piloted by STAND UP in the first place.
ALYANSA’ s councilor candidate Walter Tamayo said ALYANSA supports STFAP reforms.
“Nakakalungkot na yung ibang kandidato dyan puro scrap ang gusto, [samantalang] pwede naman nating ayusin (It is unfortunate that some candidates want the STS scrapped when it could be fixed)”, he added.
After a wild shout from the crowd, Loristo countered with a metaphor: “Maihahalintulad po natin ito sa kamatis na may uod. Paano mo [pa] mapipigilan ang pagkabulok kung patuloy mo itong aayusin? (STS is like a tomato that has been eaten by a worm. How can you stop it from further decay of you try to fix it continuously?).”
Tuition fee rollback?
A member of the mob asked about the possibility of a tuition rollback to retain UP’s image as the state university. While all parties claimed to have diverse stands on the tuition scheme issue, both STAND UP and KAISA agreed on the prospect of tuition fee rollback and to have a flat-rate tuition.
STAND UP’s vice chairperson candidate Neefa Macapado said, “Ang kailangan natin ay mas mababang tuition para mas maraming kabataan ang maka-access ng UP education (What we need is a low tuition in order to make UP education more accesible).”
ALYANSA also agreed to the rollback but opposed the idea of a flat-rate tuition, saying that it is better to have a tuition scheme based on a student’s financial capacity.
Concluding the queries from the mob was the issue on the impeachment trial of incumbent councilor Christian Lemuel “Lem” Magaling. He incurred 6.5 demerits after several unexcused absences from USC general assemblies and from other violations to the USC house rules.
Last year, Magaling ran under the STAND UP slate and ranked third in the 2013 USC elections.
STAND UP accused other councilors of “sensationalizing” the issue.
Mercado specified that the issue should not be taken for granted because it was an issue of “accountability,” and it “reflects the kind of leaders we have.”
Loristo denied Mercado’s statement and said that the trial is “unconstitutional” since a simple text stood as the sole basis of being excused or unexcused. He added that Magaling performed his responsibilities in the council as head of the Education and Research Committee.
This year’s mudslinging, dubbed as Bukas Luluhod ang mga Tala, is sponsored by the UP Systemwide Alliance of Student Publications and Writers’ Organizations (Solidaridad).
(Tinig ng Plaridel is part of the UP Solidaridad alliance. –Ed.)