The official student publication of the University of Northern Philippines (UNP)-Vigan, Tandem, is currently experiencing campus press freedom violations.
BY ZOFIA LEAL
Vol. VII, No. 36, October 13-20, 2007
VIGAN CITY (407 kms north of Manila) – The official student publication of the University of Northern Philippines (UNP)-Vigan, Tandem, is currently experiencing campus press freedom violations.
Tandem is consistently opposing and criticizing the increase in tuition and other fees.
For academic year 2007-2008, the UNP administration imposed a P100 ($2.27 based on a $1:P44.05 exchange rate as of Oct. 11) per unit increase in tuition fee, a P25 increase from its previous P75 ($1.70) per unit.
During the first day of enrollment, the students and their parents were caught off-guard by the sudden increase in the fees. The University Student Council and Tandem were then approached by the parents asking for an explanation. For the following days, Tandem and other student organizations gave statements opposing the tuition increase and conducted a manifesto signing against said increases.
Four students were suddenly barred from entering university premises. Ma. Criselda Diocena, then Officer-in-Charge of Tandem, then News Editor and former Student Regent Albert Lagrimas, and two other staffers were barred from entering UNP for almost a week.
During that time, the other staffers of Tandem also informed Diocena that their office power supply was cut off. Upon the investigation of Tandem, they found out that the Campus Security Services Division (CSSD) purposely cut off their power supply so that they would not be able to issue statements against the tuition fee increase.
Complaint to CHEd
Last Aug. 23, Tandem, together with the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)-Ilocos, filed a complaint letter at the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) regarding the “campus press freedom violations” that the UNP administration had committed. The following are their grievances:
· Then Officer-in-Charge of Tandem Ms. Criselda Diocena and News Editor Albert Lagrimas were forbidden from entering the university from May 30 until June 7, 2007.
· The office electricity of Tandem was cut off last June 1, 2007 as a directive from the Campus Security Services Division (CSSD).
· The designation of Mr. Nolito Ragunjan as the adviser of the publication without undergoing the proper selection process.
· The summoning and continuous harassment of Tandem staff members by Mr. Ragunjan and Dean Gilbert Arce of the Office of Student Affairs.
· That the activities of Tandem are not being recognized and that their letters are not being received by the respective offices of the university.
· The Office of Student affairs constantly question the editorial policy of the Tandem which was approved by the Editorial Board of Tandem.
According to Diocena who is now the Editor-in-Chief of Tandem, they are against the designation of Mr. Ragunjan as the publication adviser because their paper has never had an adviser; instead, a Student Publication Coordinator serves as their consultant regarding technical matters. Aside from that, the Tandem was not consulted regarding the designation of Mr. Ragunjan, as is stated in their Editorial Policy.
“Mr. Ragunjan also pointed out to the Tandem staffers that they are not allowed to write and publish about national issues which is already a clear sign that they want to censor Tandem”, Diocena said.
Reply of the UNP administration
By Aug. 27, the UNP administration already had a reply to the complaints of The Tandem. One of the issues that they addressed was that the said students were forbidden from entering the university because they had come to know that during the enrollment period, “outsiders were also pouring in the campus to support the moves of Tandem, and private vehicles indiscriminately plied in and out of the campus binging in subversive documents and deadly weapons,” as stated in their letter to CHEd.
Diocena pointed out that the allegations of UNP are based on “mere speculation” and that they have no evidence of students bringing in deadly weapons inside the University.
“Besides, if they are referring to us as the ones bringing in the deadly weapons, then we should have been filed a criminal case and not allowed to enroll in the University anymore,” she said. “Their claims are unjustified and they are just hiding the fact that we were forbidden entry so that the students may not know that the tuition increase is illegal.”
The subversive documents that the UNP administration are referring to are copies of Hapit, the official publication of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Dangadang, the literary folio of Tandem which the guards had inspected.
As regards the Editorial Policy, the UNP administration explained that “the Tandem staffers made their own editorial policy and considered this policy binding as though they were a separate Republic”.
According to Diocena, the freedom of the press is protected under the Constitution itself and that it is already a known fact that student publications are autonomous in nature. Diocena explains that the UNP administration wants to use their Editorial Policy against them and again, the administration are only making excuses to cover up their violations on the campus press freedom.
The Tandem office has no electricity for two weeks already and their letters requesting for their power supply to be restored are being refused by the Office for Student Affairs (OSA). “The OSA, through Dean Gilbert Arce and our supposed Adviser Mr. Ragunjan, are continuously questioning our activities and even went as far as saying that if we do not stop what we are doing, they may opt not to collect the Tandem fee for the next semester,” said Diocena.
“We are not the only student publication experiencing campus press freedom violations, The Light, the official student publication of the Ilocos Sur Community College had their editorial removed and changed by their Adviser without consulting them first,” Diocena added. “Also, the article regarding the Human Security Act was also changed because according to their adviser, they were not supposed to write about national issues.”
According to Albert Derano, CEGP-Ilocos coordinator, campus press freedom violations increase alongside the commercialization of education.
“We are now asking for support from other student publications and the media to help us fight these violations on our freedom of the press,” Derano said. “We must work together to fight the abuses not only of school administrators but of the government so that we may have a press that is not just critical but of service to the people as well.”(Bulatlat.com)