MANILA, Philippines – It’s not only President Benigno Aquino III who was disappointed about the physical violence demonstrated by some University of the Philippines (UP) students against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
On Friday, September 19, faculty members of the UP School of Economics (UPSE) condemned the incident that transpired outside the UPSE auditorium, after an event organized by the University Student Council (USC) and the UP School of Economics Student Council (SESC).
“By participating in these events the protesters have declared themselves enemies, not of Secretary Abad, but of the University itself. As an invited guest, Secretary Abad was covered by the same blanket of academic freedom and safe passage that the University guarantees to all who set foot on campus,” the faculty members said in a statement.
They added, “The act of Wednesday’s protesters, therefore, not only violated decency and courtesy, they were an assault on the University itself.”
On Wednesday, September 17, Abad was met by an angry mob of UP students after attending a forum at the premier state university on the 2015 budget where he defended the administration’s controversial special spending program, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and the pork barrel system.
In November 2013, the High Court struck down the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, and deemed certain executive acts under the DAP as violative of the Constitution in July.
Students yelled at Abad and hurled crumpled paper at his face, while some pelted him with coins, and another grabbed him by the back of his collar as he boarded his vehicle.
The students themselves posted videos of the incident on social media accompanied by written blow-by-blow account of their attack on Abad, which were also disseminated to mainstream media – another move that unnerved the UP professors.
“What is worse, some student ‘leaders’ thought nothing of gloating about the incident and celebrating their hooliganism in mainstream and social media, as if it were some kind of victory. This incident is not a victory but a blow to UP’s honor.”
Abad himself has called the incident “very disappointing,” while Aquino, from Europe where he is on an official trip, also conveyed his disapproval over the event.
“He (Aquino) believes that as the premier university, the UP is expected to promote responsibility in the exercise of the freedom of expression and civility while engaging in political discourse,” Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma had said in a statement on September 18.
The economics professors also called on those “who participated in the dishonorable events of last Wednesday,” to come forward and “proffer a public apology to Secretary Abad and to the University.”
The statement also asked the University Student Council and other student organizations who organized the forum “to publicly dissociate themselves from the actions of Wednesday’s hooligans.”
In addition, the professors asked university authorities to initiate an inquiry to identify those responsible and punish them accordingly, as well as to enhance security for UP guests.
“Finally, we call for a renewed discussion and clarification among faculty, staff and student, of the University’s unwritten rules of free speech and safe passage, to ensure that the University remains a free and fearless field for ideas, where debates are won not by assault but by argument, not by shouting down but by speaking up,” he said.
Following the lead of the faculty, organizers SESC also released its own statement, saying escorts and bystanders sustained injuries when the protesters “violently harassed” Abad, including a UP School of Economics technician, a student, and a senior staff.
“Although these injuries were minor, the SESC does not and will not tolerate any actions that would risk the safety of our constituents,” they said. “The UP SESC believes in freedom of expression, but this must always be grounded on a foundation of both respect for others and sensitivity to their safety and welfare.”
The group also called for an apology from the protesters.
“We condemn the incident that transpired and demand an apology from the instigators of the violent mobilization to all those who were harmed, most especially to our UPSE constituents,” they said.
The UP professors who signed the statement are:
- Prof. Rosa M. Alonso I. Terme
- Prof. Raul V. Fabella
- Prof. Maria Joy V. Abrenica
- Prof. Aleli D. Kraft
- Prof. Ruperto P. Alonzo
- Prof. Cielo D. Magno
- Prof. Agustin L. Arcenas
- Prof. Maria Nimfa F. Mendoza
- Prof. Romeo Matthew T. Balanquit
- Prof. Solita Collas-Monsod
- Prof. Joseph J. Capuno
- Prof. Toby Melissa C. Monsod
- Prof. Fidelina N. Carlos
- Prof. Marjorie C. Pajaron
- Prof. Ramon L. Clarete
- Prof. Stella Luz A. Quimbo
- Prof. Rolando A. Danao
- Prof. Majah-Leah V. Ravago
- Prof. Sarah Lynne S. Daway
- Prof. Renato E. Reside
- Prof. Emmanuel S. de Dios
- Prof. Gerardo P. Sicat
- Prof. Emmanuel F. Esguerra
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.