By Nacho Domingo
After garnering the support of the University Student Council (USC), the UP Law Student Government (LSG) cited lobbying with the UP administration as the next step in the campaign for the Magna Carta’s passage at the first Magna Carta Convention held Thursday in the UP College of Law.
The Magna Carta is a self-executing document crafted by the students in the summer term of USC 2014-2015.
It lists the rights UP students are entitled to, which are not found in any other existing university document.
“The grassroots campaign to pass the Magna Carta begins with a dialogue with the deans. This precedes a presentation to the faculty and local information campaigns,” UP LSG Internal Vice President Audrey Ng said. “This is important because the University Council is comprised of faculty members.”
On Jan. 11, 2016, the USC and LSG consulted with the University Council Committee of Student Organization Activities and Welfare (UCCSOAW) about the Magna Carta.
The UCCSOAW forwarded comments on the document, which the Magna Carta Committee defended through a defense paper submitted to the Office of the Chancellor.
Ng believes the consultation is key to presenting the document before the University Council and eventually the Board of Regents.
“The UCCSOAW will be the committee that will be endorsing the document for discussion in the University Council, so that’s why we needed to have the document presented before them and to garner their support,“ said Ng, who is a member of Diliman Rights Watch.
The Diliman Rights Watch, supported by the LSG and the League of College Councils, is an alliance of advocates of the document, currently consisting of five student councils, 26 organizations and 33 members.
According to Ng, the alliance is set to conduct educational discussions, college primers and lobbying workshops aimed at raising student awareness for the document.
In doing this, they aim to both increase the size of the alliance while at the same time engaging in discourse with the administration.
“If you choose to join the alliance, we will teach you about the document in general and train you on how to lobby with the administration,” Ng said.
While their battle is far from being won, the alliance believes that successfully negotiating with the administration will prove to be a pertinent step in attaining victory.
‘Magna Carta for the students, by the students’
During the convention, LSG President Paolo Macariola also shed light on the history of the document, explaining how the document was first conceptualized locally in 2012.
“The law students were keen on drafting a Magna Carta, because we experience violations of our rights as students every day,” Macariola said.
Macariola elaborated on how law students are required to pay a non-refundable reservation fee of P5,000 for a slot in the college prior to their enrollment. He also said their classes at times extended hours longer than their scheduled times, and that professors sometimes prohibit their students from dropping a class.
However, due to the lack of a governing body that will effectively implement a Magna Carta inside the College of Law, the document was not passed.
Former head of the Magna Carta Ad Hoc Committee and former USC Councilor Pola Lamarca said the Magna Carta, drafted for and by students, enumerates student rights that are legally enforceable.
These include the right against discrimination in educational institutions, the right to select their own field of study, and the right to adequate welfare services and academic facilities.
“The Student Code only tells you what you can’t do. That’s why we drafted the Magna Carta, to let the students know what you can do,” said Lamarca.
Lamarca said during the drafting of the document back in 2015, the goals were to represent each college, open discourse, and listing rights reflective of the student agenda. This consisted of six plenary sessions, and the assistance of a legal and style team before the draft was approved by the Magna Carta committee in June of the same year.
The Magna Carta committee then conducted a referendum through ballot votes during the enrollment period, Jan. 12-14 2016. Over 7,000 students participated out of an estimated 18, 625 enrolled students at the time. Ninety-four percent of the votes were in favor of the passage of the document.
“The 6% that voted no shows us that the document is not perfect. However, based on the votes, we know it is something that the students can get behind,” said Lamarca.
Among the students who voted no was USC Councilor Shari Oliquino, who said, “Ang kalaban po natin ay hindi mga propesor na late magpasa ng grado, kung hindi ang mismong sistema ng edukasyon ngayon.”
Oliquino, Rise For Education Alliance convenor, cited student movement as the best alternative to the document which does not directly address the battle for free education inside the university.
For 2017, the Diliman Rights Watch will continue its campaign to continuously raise awareness and create more advocates for the passage of the documents.
“No matter what, as long as you keep the campaign alive, pass it on, and keep it relevant, then there is hope for the Magna Carta to be approved,” said Lamarca.