A student condemns the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao during a protest held last week for Reynaldo De Guzman.

Photo by Claudette Chong
Text by Kristel Limpot

Student Regent Shari Oliquino urged University of the Philippines (UP) students to take the fight for democratic rights beyond the university in the Diliman Student Summit held on Wednesday.

The Diliman Student Summit is held annually by the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) to serve as an avenue for the student body to forward their concerns and to tackle issues relevant to the university.

Oliquino highlighted the role of the student movement in the recent victory of the call for free education, as well as in the continued struggle against state repression and fascism.

“Mas nakikita at na-ko-concretize na kung anong naibibigay ng ganitong klase ng mga pagkilos ngayong naipatambol na natin ang usapin ng libreng edukasyon sa loob at labas ng pamantasan,” said Oliquino.

A bill granting full government subsidy to the 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte August this year.  

However, she called for the full realization of this right, stating that under the guidelines approved by the UP Board of Regents, some students are not covered by the no tuition collection.

This includes those who failed to complete their degree within a year after the prescribed period, or who failed to comply with admission and retention rule. Graduate students are also still expected to pay their fees.

“Ang gusto natin ay yung buong pagkilala sa edukasyon bilang isang karapatan – delayed ka man o hindi, undergraduate student ka man o hindi.”

Amidst this significant progress, however, Oliquino asserted that UP students continue to face a repressive system.

She cited the Code of Student Conduct prohibiting freshmen from joining organizations during their first semester in the university, the red-tagging of student leaders, the attack on student organizations, and the militarization in UP Mindanao through the proposal to build Reserve Officers’ Training Corps headquarters inside the campus.

The UP General Education (GE) reform, which has been recently approved reduces the minimum number of GE units that university students should take from 45 to 21, has also been slammed for its “neoliberal orientation”.

Oliquino said that instead of addressing the needs of our nation, the reform is primarily geared towards meeting the demands of the global market for cheap labor.

“Ang mahirap kapag sumasabay tayo sa standards ng ibang bansa, yung mga graduates at professionals natin, mag-aagawan sila sa trabaho. At magiging dahilan ito para sa mga korporasyon na babaan yung kanilang sahod at magpatuloy sakanilang pananamantala,” she said.

Iskolar para sa bayan

On the subject of being iskolars ng bayan, Oliquino called for the students to take part in the fight against state fascism that loom over the Filipinos especially in the current administration.

Anakbayan UP Diliman Chairperson Jann Merlin, who also spoke in the summit, denounced the Martial rule in Mindanao, as well as Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Tokhang, calling it a “war against the citizens” forged by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Merlin condemned police brutality that resulted to the deaths of members of the youth, including that of Carl Arnaiz, a former student of the state university.

“Nakabalangkas lang lahat ‘yan sa pangkabuuang kamay na bakal na pamumuno ni Duterte – pasista at anti-mamamayan,” Merlin said.

The increased militarization and plundering of ancestral lands also led to around 3,000 members of our national minorities to participate in Lakbayan, a national protest caravan which the university is hosting for the third time.

Hailing from different regions of the Philippines, they have come to Manila to assert their rights to lasting peace and self-determination, and bring issues of militarization and harassment to national consciousness.

“Tayong kabataan dito sa UP ‘yong armed with theory, at kailangan natin itong ilapat sa praktika na siya namang dala-dala ng ating mga magsasaka’t mangaggawa na bumubuo sa mayorya ng ating populasyon.”

A national day of walkout against martial law and state fascism will be staged on Sept. 21, the anniversary of  dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial rule in 1972.


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