“Since Noynoy Aquino released the 2011 National Budget, we never wavered in our stand that we must stop the budget cuts on education. But he, too, never hesitated to defend it. This has fanned the youth’s outrage, leaving us with no choice but to issue him a notice of strike. “
This was the statement of Vencer Crisostomo, Spokesperson of Kilos Na! Laban sa Budget Cut, a broad alliance of students, teachers, workers, legislators, individuals and organizations against cuts on the budgets for education and social services.
Youth and students led by Kilos Na! Laban sa Budget Cut, the League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, KARATULA, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, National Union of Students of the Philippines, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines, celebrated the International Students Day with their faces painted with ‘NO TO BUDGET CUTS’ and carrying a big ‘notice of strike’ sign which they left at the foot of Mendiola to warn Noynoy of the looming strikes in schools and universities nationwide.
“We believe that we have exhausted all means of getting our message to the president, but we got nothing but lies and deception from him. He even went as far as saying that there is no cut. With the budget for State Universities and Colleges (SUC) cut by P1.1 billion, and the Commission on Higher Education Scholarships budget cut by P650 million, the Aquino government is pushing the education sector into further commercialization: hiking tuition fees, imposing exorbitant fees and losing altogether the public character of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and making them all the more inaccessible to majority of the population.”
Crisostomo quoted Aquino in saying ‘We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.’
“After Noynoy’s allies in Congress railroaded the budget—cuts included—the next step for us is to rock the senate as they vote on the national budget. This is a fight for our right to education: expect us to be there”, said Crisostomo.
League of Filipino Students National Chairperson Terry Ridon, on the other hand, slammed Noynoy for being ‘an Arroyo upgrade’. “Noynoy Aquino is just like Gloria Arroyo, if not worse. He is on foot the same path Arroyo took: towards state abandonment of education and other social services.”
“And also, despite his ‘campaign against corruption’, 15% or PhP245-billion of Aquino’s budget is distributed in vague lump sum funds:
· P67.9 billion unprogrammed funds to be spent on the president’s discretion,
· PhP29.29-billion for dole-outs, PhP15-billion as ‘private-public partnership support fund’,
· PhP2.34-billion fund to the military for ‘support to national development’,
· PhP1.46 billion in ‘intelligence funds’,
· PhP1.19 billion for ‘major information and communication technology projects’, and
· PhP24.82 billion for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or ‘pork barrel’.
All of which are funds concentrated on very general items prone to manipulation and corruption. Also, none of the budget goes to real reform that would create sustainable livelihood for Filipinos.”, Ridon adds.
Anakbayan Spokesperson Charisse Banez also said that the youth are going on strike not just because of the budget cuts on education but because of the serious neglect the Aquino government has been demonstrating despite being a new president.
“He has the balls to demolish homes, cut budgets for social services, allow massive lay-offs, allow and impose hikes on transport and other major social services, kill unarmed civilians, and ultimately, safeguard his family’s interest through the continuing scam happening in Hacienda Luisita, all because he thinks the people are still in a state of euphoria after his victory. He has been exposed, and little does he know that there is a strike, a people’s uprising brewing in the outskirts and the centers of the nation, all directed to him, being the newest puppet, being the newest ultimate defender of the exploitative status quo.”, said Banez.
The demonstrators took off with a warning. “We are going on strike. Brace yourself, Noynoy, brace yourself.”