EDITORIAL | Ang Perspective bilang simbolo ng [P]akikisangkot

Mariing naninindigan ang UPLB Perspective sa pagpapanatili nito ng awtonomiya at kalayaan sa pamamahayag at pagdedesisyon laban sa mga polisiyang arbitraryo at mapanupil. Ang pahayagan ay nananatiling isang historikal na simbolo ng institusyon ng mga mag-aaral na tagapamandila ng karapatan ng mga estudyante sa impormasyon at malayang pamamahayag, hindi lamang sa loob ng unibersidad kundi sa kalakhang sektor ng kabataan at mamamayang pinagsisilbihan nito.

Matagal nang isyu ng patnugutan mula pa noong termino ni dating Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco ang nakaambang pansamantalang paglilipat ng mga opisina nito, kasama ng University Student Council (USC) at Textbook Exchange and Rental Center (TERC) sa basement ng Student Union (SU) building mula sa kasalukuyang kinalalagyan ng mga ito. Ito ay ayon sa plano ng Office of the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development (OVCPD) upang bigyang kaluwagan ang pagpapaupa ng mga mababakanteng opisina sa pangangailangang pangkomersyo. Kaalinsabay din ito ng plano ng Business Affairs Office (BAO) na paglilipat ng mga nabanggit na opisina matapos ang konstruksyon ng bagong gusaling matatagpuan sa UPLB Post Office.

Labas pa sa usaping sentimental, ang mga planong direktang nakaapekto sa paglilingkod ng mga institusyong ito sa mga estudyante ng walang maayos na konsultasyon at malinaw na hangarin ay pagsasantabi ng unibersidad sa karapatan, kakayahan, at makasaysayang kontribusyon ng mga mag-aaral sa pagpapalago ng pamantasan. Ang paglilipat ng mga nasabing opisina ay makaaapekto sa pisikal at digital (kawalang ng signal) na access ng mga mag-aaral sa institusyong pangestudyante sa kagyat. Hindi rin malayong ang mga institusyong ito ay unti-unting mapilay sa usapin ng pinansya at editorial autonomy dahil sa pagiging sistematiko ng panggigipit ng administrasyon. Idagdag na rito ang taunang suliranin sa paglilimbag ng diyaryo dahil sa mga walang-basehang rekisitos at makupad na proseso sa paga-apruba sa budget ng pahayagan. Nariyan din ang panghihingi ng permit sa patnugutan upang makagamit ng sarili nitong opisina tuwing presswork.

Bukod pa sa titulong opisyal na pahayagan ng UPLB, nagsisilbing daluyan at lunduyan ang pahina ng UPLB Perspective sa alternatibo at kritikal na pamamahayag; tangan ang mas malalim na mithiin ng pakikisangkot sa isyung pampulitika’t panlipunan. Masigasig itong naging kritiko at nagsilbing mouthpiece sa kasagsagan ng mga isyu gaya ng 300% tuition increase noong 2006, pagpapatupad ng STFAP/STS na sa esensiya ay pagpapapasan sa mga estudyante ng bigat ng bayarin sa matrikula, mapaniil na prosesong apektado ang mga student organizations, fraternities, at sororities, at iba pa. Nagsilbi rin itong saksi at lente sa mga tagumpay ng kampanya gaya ng pagpapatalsik kay dating Chancellor Wilfredo David, paga-abolish ng late registration fee, pagka-apruba ng referendum pabor sa CRSRS at plebisito panig sa 1984 USC-CSC Constitution, at matalinong pagpili tuwing USC-CSC elections, at di mabilang na kampanya kaugnay ang estudyante, guro, kawani, at komunidad.

Subalit hindi ito nakakulong sa neutral at obhetibong pagtingin sa pamamahayag dahil nakaugat sa mga manunulat nito ang pangangailangang aktibong makisangkot at baguhin ang kalagayang kultural, pulitikal, at panlipunang kamalayan ng mga kabataan at malawak na sambayanan. Masugid itong tagalimbag ng kasaysayan mula pa noong panahon ng Martial Law, EDSA Revolution, Visiting Forces Agreement, Maguindanao Massacre, at samu’t saring isyung ugnay sa indibidwal at kolektibong karapatan ng mamamayan. Palagian itong panauhin sa iba’t ibang demonstrasyon ng mga magsasaka, piket ng mga manggagawa, at pag-oorganisa ng mga estudyante sa hangaring mas mapalalim pa ang pang-unawa sa kanilang kalagayan.

Samakatwid, hindi limitado ang interpretasyon at panulat ng UPLB Perspective sa kung ano ang madali at komportable bagkus ay sa masalimuot na paguugnay-ugnay ng mga isyung pang-estudyante sa sintomas ng malawak na karamdaman ng bansa.

Ang pahayagan, konseho, at TERC ay kasalukuyang kahanay ng mga opisinang may kinalaman sa financial assistance, scholarships, at student loans – na kakatuwang simbolo ng papabigat na responsibilidad ng mga mag-aaral sa matrikula at pag-abandona ng estadong pag-aralin ang pinakamalawak na bahagdan ng kabataan. Sa gitna ng ganitong panunupil, mananatili ang UPLB Perspective sa pakikipaglaban sa karapatang manatili sa sariling opisina at patuloy na makikiisa sa mga mag-aaral sa panawagan para sa de-kalidad na edukasyon at dagdag na budget sa serbisyong panlipunan.

Ito at ang sistematikong panggigipit pampinansya ang nagtutulak sa inyong pahayagan na lalong magsumidhi sa pamamahayag na kritikal at nakikisangkot. Sa huli, napatunayan na ng kasaysayan na ang mga mag-aaral bilang pinakamalawak na sektor sa unibersidad na nagtindig sa pahayagan at konseho, kasama ng mga kawani, guro, at iba pang sektor ang mapagpasya sa mga pagbabagong angkop sa pamantasan at sa malawak na kalagayan ng lipunan. [P]

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Looking Beyond EDSA

Framing of the Debate Debates in contemporary political science usually pit the idea of popular sovereignty against state power. For some, the state is established as an expression of popular sovereignty. Hence, individual citizens and groups need to surrender some of their rights to respect and obey the power of the state as it fulfills its purpose of safeguarding national security and social order. For them, it is better to live in a state with our rights curtailed than to weaken that state and live in perpetual chaos. They see those who agitate to question and oust governments as destabilizers, as anarchists. Meanwhile, others point out that state power is limited by the very sovereignty and rights of the people that it is supposed to promote and protect. Hence, for them, it is only right for the people to rebel against a state that they perceive as abuser of human rights and violator of the people’s sovereignty. They see those who defend what they would consider as a repressive state as tyrants, as authoritarians. This is how contemporary political debate is framed, and it seems that the debate won’t end under the current state of affairs. However – “Im Anfang war die Tat! [In the beginning was the deed!] And human action had solved the difficulty long before human ingenuity invented it.”1 Twenty-nine years ago, when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in the historic mass demonstration of EDSA, people power prevailed– or did it? Winning the Debate EDSA succeeded in ousting Marcos, yes. But it did not overthrow a state. Ousting a ruler in an oppressive state is like when you fix a flat tire by changing the exterior even when the problem is with the interior. Some say that there would be no EDSA if it weren’t for Juan Ponce Enrile’s and Fidel Ramos’ attempted coup d’ etat that weakened the Marcos’ police-military bureaucracy. Others say that it was the influential role of the church who called on the clergy, religious and the laity to swell the streets that led to Marcos’ demise. Still others say that it was the US’ decision to withdraw its support from the dictator that finally ended up his office. Cory Aquino, the “martyr’s wife,” the “icon of democracy,” was installed as the country’s president upon Marcos’ exit. There was no constitutional succession, there was no election that appointed her – it was mere public opinion, and, well, the conjunction of interests among the anti-Marcos elites. Hence, some frown at EDSA and say that it was itself a ploy of the elite and their foreign masters, a mechanism for one clique to replace another. Seen from this perspective, it would seem that EDSA is not the triumph but the cooptation of people power. Ironically, this is the same argument that the current BS Aquino administration uses today. The family that benefited from the demonstration of popular sovereignty during the First EDSA claims that only by maintaining the status quo would EDSA be best commemorated. Understanding the Debate Parameters The campaign for the removal of BS Aquino from office calibrated during the outpouring of widescale contempt to his lack of accountability for the botched Mamasapano operation, which resulted in the death of more than 60 Filipinos. His allies, however, claim that his resignation is tantamount to wavering from his daang matuwid. They say that the progress that BS Aquino has staunchly promoted would be obliterated when incompetent and corrupt leaders replace him.  They warn us that attempts to force the resignation of BS Aquino are mere opportunistic plots by usurpers of power who use EDSA to further their selfish interests. The warning is not without basis. If constitutional succession is to be followed, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who now experiences allegations of many cases of graft and corruption, would replace BS Aquino. It would seem not worthwhile to oust a president to be replaced by another who is no different from him. Meanwhile, there are rumors of a coup d’etat plot that if realized and successful might establish a military junta, something that stands in opposition to popular sovereignty. Some politicians who back calls for a “national transition council,” on the other hand, insinuates going to EDSA to remove BS Aquino and grab power for themselves How are we to resolve this contradiction? EDSA has always been a symbol of the triumph for popular sovereignty, but it now appears to be a device for state power to maintain the status quo. Those who wish to maintain state power, to maintain the status quo, fan the popular desire to go to EDSA and oust the regime in power so that they can rule in its stead. Meanwhile, the defenders of the same status quo warn just against that! As if caring for popular sovereignty, BS Aquino’s allies advise that the best way to uphold the legacy of EDSA is to look beyond EDSA and not to go to EDSA at all. Aha! Eureka! The False Dillema Revealed The problem has just presented its own solution. Twenty-nine years ago, popular sovereignty has overthrown a dictator, and Cory Aquino was installed as the new president. Thirteen years ago, we have ousted a plunderer, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sworn in as president following the principle of constitutional succession. Two EDSAs have taught us that popular sovereignty finds ways to assert itself if state power represses it – and it can surely assert itself again. But now that another EDSA is brewing, concerns about replacement have been greater than ever. Current debate is framed by opposing state power with popular sovereignty, by letting us choose between the doom of social chaos and the perpetuation of social injustice, between ousting a hated ruler and replacing him with something that is no less evil. It presents us with a false dillema. The solution, therefore, is to throw this false problem altogether. We cannot look beyond EDSA if we do not go to EDSA in the first place, for looking beyond EDSA is not to tremble at the possibilities that lie ahead but to learn to do more than just going to EDSA. And if it means not merely replacing a tyrant with another one; if it means not opposing popular sovereignty with state power but establishing a new state power that serve the interest of popular sovereignty; then that let it be done. Two EDSA’s have shown us that popular sovereignty can be coopted by those who wish to maintain the status quo, the current state power. Another EDSA will show us that the merging interest of state power and popular sovereignty may not mean cooptation at all. That would happen if we do not just concern ourselves with replacement, but with total social renewal. Let that be the lesson of the third EDSA. In the end shall be the deed; and human action shall solve the difficulty that human ingenuity has long invented. [P] – – – – 1 – Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific quoting Goethe’s Faust

EDITORIAL | Unbearable contradiction

Every time when we are pushed through the corners by the oppressors, there is no other alternative but to struggle.

Last June 30, the Board of Regents (BOR), the highest policy-making body of the University, has approved the new Code of Student Conduct (CSC) for UP Diliman despite the objections from Student Regent Neill Macuha, together with other student leaders because of its repressive characteristic.

It might not be too long before students all throughout the UP system be shackled by the same repressive code as Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan suggested that this shall also be adopted to other constituent universities.

The controversial Student Code of Conduct, which has been in the making for the past five years, is a set of “standard norms and proper conduct of students” which is set to replace its 1998 version. However, the code cannot hide its repressive nature as it presents various ways that ranges from vague provisions that will penalize “disruptive” behaviors, to blatant rulings that hinders students’ right to organize.

Section 1.3.1 and 2.2.1 of the CSC states that acts causing disturbance and “breach of peace” will be sanctioned with penalties ranging from a 15-day suspension to expulsion from the University. This is actually one of the booby traps hidden in the CSC as it has not been clarified in the code what activities can be classified as a “breach of peace”. Thus, it can be used by the administration to suppress protest actions—arguing that such mobilizations cause disturbances and thereby threatening them with the said penalties.

Moreover, Section 2.2.1 of the CSC also prohibits students with less than one semester of residency in the University to join student organizations. Meanwhile, the recruitment ban on fraternities and sororities are extended into one-year of residency. Macuha even revealed that one of the rationale behind the motion for the recruitment ban is the recent case wherein a sophomore student from De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde died due to hazing. Such provision is an outright attack to the students’ right to organize guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution itself.

It even gets more apparent that this is part of the railroaded plans to commercialize UP education if we are to look at the time it has been passed: Most students were on their respective provinces for the four-month vacation giving them limited avenue to air their dissent; the academic calendar shift, which itself has drawn disapproval from the student body, is already being implemented; and the faulty Socialized Tuition System (STS) is trending on social media due to the outrage of the students. For an administration which seeks to have full control over the University, passing a student code that suppresses the student opposition is a sly, yet sinister move.

In reality, this Code is irrelevant to the actual concerns of the students in accordance to welfare services. Not only does it violates the rights of the students to organize, it also hinders them to unite and respond to issues that concern the studentry. It is with this unbearable contradiction that we, as a unified student body, shall call for the scrapping of the repressive code and instead pass the rights-based Student Handbook of Rights and Responsibility (SHRR).

As iskolar ng bayan, it is our avowed task to defend the principles of a national, democratic, and pro-people University of the Philippines. We must not remain idle while these principles crumble right in front of us. It is when the odds are overwhelming and the tyrants have grown ruthless than ever that we should link our arms, clench our fist, and together—express the thundering dissent of the 60,000 who already had enough with the flurry of oppressive schemes.

Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it. As UP students, we should continue the struggle towards a pro-student education system.

EDITORIAL | Where lies the flaw

The public, national, and pro-people character of the University of the Philippines has been continuously disintegrating. We, as the primary stakeholders of the University, are left with tasks to incessantly uphold this character.

The Board of Regents, in its meeting last December 2013 has approved the proposed reforms for the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and renamed it Socialized Tuition System (STS). The UP administration envisioned the STS as a system that will address the loopholes and inadequacy of the STFAP. However, despite all its promises, it missed the bigger picture.

Perhaps a short trip down the memory lane would enlighten us. Back in 1989, three years after the ouster of Marcos, Then UP President Jose Abueva proposed a tuition increase to cover additional expenses the University has to shoulder due to budget cuts that time. As an alternative to the Abueva’s proposal for increase, Dr. Romero Manlapaz proposed a socialized tuition—primarily basing on the main premise that “students who can afford should pay at least full cost of education”. After approval, tuition at flat-rate of P 40 per unit rose to P 300 per unit.

Come 2006, UP President Emerlinda Roman formed a committee to revise the STFAP. The committee stated that since the first implementation of the STFAP in 1989, Consumer Price Index went up, thus resulting to a 328% increase in price levels and family income. Therefore, according to Roman, it is reasonable to adjust the scheme to the current Price indices to make it “realistic”. The result: a new bracketing scheme plus a 300% increase in tuition fee. A little more of recent memory would remind us that another mechanism—Bracket B certification—has raised the base tuition from P 1,000 to 1,500 per unit.

By examining the historical perspective, it is easy to deduce that even from the very beginning, a socialized tuition scheme is nothing but a declaration of abandonment. With diminishing government support, the University resorts to generating funds from the students. The STFAP lives by the principle that the rich shall pay more in order to subsidize the poor—which in itself is flawed.

Subsidizing underprivileged students through a socialized system will imply that the students themselves would have the shoulder the funds needed. Therefore, the natural tendency of such system is to further push the tuition upwards—as evident through history.

Moreover, tuition increases do not necessarily translate to higher subsidies for those in the lower brackets. UP records show that while there is a steady increase in students paying P 1,500 per unit, students who enjoy free tuition has fallen to minuscule figures throughout the years. In UPLB alone, only 883 of 12, 114 students last semester or just 7% of the total UPLB population were able to avail free tuition. In fact, from 2007 to 2009, the administration collected roughly P500 million from the raised tuition, while spending only P25 million for STFAP beneficiaries. If the main purpose is just to generate additional funds, then perhaps a P475 million surplus is a testament that it the program works. However, that’s not the point.

While it may be argued that the income generated from the STFAP was used for other operations of the University, this just strengthens the argument that the STFAP is a mechanism for the state university’s self-sufficiency. Such mechanisms including Large Lecture Class Policy (LLCP), Tuition and other Fee Increase (ToFI), and privatization, among others, further give the state an avenue to justify its plan to abandon not just UP and SUCs, but its responsibility to provide quality and accessible education so that it can re-channel funds on its neo-liberal priorities.

And while the new version of the Socialized Tuition System seeks to address the flaws of the STFAP, all of these are in vain. In reality, no reform, how good may the intentions be, will suffice since the problem lies on the inherently faulty principles of a socialized tuition scheme.

Thus, our task is to regain the public, national, and pro-people character of UP. We can’t afford to be divisive in this campaign—for even the largest armies have been conquered by dividing them into factions. Reforms are not an option. There is no other alternative but to reject the STFAP, or STS by now, and rollback the tuition. Only through a united call to action can we succeed in doing so. [P]

EDITORIAL: A tale of two calamities

Once again, the Philippines has been hard-hit by its perennial foes. Last week, Tropical Storm Maring along with rains induced by Habagat barraged through Luzon and swept most of NCR and Southern Tagalog provinces with flashfloods. Total damages have reached PHP 630 million and the number of affected individuals has already ticked over 2 million; wherein 25 were reported dead, 30 injured, while three remain missing.

However, these figures will appear diminutive if we are to contrast it with the damages brought by a larger, more menacing calamity. Recently, the issue of the pork barrel scam stormed the public with an alarming PHP 10 billion worth of taxpayers’ money involved. These amounts under the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) ironically contradict its very name; or at least we may ask—whose “priority” and “development” are these funds serving? With the current fiasco, answering that question would be stating the obvious.

In fact, these aren’t minuscule amounts. PHP 10 billion could already have done a lot to mitigate disasters. That amount would suffice for a restoration project for the forest mangrove cover (PHP 8.3 B) which serves as a natural flood control in large lakes and waterways, plus the remaining two billion for almost four year’s worth of community-based disaster preparedness and response programs. Continue reading