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Ateneo students call for nationwide academic strike vs Duterte gov't

Students from Ateneo de Manila University on Monday, November 23, called for a nationwide academic strike and demanded accountability from the Duterte government for its "criminal negligence" regarding the recent typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking their protest to the next level, at least 500 students of Ateneo – a Catholic, Jesuit-run school that is also one of the Philippines' leading universities – signed a manifesto urging other Filipino youth to stand with them in solidarity.

The signatories comprise nearly 6% of Ateneo's undergraduate student population of at least 8,600.

"We do not strike as a way to exempt ourselves from the academic life, for it is precisely to fight to return its value. While this is a movement for the students, it is our hope that other communities heed our call," their manifesto read.

"As we fight for our right to an academic life, we invite all those who want to see it flourish again to join us. We invite our fellow youth nationwide. Together, in our collective action, we strike not just for our education, but a country we can be proud of," it added.

Ateneans started their academic strike on November 18, calling out the government for neglecting Filipinos during the past 3 typhoons that hit the Philippines.

In reaction, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque at first warned the Ateneo students, "Babagsak po kayo." (You will fail.) Days later, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to defund the University of the Philippines, the country's premier state university, if its students join the academic strike.

The Ateneo administration on Friday, November 20, on the other hand said the protest by its students was "not in any way sanctioned by the University."

The protests come after the Philippines was battered by Typhoon Quinta (Molave), Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni), and Typhoon Ulysses (Goni) in the past 3 weeks. The worst is not over for victims who have to rebuild their lives after back-to-back disasters, including the massive flooding caused by Ulysses.

"The disastrous effects of the typhoon resulted from the government's lack of urgency in handling the situations, limited calamity and research funds, and little to no media coverage. Had the government responded quickly, we could have prevented such a number of casualties," the manifesto read.

Students' demands

As the students called for accountability, they laid out "minimum" demands for the education sector that must be fulfilled by the national government. Their demands included the following:

  • implement an academic break, which includes extending deadlines and giving a passing mark to all students
  • retain financial assistance to students in need
  • ensure the salaries of teaching and non-teaching personnel while on strike
  • end the "no work, no pay" policy on a nationwide scale
  • ensure greater access to electricity and internet nationwide
  • provide subsidies to teachers, students, and families for distance learning

They also listed "maximum" demands for the government to fulfill in terms of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and also to typhoons. For pandemic response, the students made the following demands:

  • provide free mass testing for all Filipinos
  • implement a clear pandemic response
  • prepare a clear COVID-19 vaccine strategy
  • make a "medically-informed" response to the pandemic
  • extend livelihood assistance for those who lost their jobs

They also called on the government to declare "climate emergency" in response to the onslaught of natural disasters, resource shortages, and destabilization of the environment due to calamities "worsened by the government's refusal to learn from the mistakes of the previous natural disasters."

Until the demands are met, the students vowed to take part in a collective actions such as academic strikes beginning Wednesday, November 25, as well as rallies on November 30, a national holiday to remember Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio.

Below is the copy of the Ateneo student manifesto:

For students outside ADMU who want to adopt the manifesto, they may email onebigstrike@gmail.com with an email subject "MANIFESTO-[SCHOOL NAME]." – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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