By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY— Despite the continuous rains brought by typhoon Odette Thursday, students here gathered at People’s Park for their annual Strike Week to protest not just the slash in the budget of state universities and colleges but also the pork barrel system, September 20.
More than 300 students from Saint Louis University (SLU), University of the Cordilleras (UC), University of Baguio (UB) and University of the Philippines Baguio, among others, joined the protest action.
Participating organizations and schools also set up booths showcasing the various social issues and concerns of today.
The program also marked the start of the Strike Week as part of the nationally coordinated action on the theme, “Stand Against Corruption, Unite for our Rights.” The strike week began in 2010 with the protest against budget cuts on education.
The following day, September 21, on the commemoration of the declaration of martial law, students held children’s book reading and film showings. A music jam followed in the evening.
The Baguio Strike Week ran from September 20 to September 22. It is spearheaded by progressive youth groups in coordination with the city council Committee on Education Culture and Historical Research chaired by Councilor Peter Fianza. Youth groups included the Kabataan Partylist, Cordillera Youth Center (CYC), Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK), Safeguard our Heritage, Anakbayan-Cordillera and the local chapter of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).
UP Baguio students staged a walk out from their classes, Friday and gathered at the school lobby for a short program before marching down to the People’s Park to join the larger group of the Strike Week revelers.
UP Baguio Chancellor Raymund Rovillos joined the students and faculty members. Speaking during the program, Rovillos said he had issued a memorandum to the university faculty to encourage their students to participate in this protest action. He clarified, however, that the memorandum is not an imposition on the faculty. Rovillos said that he respects the students’ right to expression.
In his speech, Rovillos expressed his support to the students demand for higher budget for the university and for the wider education sector. He said that he attended the preliminary budget hearing in Congress where presidents of the different state universities and colleges were one in demanding for higher budget. He added that the representatives of Kabataan and Alliance of Concerned Teachers Partylists supported their call.
Rovillos also expressed disappointment over the misuse of public funds. He said that a large portion of the salary of government employees like him goes to taxes. He said it is time for government to rethink their priorities. Northern Dispatch