UP student councils call to realign intel funds to COVID response

UP student councils renewed demands to rechannel counterinsurgency funding to the government’s pandemic response at the 51st General Assembly of Student Councils earlier today, Sept. 1.

One of the assembly’s adopted resolutions called for the immediate release of the P10,000 monthly cash aid for low-income Filipino families and a P100 emergency daily wage relief for workers.

The resolution, filed by the UP Diliman College of Home Economics Student Council (UPD CHESC), blasted the P28 billion 2022 budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and called to transfer the funds to economic losses from the pandemic instead.

“In the event of a severe economic recession, households may be forced to relocate to areas with no access to safe drinking water, appropriate sanitation or safe amenities,” the resolution reads. “This further [exposes] the vulnerabilities of Filipino families as concrete measures to respond to the global health crisis remain absent.”

UPD CHESC added that financial aid to indigent sectors becomes more urgent following a spike in the nation’s unemployment rate in 2020, set to rise higher following the reimposition of ECQ in Metro Manila in August 2021.

Still, lockdown-weary residents in UP communities faced repeated delays in cash aid hand-outs as local government units met bureaucratic lags.

READ: UP residents dread lockdown losses, delayed aid

The UP Los Baños College of Arts and Sciences Student Council supported CHE SC’s  resolution, saying “it is high time that [the GASC passes] a resolution for the Duterte regime to provide economic relief [for] Filipino families instead of militarization.”

Student councils from both UP Diliman and UP Mindanao filed a similar resolution seeking to rechannel NTF-ELCAC’s budget to “adequately” fund the education sector. The document called for the distribution of the Emergency Student Aid and Relief to alleviate academic expenses. 

Repurposing intel funds for education

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) tabled an P11 billion increase in NTF-ELCAC’s budget for 2022. Meanwhile, the DBM proposed a P1.3 billion cut in the UP system’s funds for next year.

The proponent councils condemned the Duterte administration for “underinvesting” in education in favor of the counterinsurgency task force, leaving students and teachers struggling in the wake of remote learning and intensified red-tagging.

Student councils also called out the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education for their indifference to its constituents’ needs, as both agencies have been flagged by the Commission on Audit for their “deficient” use of funds.

Support for healthcare

The GASC rallied support for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country’s largest COVID-19 referral center.

“Issues regarding the healthcare system should be [solved] through the proper funding and rehabilitation of already-existing equipment in the UP-PGH in Manila,” an approved resolution reads.

PGH is set to receive a P1.2 billion budget crunch, the biggest in the entire UP system, should lawmakers adopt President Duterte’s 2022 spending plan for the university.

Other GASC resolutions included demands for an “accessible and comprehensive” healthcare and a vaccination program for the UP community, its students, faculty and staff to accelerate the resumption of face-to-face classes.

READ: UP in the air: What you need to know from the proposed 2022 budget for UP

As of Aug. 31, seven academic units in UP Diliman have proposed limited face-to-face classes. Graduating students from the units are “highly encouraged” to be vaccinated at the College of Human Kinetics Gym as university officials propose limited in-person classes for the next semester.

UPDATE: The story has been edited on Sept. 2, 2021 to reflect a correction in the number of units that have proposed in-learning activities for the first semester of A.Y. 2021-2022. The OVCAA corrected its original list, saying there are seven units, not eight, as mentioned in an earlier version of the story.

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