Thousands of students walkout to reveal “true state of the nation”
A few days before President Noynoy Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), thousands of youth and students from University of the Philippines (UP), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), UP Manila, Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST), and many other schools nationwide walked out of their classes and marched to Mendiola yesterday to “reveal the true state of the youth, education and the nation.”
With support from faculty and school administrators, the actions called on the Aquino administration to increase government budget for education, stop tuition increases and stop the skyrocketing of oil prices.
The “National Day of Unity and Action for Right to Education and Meaningful Change” was led by Anakbayan, National Union of Students of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Karatula, College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines and Kabataan Partylist.
Students, faculty and administrators unite
The administrations of 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) under Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) also expressed their support for the action and in a unity statement said that “in preparation for the SONA and the budget talks following that, it is crucial that we revitalize our unity and collective action to call for a sufficient increase in the budget of public higher education.”
The budget for SUCs was reduced by government last year, triggering campus strikes and protests.
UP President Alfredo Pascual and UP Diliman chancellor Cesar Saloma also addressed the UP community before trooping to Mendiola. Pascual lauded the determination of the students, faculty and staff fighting for sufficient budget for UP. Pascual said that it is important for the university to uphold its public character, and that it is mandated by law that the government provide enough funds for UP. It would not be right, he said, to get the budget of operations from the pockets of the students. Saloma, for his part, expressed support from the Diliman administration.
Actions took place across the regions with youth and students from Baguio, La Union, Ilocos, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog holding youth rallies.
In Iloilo, around 2,500 students participated in the walkouts and assembled in the provincial capitol to hold a SOYA program. Organizers note that this is the biggest youth mobilization since the anti-Estrada rallies in 2001. Rallies were also held in Cebu.
In Davao, 500 students stormed the office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to protest tuition hikes. Actions also took place in Cagayan De Oro, Cotabato City, Midsayap, Kidapawan, Kabacan, GenSan and Koronadal.
Planking, Flash Mobs
Featured during the day of protest were new and creative actions. In the University Belt and the University of the Philippines-Diliman, students held “planking” protests, an activity popular in the internet with participants lying face down and posting their photos on the net.
Student leaders including council officers flash danced to the tune of “Papa Amerikano,” with one of the dancers wearing a Noynoy mask. Jokingly, some leaders said that “even Hogwarts walked out” because in the rally were protesters wearing Harry Potter costumes fighting the “Dark Arts”.
State of No Achievement
The youth activities are in preparation for bigger mobilizations on Monday, during Aquino’s SONA. Demonstrators dubbed Aquino’s SONA as a “State of No Achievement” speech considering that he “failed to do anything meaningful” to address the education crisis, as rising drop outs due to budget cuts and tuition increases continue to plague the youth and students.
Truly, the conditions of the Filipino youth have worsened after a year. The promise of change was a farce as many young people feel that no significant change has been instituted in terms of providing access to education and a decent future for the youth. Instead they have been met by budget cuts for education and social services to favor corruption, military and foreign debt spending.
Youth groups anticipate another round of budget cuts for social services, including education, for next year as Aquino submits his budget proposal for 2012 to Congress on Monday.
The protests ahead of the president’s SONA is a message that the youth and people have had enough of papogi, pashowbiz, empty rhetorics and attempts at humor to cover-up for his lack of achievement and the anti-people, pro-business and pro-landlord policies he has implemented. The real state of the nation as shown by the protests and the realities on the ground: the people are poor, hungry, and deprived of their basic rights and social services.
On July 25, the president’s SONA, youth and student groups are gearing for bigger actions. Multi-sectoral groups are set to march to Batasang Pambansa to tell those in power that they have had enough of kaSONAngalingan.
UP Kilos Na
UP Official Page Photos
Flash Mob (http://bit.ly/n0nCba)