SUC strikes continue: UP Manila shuts down campus, students planked and protested
Students, faculty and administrators in University of the Philippines (UP) – Manila closed the gates of their campus while hundreds of students from Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Technology marched to Mendiola as the nationwide strikes of state universities and colleges (SUCs) for higher budget continue.
The strike also came alongside a nationally coordinated planking protest for higher education budget, wherein hundreds of students from La Union, Baguio, Southern Tagalog, Iloilo and Lanao also participated. Mass assemblies and flash mobilizations were also held in Rizal Technological University and Marikina Polytechnic College.
In UP Manila, students walked out and barricaded their campus at around 11am and held a noise barrage in front of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where they called for higher budget for health services. They were met by PGH Director Joe Gonzalez.
“UP Manila is an institution characterized by commitment to providing quality and affordable health services. However, with the impending cut on the budget for social services, particularly health services, this is a duty that cannot be fulfilled,” said Cleve Arguelles, vice chairperson of UP Manila student council.
At about 1pm, students held a “planking” protest along Padre Faura which was also done in other campuses nationwide. Organizers say the students are so excited to do the planking protest, they had to do it earlier than planned.
Asked by the media why the students used planking, I responded: Sa totoo, parang ang gubyerno ang naka-‘plank’ kung pag-uusapan ang edukasyon at serbisyo. Para silang tuod. They are doing nothing to improve the lives of the people and to provide education and health care.
The demand is simple: gov’t must realign funds to SUCs, education and social services. Only P21.8 billion was allotted for SUCs for 2012, down from P22.03 billion last year, and far from the needed P45 billion.
We have broken down our proposal to congress to realign P23.8 billion from “intelligence,” pork barrel, debt, conditional cash transfer, privatization and military to the budget of SUCs. The Aquino government and congress should amend the 2012 budget to give what is due for the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), education and social services.
The Aquino gov’t and Congress should rechannel the following funds to SUCs:
1. “Intelligence” and “confidential” lump-sum funds amounting to P789.3 million mostly from OP, DND. These funds are unaudited and are lump sum funds which have been earlier found to be source of corruption. The funds should be alloted to SUCs.
2. AFP modernization lump-sum fund of P5 billion. This is questionable amidst reports that funds are being used for corruption. Moreover, education should be prioritized over military spending. This should instead be rechannelled to capital outlay of schools.
3. A portion of the conditional cash transfers and PAMANA dole-outs worth P15.2 billion. These dole-outs are corruption prone and are artificial, ineffective and expensive projects which will not help solve poverty.
4. The funds allotted to the Comission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund worth P2.5 billion should be directly allotted to the SUCs.
Realigning these funds can increase the budget of SUCs substantially by P23.8 billion and provide the bare necessities the school needs to operate. Government should work towards increasing the SUCs budget substantially every year.
There are more funds not yet mentioned which can be rechanneled to education and other social services such as debt servicing (P700+ billion), PPP funds (P21 billion) and others. For basic education we feel that the government should work to give the 6% UN recommended budget or about P550 million to DepEd. This is far from the P238 billion proposed for 2012.
For health, government should give P90 billion needed for our hospitals and reject the meager P44 billion alloted. It must stop privatization of social services.
The Aquino government should put its money where its mouth is and stop making excuses. It should act now to fund provide quality education and sufficient social services.
Nakita namin na maraming pera na pwedeng ilaan sa SUCs at edukasyon. They should prioritize education and social services and stop corruption prone and unneccesary spending. Mas mahalaga ang edukasyon kaysa pondo sa kurupsyon, mas mahalaga ang libro kaysa bala, ang buhay kaysa negosyo.
Senator Allan Peter Cayetano also released a statement calling for higher state subsidy for SUCs. He countered claims by the DBM that the SUC budget has been increased and that there is no need to increase SUC funds. He pointed out a “policy flaw” and a “discrimination” against tertiary education under the current administration.
Last Tuesday, up to 8,000 PUP students and faculty walked out and declared the start of their campus strike. Yesterday, thousands of UP Diliman students together with college deans, Chancellor and UP President declared a strike against cuts.
In UP and PUP, various activities were also held including a retro concert, all in preparation for a huge march to Mendiola today, September 23. All SUCs nationwide are also expected to participate in various protests and marches.
Leading the movement are youth groups Anakbayan, National Union of Students of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Kabataang Artista Para sa Tunay na Kalayaan, and Kabataan Partylist.
Photos from Prof. Carl Marc Ramota