MANILA, Philippines – Organized on the heels of the furor over the death of University of the Philippines (UP) Manila student Kristel Tejada, a multisectoral alliance based in UP Diliman will parade in black on Friday, March 22, at the historic Mendiola in Manila.
The march will start at 4 pm from the front gate of the University of Santo Tomas in España and will end at Mendiola for a cultural night, featuring performances in memory of Kristel.
The alliance calls itself by its own chant, “Justice for Kristel! Save the Iskolar ng Bayan! Assert the right to education!” Consisting of mostly students, faculty groups, and staff at UP Diliman, it has activities scheduled in different UP campuses this week.
For Wednesday, March 20, students are calling for campus shutdowns and walkouts in state universities and colleges nationwide. In UP Diliman, they want students to wear black and to continue fighting against “repressive policies” and pushing for “accessible UP education.”
To express sympathy for the family of Tejada, students from Far Eastern University and University of the East organized a candlelight protest on Tuesday, March 19.
Beforehand, students from UP-Manila and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) walked out from classes in protest of UP-Manila’s “no late payment” policy.
The walk-out was done a day after some PUP students burned stacked-up chairs on the campus grounds in Sta. Mesa, Manila.
Not everyone on social media, however, was pleased with the display of public outrage and the sudden surge of organized student action:
how does this help? rT @balitanghali11: Ilang estudyante ng UP Manila, nag-walkout bilang pakikiramay sa pagkamatay ni Kristel Tejada.— aggrieved citizen (@xpeanutgalleryx) March 19, 2013
While I agree with everything that the collective’s fighting for, this is simply, for me, unacceptable… twitter.com/erikasauler/st…— Julius Dolor (@juronselor) March 19, 2013
Kristel Tejada might also have other problems more than her tuition!.. Activist Stop fueling the Fire! . Think out of the box like a Skolar!— Anti – Bista (@AntiBista) March 19, 2013
In response to criticism over the use of Tejada’s death as a tool to drive their political agenda, UP System Student Regent Cleve Arguelles said they have always been fighting for the revocation of the Forced Leave of Absence (FLOA) policy even prior to the death of Kristel. He said the suicide incident only served to highlight their cause.
“Bago pa man, yung call ng students, standing has always been there… Hindi natin gusto ito mangyari sa iba (Even before, the students’ call and our standing has always been there. We don’t want this to happen to others),” he said in a phone interview.
As of posting time, UP Manila’s “No Late Payment” policy has been suspended. The announcement was made by Chancellor Manuel Agulto Tuesday afternoon, March 19.
Meanwhile, diverse views on the case of Tejada proliferated online. Some acknowledged that something could have been done to prevent her death, regardless of the FLOA policy in place:
ON #KristelTejada death I feel for thefather But BEING poor is not a hindrance to success IF YOU CANT AFFORD IT.?THINK WAYS TO AFFORD IT !— jhoygrafil (@benetsmom) March 19, 2013
Kristel Tejada’s father is putting ALL the blame to UP Manila’s system. Duh. If u’ve worked harder, she shud’ve paid her tuition fee on time— Jeff Galang (@jefffgalang) March 19, 2013
To say that UP deprived Kristel Tejada of her only hope to help her family is like saying, it’s the government’s fault why people are poor.— Patrick Gonzalez (@patrickg0nzalez) March 19, 2013
On the other hand, there were others who said that what happened was a direct cause of an inefficient system:
Nabaliktad na ang sisi sa suicide ni Kristel Tejada. UP Manila managed to divert the blame to Kristel’s father. Grabe. tsk.— Carlo C. Paguio (@carlopaguio_) March 19, 2013
The case of Kristel Tejada was not a suicide. She was killed by the system- a system that refuse to recognize that education is a right. 🙁— Cleve Arguelles (@clevearguelles) March 15, 2013
Si Kristel Tejada ay isang freshman sa UP Manila na nagsuicide dahil na forced LOA dahil hindi makabayad ng matrikula.— Erika Jean R. Ente (@ekang_) March 15, 2013
Looking to the future
There are also those who consider it tragic and who, moving forward, only want the best for “young hopefuls” like Tejada.
Let’s just treat the Kristel Tejada story as a tragedy. Mourn and weep without having to point fingers and assign blame.— Manric Tan (@ptrmans) March 19, 2013
May there be no more young hopefuls like Kristel Tejada out there who need to give up their hope & their lives 🙁— Jopaps (@itweetjoy) March 19, 2013
More student involvement
Despite criticisms in their method of lobbying, students continue to call for greater involvement in the organized action related to Kristel’s death.
hustisya para ky Kristel Tejada! Iskolar ng bayan, tayo’y magsuot ng black shirt at makiisa s gganaping indignation rally mmaya s cpark 4pm!
hustisya para ky Kristel Tejada! Iskolar ng bayan, tayo’y magsuot ng black shirt at makiisa s gganaping indignation rally mmaya s cpark 4pm!— Czar Lumacad (@czarshipss) March 19, 2013
again, Justice for Kristel Tejada. Justice for all Iskolar ng Bayan. Education is a right, not a privilege! UP is for the people! ~— Divine Grace (@Thyiaaa) March 15, 2013
On Thursday, the remains of Tejada will be in UP Manila for viewing of students and the rest of the UP community. Arrangements are being made to integrate Tejada’s funeral march with the black parade in Mendiola on Friday. – with a report by Ghio Ong/Rappler.com