Autonomy Under Siege: The Philippine Collegian and RA 9184


The Philippine Collegian bears witness to a lasting tradition of independence as a student institution. It is a publication funded solely by the students, and for years has served as a salient representation of academic freedom and democratic rights. Throughout history, University of the Philippines (UP) students have vigilantly fought for the publication’ s autonomy from all forms of administration intervention.

Once again, the Collegian‘s autonomy is under siege.

Using Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, the UP administration since June 2006 has blocked the release of the Collegian‘s printing funds. According to the administration’ s interpretation of RA 9184, all fees collected by the university are government funds – including the Collegian‘s funds. Under this false assumption, the UP administration insists that the bidding and selection of the publication’ s printing press be facilitated not by the Collegian editorial board, but by the administration itself.

However, the Collegian firmly asserts that it is exempt from RA 9184. It is not a government unit, as it is funded only by the students. Moreover, the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 stipulates that the editorial board should facilitate the selection of the publication’ s printing press. The administration’ s sole task is to collect the publication fee during registration, and thereafter give full discretion of handling of Collegian fund to the duly selected editorial board. The administration may not intervene in any of the publication’ s operations.

In response to the Collegian‘s arguments against RA 9184, the UP administration continues to deny the institution of its right to bidding autonomy. In our dialogues, the administration even questions the publication’ s “independence” as basis for its exemption from the particular law.

We, from the Collegian, cannot accept this kind of reasoning. To allow the Collegian to subject itself to RA 9184 is tantamount to surrendering its autonomy as a student institution. Even now that the publication’ s inclusion in the law is still in question, the UP administration is withholding the publication’ s printing fund to coerce the Collegian to submission. Such is why the previous Collegian issues were delayed, while pending issues have not been printed. RA 9184 thus compromises the publication’ s fiscal autonomy.

Moreover, allowing the Collegian to be subjected to RA 9184 would set a precedent for the UP administration to thereafter inflict the same law and intervene in the operations of publications and other student institutions in all UP units. In fact, the UP Diliman University Student Council (USC) publication Oblation is also being subjected to this law.

We from the Collegian view the administration’ s insistence to subject the publication to RA 9184 as an assault against the publication’ s autonomy. We call on the administration to recognize fully the independence of the Collegian as a student publication. We demand that the administration uphold the Collegian‘s fiscal autonomy, specifically its right to facilitate the bidding process.

The Collegian is accountable only to the students, who are its sole publishers. Thus, we call on all students to protect the autonomy of the publication. This issue is a clear manifestation of administration intervention, and a direct attack on campus press freedom.

Uphold the Collegian‘s autonomy!

Defend campus press freedom!

Protect the independence of all student institutions and organizations!

(The Philippine Collegian is the official student publication of UP in Diliman, Quezon City. It carries the tradition of fighting for freedom of expression and academic freedom and was in fact the first legal newspaper to oppose the Marcos dictatorship when all other newspapers, radio and TV stations were either closed down or were muzzled by military censorship. – Bulatlat)

Posted by Bulatlat

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