By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — John Mark Malquisto, 19, was forced to stop schooling after his grandfather, who shouldered his school needs, died.
“I really wanted to study but what can I do? I do not have the resources to send myself to school,” Malquisto told Bulatlat.com.
After his parents separated, Malquisto’s grandfather took him under his wing. When he was in third year high school in Carolina National High School in Samar, Malquisto’s grandfather passed away — so did his dream of becoming a student of the University of the Philippines, the country’s state university. He added that he is not very particular on what course to take for as long as he will be a “UP student.”
Even if, he added, during those days the budget of state colleges and universities were relatively higher, still it is hardly accessible to the poor. “There was no means for someone poor like me to continue my education, let alone finish my high school.”
Thinking that he might be too old for his dreams and would never have enough resources to pursue it anyway, Malquisto said, he has given up on these but has high hopes that his three younger siblings would not suffer the same fate as he did.
When he stopped attending school, Malquisto worked on the side to help his younger siblings. He also worked for an ice cream factory for a while. Now that he has no regular source of income, he earns by joining basketball and online gaming tournaments, and saves whatever he earns for his younger siblings’s education. “I do not want them to be like me,” he added.
But with the budget cuts on state universities and colleges, he told Bulatlat.com that his dream for his siblings is going farther and farther away from reality.
“That is why I am here to support the call of students for sufficient budget for higher education,” he said.
Call to Senate
Malquisto joined youth, students, faculty and school administrators as they trooped to the Senate, on October 4, during the first day of budget hearings for the Commission on Higher Education and State Universities and Colleges.
“We were told that we should focus on our studies. But these foolish people do not realize that more would not be able to study if they will continue their plans to reduce state subsidy for higher public education,” Vencer Crisostomo, chairperson of youth group Anakbayan, told the protesting students outside the gate of the Senate building in Pasay City.
Students who attended the protest action are from the University of the Philippines campuses in Diliman and in Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, among others. They marched from the Cultural Center of the Philippines to the senate building around 1:30 p.m.
“We will not allow our government to prioritize war over books,” Crisostomo said.
Students, on the other hand, who were able to attend the hearing held a white ribbon protest together with administrators, urging senators to increase their funds. Crisostomo said they called on the senators to reverse the “tragedy” that the Aquino administration has inflicted upon students and schools for allotting “grossly inadequate” funds for state universities and colleges.
Pedring and Quiel
In a statement, Crisostomo said “with or without typhoons” state universities and colleges always look as if they have just been battered by a calamity because of insufficient budget. “How much more if there is a typhoon?” he said, pertaining to the recent typhoons Pedring and Quiel, which ravaged the northern part of Luzon.
Such tragedy, he added, would coincide with the Aquino administration’s failure to provide not even a single centavo for capital outlay of state universities and colleges. Aside from the damages wrought by the two recent typhoons, Crisostomo said, there is still a need to rehabilitate and reconstruct the classrooms and school buildings that were heavily damaged by typhoons many years ago.
“Senate should consider allotting capital outlay for SUCs not only to cope with the disasters but to accommodate more students to SUCs,” he said.
Crisostomo also belied claims of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Malacañang that the budget for SUC has been increased by 10 percent, saying the funds supposedly added were not “directly” allotted to schools and will be under the DBM and Malacañang’s control.
“The fact is that the National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress clearly shows a decline in direct spending for SUCs. The budgets for Maintenance, Operations and Other Expenses and personal services were slashed and there are not allocations for capital outlay. The purported additional funds are lump-sums allotted to the DBM and CHED and may even be used as pork barrel of these agencies. We hope the Senate sees through the lies and cover ups of Malacañang and corrects the crime DBM and Malacañang has committed,” he said.
Some senators, who include Aquilino Pimentel III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, among others, have expressed their support to the demands of students and administrators of SUCs.
“Someday, I am hopeful that I would be able to go back to school and finish my education,” Malquisto said, “But that would only happen if the government will seriously take its job in providing social services to its people.”