MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Activists from the University of the Philippines Diliman are now calling for the scrapping of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) after president Alfredo Pascual lifted the university’s “no late payment policy.” Both measures were widely criticized after a UP Manila student killed herself reportedly over failure to pay tuition on time.
Members of the newly-formed Justice for Kristel Alliance staged a symbolic surrender of their IDs on Wednesday, March 20, at the University of the Philippines Diliman to protest against the state university’s scholarship program which they considered repressive.
When Tejada applied for a Leave of Absence (LOA) on March 13, she was asked to surrender her UP ID.
Prof Sarah Raymundo, a faculty representative of the group, shared how important the UP ID was for Kristel.
“[Iyong UP ID] ang proof na UP student ako (The UP ID is proof that I’m a UP student),” Kristel told her mother after surrendering her ID, Raymundo said.
According to Raymundo, Tejada’s mother requested to retrieve Kristel’s ID from UP Manila.
According to UP student regent Cleve Arguelles, with the continued enforcement of STFAP, the UP system has remained complicit with the alleged government abandonment of higher education.
Since the implementation of STFAP in 1989, tuition increased from P40 to P1,500 per unit, according to Orly Putong of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP).
Putong claimed that the STFAP is pushing the university to become self sufficient because of its limited budget allocation.
Meanwhile, Prof Corazon Tan, UP Diliman vice chancellor for student affairs, said that the UP should create enabling conditions to allow poor but deserving students to enter the university without difficulty. STFAP failed to do that, Tan claimed.
“Sa pamamagitan ng STFAP, bakit kailangan pang patunayan ng mga mahihirap na estudyante na mahirap sila? Mahirap na nga, pinapahirap pa. Hindi ba marapat lang na unconditional ang pagtutulong ng pamantasan sa mga estudyante?” asked Tan. (Why should poor students prove that they’re poor through the STFAP? STFAP is making it more difficult for poor students. Shouldn’t assistance for students be provided without conditions?)
Pascual is also expected to submit for review by the UP Board of Regents the STFAP and other proposed reforms.
The specific recommendation of the UP president includes simplifying the process of application, changing the bracketing system, streamlining the procedure for reconsideration, and increasing the stipend for students in the lowest STFAP bracket.
But the Justice for Kristel Alliance lamented the fact it took Kristel’s death for the administration to take action.
“Bukod sa lungkot, galit ang nararamdam naming mga Iskolar ng Bayan at bakit kailangan pa ng isang Kristel Tejada para magising ang lahat sa sistema ng edukasyon at ng ating polisiya,” said UP Student Regent Cleve Arguelles. (We are not only sad. We, state scholars, are also angered that it took the death of Kristel Tejada to awaken the educational system and its policies.)
Created on March 18, the group of UP students and teachers also articulated demands, which they feel, will give Kristel’s death justice.
- Repeal forced leave of absence in UP Manila and other similar policies in the system (This has actually been lifted upon instructions of UP president Alfredo Pascual.)
- Resignation of UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Josephine de Luna
- Scrap the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP)
- Call on the Aqino administration to implement nationwide moratorium on tuition and miscellaneous fees hike for public and private universities