#AyokongMagmahal: Students lead walkout to oppose tuition increase

PROTEST. Students from different universities in Metro Manila take part in the nationwide protest on Friday, February 28 to oppose the impending tuition and other school fee increase. Photo by Kristine Vega

PROTEST. Students from different universities in Metro Manila take part in the nationwide protest on Friday, February 28 to oppose the impending tuition and other school fee increase.

Photo by Kristine Vega

MANILA, Philippines – Holding up their placards and signages, students from various colleges and universities joined forces in a "walkout" in Mendiola, Manila on Friday, February 28, to protest the impending increase in tuition and miscellaneous fees. 

For the students, "Ayokong magmahal" (I don’t want the cost to go up) meant more than just an expression on love phrased in a hashtag, as the protest expressed their opposition against a tuition hike. 

According to the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the University of Sto. Tomas, Far Eastern University, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, De La Salle University – Manila, St. Louis University, and University of San Carlos were among the universities with proposed increases in tuition and other school fees, varying from 4 to 7% in the next academic year. 

DEFEND. National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel raise his concerns for the proposed tuition fee hike in front of Far Eastern University (FEU) gate. Photo by Kristine Vega

DEFEND. National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel raise his concerns for the proposed tuition fee hike in front of Far Eastern University (FEU) gate.

Photo by Kristine Vega

NUSP President Raoul Manuel said the impending tuition hikes were abusive. 

“Sa totoo lang, ang higher education sa ating bansa ay isang napakalaking scam kung saan mas nauuna ang kita kesa sa libreng edukasyon na pinagmamayabang ni Duterte,” Manuel said.

(The truth is, our country’s higher education is a big scam because it prioritizes profit rather than the quality of education that President Duterte is proud of.)

“Sa ilalim ng pamamahala ni Duterte, ang tuition increase bawat taon ay mas mataas pa sa inflation. Kaya naman, kung meron mang ‘tuition hike king,’ walang iba po ‘yan kundi si Duterte. Siya ang may pakana kung bakit lalong hindi abot kaya ang edukasyon sa ating bansa,” Manuel added. 

(Under Duterte’s administration, the tuition increase every year is much higher than our inflation rate. That’s why, if there’s a ‘tuition hike king,’ it’s no other than Duterte. He’s the reason why our education system is very unaffordable.)

James Candila of Diwa ng Kabataang Lasalyano from De La Salle University (DLSU) noted citing how the hike would affect the Filipino youth. 

“Patuloy na lumiliit ang porsyento ng mga kabataang nakatutuntong ng kolehiyo. Hamon sa administrasyong Duterte na ipakita niya na kung tunay niyang pinapanigan ang karapatan natin, dapat ay tinututulan niya ang mga ganitong uri ng polisiya,” Candila said.

(The percentage of the youth going to college continues to decrease. This is a challenge to the Duterte administration to show that if he is truly concerned for our rights, he should oppose these kinds of policies.)

YOUTH. Dubbed as u0022SIGWA: Kabataan Para sa Edukasyon Laban sa Pasismo,u0022 the mobilization highlighted calls against Tuition and Other Fees Increase (TOFI) in private tertiary institutions, cuts on the education budget, intensified red-tagging of students and organizations, mandatory ROTC and the militarization of schools at the People's Park Baguio City. Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

YOUTH. Dubbed as u0022SIGWA: Kabataan Para sa Edukasyon Laban sa Pasismo,u0022 the mobilization highlighted calls against Tuition and Other Fees Increase (TOFI) in private tertiary institutions, cuts on the education budget, intensified red-tagging of students and organizations, mandatory ROTC and the militarization of schools at the People's Park Baguio City.

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

Groups such as Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist, and League of the Filipino Students, as well as local organizations gathered in front of the FEU Morayta gate and marched to Mendiola. 

The League of the Filipino Students (LFS) also listed University of the East, De La Salle University (DLSU) - Dasmarinas, Cavite campus, and Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City among those that may be affected by the tuition fee hike. 

However, some student leaders pointed out that although consultations were done with the student councils and faculty regarding the proposed hike, these do not validate the increase. 

Mandatory ROTC

Aside from the tuition hike, the youth sector also criticized the impending implementation of mandatory  Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in senior high school (SHS) and college.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Office of the Student Regent said that the effort to revive the mandatory ROTC started in the House of Representatives in Congress through a bill proposing the Citizen Service Training Course (CSTC). This would require SHS and college students to undergo a “combination of military and non-military training.” The proposal is to pilot-test this in UP.

GATHER. Student organizations from the University of the Philippines take part in the nationwide 'walkout' protest. Photo from Tinig ng Plaridel

GATHER. Student organizations from the University of the Philippines take part in the nationwide 'walkout' protest.

Photo from Tinig ng Plaridel

“Gusto tayong maging mangmang ng ating Presidente. Dagdag pa rito, gusto niya tayong maging sunud-sunuran, maging tuta katulad niya sa mga dayuhan (Our President wants us to be illiterate. He also wants us to be subservient just like what he’s doing for the foreigners), Jeanne Miranda, a representative from Anakbayan National, said.

Ludwig Bables from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’ Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan (SAMASA-PUP), meanwhile, urged the government to focus on the improvement of school facilities instead. 

“Sa PUP, pag pumasok kayo, pagtingin niyo sa mga CR [comfort rooms], pagtingin niyo sa mga classroom, nanggigitata’t nakakadiri. Tapos, itong si Duterte at ang CHED, ang inaasikaso ay mandatory ROTC. Ang inaasikaso ay "Human Security Act," Bables pointed out.

(If you enter PUP, if you look at our toilets, if you look at our classrooms, it’s so filthy. Then, Duterte and CHED are busy with the mandatory ROTC. They are busy with the ‘Human Security Act.)

Protesters also sang "Makibaka" to the tune of Sarah Geronimo’s hit song “Tala” to encourage the youth to fight back against injustice through activism.

They also carried tarpaulins depicting cartoon caricatures of President Duterte, Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero de Vera III, and Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones.  They threw paint bombs at the caricatures at the end of the program.

The said protests were also staged inside campuses of colleges and universities in Metro Manila such as in UP Diliman, DLSU, UST, Ateneo de Manila University, and in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta. Mesa; as well as in other cities and provinces including Baguio, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao.  – Rappler.com 

Danilo Navarro Jr. and Kristine Vega are members of The Communicator, the official student publication of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines - College of Communication. Navarro also serves as the publication's managing editor.