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Strike back: Students, faculty, administrators push for higher budget for SUCs

Students, faculty and campus administrators trooped to the House of Representatives yesterday in a “show of unity and force” as congress held hearings and plenary debates on the allocation for state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the 2012 budget.

Youth groups led by Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist and National Union of Students of the Philippines, together with representatives from the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers conducted various activities inside and outside congress calling on congress to allocate higher budget for SUCs and oppose the administration proposed cuts in the SUC budget for 2012.

Student leaders and administrators lobbied inside congress, signed unity statement and wore white ribbons to signify their support for the campaign for higher education budget.

Hundreds also protested outside the congress main gate, with dozens even shaving their heads in symbolic protest. KARATULA chairwoman Taren Lulu was one of those who had her head shaved.

The message was that the SUC budget was “nakakalbo” and that nothing is left for the SUCs. Wala nang natira dahil sa kakatapyas at dahil sa maliit na alokasyon ng gubyerno.

In the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2012 or the budget proposal submitted by the Aquino government to congress, P21.8 billion was allotted for 110 SUCs, far from the more than P60 billion requested by the SUCs. This is lower than the this year’s SUC budget of P22.03 million.

Fifty schools will have their total budget slashed by a combined P569.8 million, 45 will have cuts in their MOOE funds by P250.9 million, and 58 will have cuts in Personal Services (PS) by P403.3 million. Allotment for capital outlay, like the president’s lovelife, is zero.

It is thus not surprising that the ranking of our universities have dropped. The state is practically abandoning its responsibility to fund tertiary education. What is more problemtic is that it is instead pushing for higher tuition and fee rates. Naku, makakalbo na kakaisip ang magulang saan kukuha ng pambayad ‘pag ganyan.

Congress should correct the “weng-wang” priorities of the Aquino administration and realign funds from debt spending, conditional cash transfer, military and dubious “intelligence” funds.

The groups got the support of some neophyte congressmen led by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino and Rep. JV Ejercito, who organized a lunch forum and promised to fight for higher funding for SUCs. However, the SUCs may need more than this to get additional funds for SUCs.

Malacanang appears to be stubborn with its proposal and seems to be railroading the budget process. In fact, the budget has been approved in the committee level in Congress recently without amendments. Students are calling for bigger, bolder and more effective protests.

A week-long nationwide campus strike is set on September 19-23. This means that students, faculty and administrators will stop holding classes and close the schools for several days. They deem it a necessary to show defiance to a government which chooses to abandon education in favor of corruption, foreign and military spending.

It is time that youth and students take center stage once more to fight for the nation, for the future, and for real change. It is time to fight for the rights and welfare, not only of the current generation but of the generations to come.

Time to stand up and to strike back.

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