Students Walk Out, ‘Rise Up for Meaningful Change’

More than 2,000 college and high school students walked out of their classes, July 18 to protest the worsening economic crisis. They vowed to conduct more of these actions until Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down.

Contributed to (
Vol. VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

On July 18, more than 2,000 students walked out of their classes and gathered at the Plaza Miranda in Manilato protest the worsening economic crisis.

The Youth for Truth and Accountability Now! (Youth ACT Now!) called for class walk-outs in various universities and urged the students to “rise up for meaningful change.”

Vencer Crisostomo, chairperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) declared that July 18 was a “day of uprising.”

Students from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman and Manila, University of Santo Tomas (UST), University of the East (UE)-Manila, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Adamson University, Philippine Normal University (PNU), Philippine Christian University (PCU), Jose Rizal University (JRU), Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU) and other universities and schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) participated in the protest action.

Students held simultaneous activities and programs in their respective universities before joining together for the protest action in the afternoon. About 700 students of UP Diliman assembled in Palma Hall lobby and encouraged their fellow students to join the protest action. PUP students, meanwhile, held noise barrage and snake rallies within their campus. UST students wore yellow headgears as they persuaded the Thomasian community to join them.

Nineteen students from JRU, who were suspended for organizing a noise barrage the day before, led their schoolmates to the activity.

High school students from Culiat, Sauyo and Quirino High Schools also joined the activity.

By 12 noon, the students had gathered at two assembly points in Kalaw and España. They proceeded to Plaza Miranda for the main program.

State of the youth

Kabataang Pinoy Spokesperson Dion Carlo Cerrafon said that the Filipino youth, despite being drowned by a decadent culture, must be informed of the economic and political situation of the country. The youth, he said, is an important part of the people’s movement for social emancipation.

Vijae Alquisola, national president of the College Editors of the Philippines (CEGP), pointed out that the Philippine educational system is not developing the youth to serve the country in the future.

Biyaya Quizon, national chairperson of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) said the youth are also victims of the Arroyo government’s terrorism. She recalled the case of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, students of UP Diliman who were abducted by alleged military men. Quizon said that Arroyo and the military should be held liable for more cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other rights abuses.

Unresolved economic crisis

Ken Ramos, national chairperson of Anakbayan, said that the economic crisis will not be resolved since Arroyo is not doing anything to alleviate the situation.

In the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey, 60 percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied by Arroyo’s performance.

Ramos cited Arroyo’s imposition of ‘anti-people policies’ such as Reformed-Value Added Tax (R-VAT and Oil Deregulation Law and her ‘puppetry to the government of the United States” as the reasons why the people want to oust her from her position.

Crisostomo urged the youth to integrate with other sectors of the society, particularly the workers and farmers, to form a ‘unified force that will end the Arroyo regime.’

Support from other sectors

Elmer Labog of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement) told the crowd that the youth will always be the hope of the nation. He stressed the need for the youth to hone themselves to be able to serve the country in the future.

Representative Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna Partylist (People First) shared the experiences of the youth movement during the First Quarter Storm of 1970. He said that there is a need to take advantage of the economic crisis the country is experiencing to provide the people with “political education” that will encourage them to “act and aim for fundamental change in the society.” The significance of the youth movement, according to him, is an indispensable element to the people’s struggle for social change.

Other forms of protest

Cultural performances were also staged. UP Repertory Company, Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan (Sinagbayan) and local band form UE called Antigo were among the performers.

A San Francisco-based Filipino-American hip-hop group ALAY (Active Leadership to Advance Youth) demanded ‘access to higher education, dignified labor and true justice.’ They encouraged students to serve the people and fight “imperialistic countries (referring to the United States).

A group of graffiti artists from the College of Fine Arts of UP Diliman spray-painted the walls and streets as they marched with the protesters.

Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (Karatula or Young Artists for Genuine Freedom) said that “while popular culture is being used by the state (i.e. the government) as a way to subjugate the minds of the Filipino youth, the progressive culture can counter this and can be used as an educational tool and ‘catalyst for social change’.”

After the program in Plaza Miranda, the student marched their way to Mendiola. The Manila Police District (MPD) quickly set up a barricade at Morayta (Nicanor Reyes Street) to prevent the students from reaching their destination.

According to Maj. Virgilio Bag-id of the MPD, more than 200 police were deployed to “maintain peace and order.”

The students held a brief program before retreating to Espana. Ramos warmed the Arroyo administration that they will be coming back with more massive and intensified protest actions.

The students then marched along España and occupied the stretch between M. de la Fuente and Vicente Cruz intersections to conduct a noise barrage. They were joined by members of the Migrante International and Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).

The “alternative street classes” continued as the students formed discussion groups while speakers persuaded the motorists to blow their horns as a sign of solidarity.

The announcement that there would be a P3 increase in diesel by midnight caused uproar among the militants, passengers and pedestrians alike.

Coincidentally, a Shell tanker was passing along España. A group of students stopped the tanker and wrote “Oil Deregulation Law, Ibasura” (Scrap Oil Deregulation Law), “R-VAT sa Langis, Alisin” (Remove R-VAT on Oil), and “Oust GMA” all around the tanker. They eventually let the tanker go after the driver blew his horn to sympathize with the protesters.

Youth ACT Now! declared that the protest action was successful and said that there will be more protests until Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on July 28.

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