Inscribed on the very walls of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC) are three words which for so long, the institution has fought for: midyang malaya at mapagpalaya.
A free press. One which liberates the people.
Time and again, the college’s studentry has proven itself to be outspoken and militant against the injustices which threaten the rights of the people, as well as that of the country’s future media practitioners. However, with recent developments curtailing the students’ democratic right to organize, CMC’s ideals as an institution are put on the line of questioning.
Packaged as a document listing guidelines dictating which student organizations are duly recognized by the college, the Faculty-Student Relations Committee (FSRC) manual obstructs CMC students from exercising their right to organize through measures such as the 15-member minimum requirement and the prohibition for freshmen to join these groups during their first semester.
This led to the dying out of organizations such as Filmmakers’ Guild of UP, UP Mass Communicators’ Organization and UP Aperture.
During a town hall meeting conducted last week, a Film Institute faculty member justified this phenomenon, citing it as the “life cycle” of organizations.
While these inhibiting regulations are strictly enforced by the administration, the college’s duties to the organizations which are also listed in the manual are often neglected, as is the case with the right to student spaces. Renovations in the college basement displaced student organizations such as the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP, UP Broadcasters’ Guild, Anakbayan Maskom, STAND UP CMC; including the college student council and Tinig ng Plaridel itself.
In protest of the CMC admin’s unwillingness to address dissent, CMC organizations withdrew their application for college-based registration, refusing to adhere to their fascist policies.
Instead of viewing the unified action as an indication of this view, the admin countered by imposing room reservation fees on CMC students themselves. Since free use of rooms are limited to college-based orgs, renting a classroom during weekdays now costs P250 per hour, while the CMC Auditorium costs P1,120 per hour during weekends.
The same admin welcomed officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) into the college, supposedly for a communication skills workshop. Notwithstanding the 1989 agreement between the UP System and the Department of National Defense, the PNP is not allowed to enter university premises except for cases of emergency and hot pursuit.
These officers visited the college for a partnership proposal to teach them “communication skills”, an administration officer said earlier.
This is the same institution carrying out state-sponsored killings under the blanket of the campaign against drugs, all the while establishing even deeper the culture of impunity which CMC claims to fight against.
While some organizations in CMC organize and conduct media literacy workshops for students and communities nationwide, the CMC administration chooses not to extend support and instead exposes its priorities by offering a helping hand to the police force. To help the PNP communicate the injustices they commit is to help justify the blood they have on their hands.
These fascist attacks by the CMC admin should not, in any way, dilute the solidarity reached among the organizations, even though the admin itself consists of CMC alumni who have been part of the very organizations they are trying to suppress.
Instead, these actions should further bridge the students to fight against an institution hell bent on disregarding their rights.
Rattled as we are with what is happening within the college, something greater is afoot. All over the country, campus publications are being shut down or taken over by their respective college administrations; student activists are being harassed by police; national minorities, peasant leaders, and urban poor turn up dead everyday; and communities are being bombed.
Through his consolidation of political power and the wars he waged against his people such as War on Drugs, Oplan Kapayapaan, and martial law in Mindanao, the Duterte administration is actively cultivating conditions that make smothering the people’s rights easier, and these conditions have steadily made their presence known in our university.
The role of the media in times of ardent crises and blatant fascism is historic; our loyalty is to the people and our mandate is to keep the state in line. Moreover, time and time again it has been proven that when the youth brave the frontlines in times of turmoil, success is inevitable.
Now more than ever, students of mass communication and future media practitioners are called to serve the people. Now is not the time to remain silent and complacent, especially as we are looking at darker times ahead.
The challenge now for the alagad ng midya is to be one with the Filipino people in their fight against a system that stifles the fight for freedom and rights, and to remain steadfast and militant in rejecting any form of repression inside and outside the college. For the alagad ng midya, there is no other path to take but the path of struggle— because ours is a just fight, and a just fight will always succeed.