July 27, 2017

UP student leaders hold councils’ congress, assert free education, human rights, and peace

Student leaders from different units of the University of the Philippines held a press conference to reiterate their calls for free education, human rights, and peace on the first day of the four-day Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral (KASAMA) sa UP 36th National Congress held at the University of the Philippines Visayas Iloilo.

Free Education

As a result of the decades-long struggle of the youth for free education,  the Congress granted the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) an additional budget of P8.3 billion to fund all 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs) in lieu of collecting tuition from 1.4 million students.

“While SUCs such as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and Bulacan State University (BulSU) have geared not to collect tuition from their students for academic year 2017-2018, the UP administration has yet to assure that no tuition will be collected from the students,” said KASAMA sa UP National Executive Chairperson Joshua Sagdullas.

“The Socialized Tuition System (STS) that has burdened the Iskolar ng Bayan with high tuition for decades remains while the UP administration has recently introduced  the Student Financial Assistance (SFA) Online, a consolidation of all financial assistance programs in UP. Until now, students need to undergo the rigorous process before they are able to avail free tuition,” said UP Student Regent Raoul Manuel.

“We reiterate our call to end tuition collection, as part of our struggle for free education,” said Rise for Education – UP Diliman Convenor Shari Oliquino.

Human Rights and Peace

The student leaders also expressed alarm over the worsening state of human rights and peace in the country.

Last May, President Duterte declared Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanaoafter the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) raided the city of Marawi, Lanao del Sur. The raid was part of an operation believed to be run by the US military to capture “foreign terrorist” Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and pocket the $5 million reward money. Like the botched Mamasapano operation in 2015, the deluge of soldiers in Marawi City was met with resistance by various armed Moro groups who are furious at the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for meddling in local politics and fueling armed rivalries among clans to divide the Moro community and weaken their resistance.

“Over the past month, Martial Law in Mindanao has been marred with human rights violations such as intimidation, harassment, forced evacuations, and extrajudicial killings,” said National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) National Spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim.

Military forces continue to intimidate Lumad students and volunteer teachers, as well, and advise them to quit attending classes. Just recently, Lumad families in Surigao del Sur have evacuated due to intensifying militarization of their communities.

“One year has passed since President Duterte assumed office, yet the nation finds itself still far from realizing the aspirations for our democratic rights. We call on the Filipino youth and the general public to oppose the neoliberal and fascist attacks against the people. We call on the Filipino people to mount sustained protests nationwide to show our firm resolve for free education, human rights, and just and lasting peace. It is high time to call out the Duterte administration for its promises,” concluded Lim.

Reference:

KASAMA sa UP National Executive Chairperson Joshua Sagdullas (+63 947 832 6345)

NUSP National Spokesperson Mark Vincent D. Lim (+63 917 565 4963)

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