Are PUP students' rights under attack?
MANILA, Philippines – Is the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) administration cracking down on student institutions in the state university?
The state-run university is known as a bastion of student activism and movement, its students among the most progressive in the country.
PUP has also been the go-to university for students belonging to the poor majority primarily because it offers the lowest tuition rates – P12 per unit – in Metro Manila. Keeping the tuition at this affordable rate is a community effort – resulting from a cooperative dynamics among the student body, the administration, and school’s employees.
However, recent reports showed strains in the relationship between the administration and the progressive student institutions in the university.
In a press statement released on Wednesday, September 27, Anakbayan did not mince words when it said that the PUP administration launched a wave of attacks against key student institutions supposedly to grant the wishes of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
With the supposed goal of curtailing the student’s democratic rights, Anakbayan claimed that the school administration:
Removed the student regent
Closed down student offices and tambayans
Suspended student council elections
Implemented new fees and mandatory uniform
Deployed police forces within the campus
While it blamed the school administration, Anakbayan basically pointed its finger at the Duterte administration in the press statement.
“We believe Malacanang and its agents are behind these attacks aimed at terrorizing Iskolars ng Bayan. They are terrified by the growing youth movement calling for an end to tyranny, dictatorship and fascist rule. If Duterte and his minions think they can scare us, they are dead wrong,” said Rejohn Modesto, chairperson of SAMASA PUP, a left-leaning political party in the state university.
These are serious accusations, according to PUP President Emmanuel De Guzman who identified himself as a supporter of the youth struggle. He said he won’t take any of these lightly.
“There are two student institutions in PUP: The student council and the school publication ‘Catalyst.’ I have always supported their rights and I have tried to understand their sentiments,” De Guzman said in a phone interview with Rappler.
In the past, De Guzman has been one with the PUP students in slamming the proposal to implement a socialized tuition system in the university. In fact, he promised that the tuition in PUP shall remain P12 per unit as long as he is president.
According to him, Anakbayan was lying.
First and foremost, he denied that the administration removed duly-elected student representative Karl Paulie Anareta from the board of regents. Instead, by virtue of one of the provisions of the RA 8292 or the CHEd Modernization Act, De Guzman said that former student regent Anareta was disqualified from the post because he was not enrolled in the university.
With the growing need to have a student representative at the Board of Regents, the student council led by the chairperson Elijah San Fernando organized the election of the 19th ANAK-PUP officers, including the new student regent, on Saturday to Sunday, September 23-24. It was supposedly during this congress where 25 out of 35 of its members voted in favor of Elijah San Fernando from the political organization PUP SPEAK to represent the PUP student body in the Board of Regents.
PUP SPEAK is the rival political party of the SAMASA PUP.
The PUP President also noted that Anareta’s term supposedly ended in March 2017 and that the 18th ANAK-PUP Congress has been delaying the transition of power and the election of a new student regent for almost 7 months because “they knew they would lose.”
Tambayan, school publication
Anakbayan also claimed that the administration ordered “the takeover of campus student publications through an administration office called Student Publication Section.”
There was no takeover, however, according to De Guzman who also served as the Editor-in-Chief of PUP’s school publication in 1989-1990.
“I decided to restore the office that will oversee that selection of writers and editors like what we used to have when I was a student here. We had a board of judges that will assess the essays of applicant writers. The board of judges will be composed of advisers and former EIC of the Catalyst,” De Guzman said.
The restoration of the Student Publication Section, according to De Guzman, will resolve the tendency of the student paper to turn into an echo chamber, ensuring quality output from the campus paper.
In the same press release, Anakbayan also claimed that the “administration closed the Gabriela Silang Hall, a building intended for student activities, and the student offices in various colleges.”
This is a malicious accusation, according to De Guzman, because the administration actually renovated the "Unyon ng Mag-aaral," a building located at the heart of the campus, for student organizations like SAMASA PUP.
According to the PUP President, the chief of the university's student affairs and services talked to the students so they can occupy their rooms at the newly renovated building but "they (students) did not want to talk."
De Guzman also denied the accusation that there were “truckloads of policemen” and that they suspended student elections in the university.
So if these accusations are fault, where are these coming from?
The PUP President said the strain in the dynamics between the school administration and the progressive organizations were rooted from the latters refusal to accept their defeat in the recently held student elections.
"They lost. Out of the 35 councils, their opposition clinched 25," De Guzman said, referring to the recently held ANAK PUP congress.
"I just want the students to go back to the fold of democratic process. We want this group to recognize that these institutions are going to endure longer than them and we have to respect that," De Guzman said.
Anakbayan said the PUP students are calling for campus protests to fight this supposed practice of "repression and fascism" at the state university. – Rappler.com