March 29, 2010
Students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) drew in massive support from students from other schools and personalities today in a Youth Action Day against tuition hikes and for higher state subsidy for education.
Despite classes being over, almost 1,000 youth and students gathered together in front of the Manila Police District where the PUP5 is currently being detained.
Today marks the fifth day since five students from PUP were arrested and detained by the police after a rally protesting the 1,700 percent proposed tuition hike in PUP. The students were charged with alleged robbery by the PUP administration after they attempted to bring dilapidated armchairs to illustrate to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) the sorry state of facilities in PUP. Bail has been set at P100,000 each.
“We maintain that the students were merely rightfully exercising their right to protest and their freedom of expression. No robbery took place. If not for the militant actions of the students, the tuition hike in PUP would have pushed through,” said Vencer Crisostomo, secretary-general of Kabataan Partylist.
Crisostomo said that today’s rally was a demonstration of students’ gratitude to the protesters for successfully stopping the proposed tuition hike in PUP and for bringing to attention low budget allocation for education.
“Because of the protests, the perennial problem of illegal and unjust tuition increases because of poor state spending for education has once again become a national issue,” he said.
Earlier, CHED Chairman Emmanuel Angeles and PUP President Dante Guevarra had announced that, in light of protests and public indignation over the proposed tuition hike, no tuition increase will be implemented in PUP for the next semester.
Dialogue with PUP President
Crisostomo said that, over the weekend, the office of Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino initiated a dialogue between PUP President Dante Guevarra and student leaders in hopes to ‘come to a unity’ on the campaign for higher budget allocation for the university.
“We have reviewed Pres. Guevarra’s statements to the media in which he openly said that the university was being forced to increase tuition because of the measly yearly budget being allocated to PUP. We wanted to know if the students and the PUP administration could somehow unite in their common call for higher budget for the university,” Crisostomo said.
He said that the student leaders and the PUP administration have agreed to a ‘tactical unity’ to campaign for higher budget for PUP.
“PUP Pres. Guevarra promised to drop charges against the PUP5 and to hold more democratic consultations with students on PUP issues, especially tuition. We expect him to keep his word and to see the PUP5 released today. This is another victory for the PUP students and hopefully will encourage others to never think twice about fighting for their right to education.”
Crisostomo said that it is only right that students and school administrations unite on the call to increase budget allocation for education.
“The past ten years saw a consistent decrease in the budget allocation for SUCs in line with the state policy of privatization and commercialization of education. The government has been gradually washing its hands off of the responsibility to subsidize public education. As a result, SUCs like PUP are resorting to income-generation schemes at the expense of students,” he said.
PUP, for instance, suffered another budget slash from its 2009 budget at P704 million to P661 million in 2010. All major SUCs, Crisostomo added, have zero budgets for capital outlay which is supposed to be earmarked for operational expenses.
“This is something that should be urgently addressed especially this election season. All presidentiables and candidates should present to the youth a clear and categorical education agenda. We welcome debates and forums that would highlight discussions on their stands on issues such as the education budget and tuition hikes,” he said.
“So far, only a few have spoken out on these core issues, among them Makabayan senatoriables Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, NP senatorial candidate Adel Tamano and presidential aspirant Bro. Eddie Villanueva,” he said.
“We have yet to hear from those who claim to be pro-student and pro-poor on how they plan to address the education crisis. Others, sadly, merely brandish out sweeping statements or adhere to the present state policy of privatizing SUCs and opening up schools to commercial ventures na para bang negosyo ang edukasyon.”
Crisostomo said that included in Kabataan Partylist’s education agenda are the allotment of 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product to education as recommended by the United Nations and a moratorium on tuition hikes, among others.
Vencer Crisostomo, Secretary-General
Gerg Anrol Cahiles, Media Officer