Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon filed House Resolution No. 1160 calling on the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education to investigate the incident and hold the Earist administration accountable for “repressing students whose sole crime is to practice their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to free expression, speech, and peaceable assembly.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Teddy James Angeles, 18, an incoming third year student at the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (Earist), was accompanied by his mother Jocelyn, May 23, not to enroll but to protest his expulsion. Angeles and more than 30 other students have been kicked out of Earist by university president Dr. Eduardo Caillo.
Angeles is one of the students who led the protests against the P1,500-developmental fee which the administration collected from the students during academic year 2013-2014. The students staged several protest actions, culminating in a massive walkout of 5,000 students in November 2013.
The students also made Caillo sign an agreement last January junking the collection of the developmental fee and lifting the suspension and dismissal order of 21 student leaders.
The students are now demanding the refund of the developmental fee.
Jonelyn Suetado, 16, an incoming sophomore who is among those kicked out of the university, deemed that they were barred to enroll for academic year 2014-2015 to kill their campaign for refund.
On the first week of May, the start of enrollment period, Angeles, Suetado and other students found out that they have been removed from the school’s roster of students. Angeles said they did not receive any notice from the school informing them of their expulsion and the basis for this.
“When I heard that the names of some of us (student leaders) are not appearing in the school’s system, I went to the registrar to check if my name would appear. Upon checking, I was told that my name is no longer appearing (in the system),” Angeles told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
Angeles lamented that they were denied due process. “There was no hearing. It was all arbitrary,” Angeles said.
“This is clearly an unforgivable case of betrayal,” Jay Pilipiña, vice chairman of the Katipunan ng mga Mag-aaral at Organisasyon (Kamao), said.
“We faced him [President Caillo] squarely in a dialogue where he signed a document stating that they will stop all the harassments against student leaders and refund the illegally charged fee, but lo and behold he was cowardly scheming behind our back to continue to hold on to the millions he collected from us,” Pilipiña said in a statement.
Suetado said they tried to hold a dialogue with Caillo but to no avail. “They are taking us for granted,” she said.
On May 23, they staged a protest action in front of Earist.
Angeles’ mother, Jocelyn, who joined the protest action, admitted that she and her husband were initially against joining protest actions. She said her son explained to them their cause and they were eventually convinced. “We saw their success when 5,000 students walked out from classes and when Caillo was compelled to sign an agreement with the students. Somehow we realized that joining a rally is not bad after all,” Jocelyn said.
When she learned that her son has been expelled, she went to the school to know why. “The Office of Students Affairs just kept telling me that my son violated the school policy against illegal assembly. My son did not have any bad record in the Guidance Office. He just joined a protest action, that’s all,” Jocelyn told Bulatlat.com.
“This is clearly a violation of our right. It (dismissal) did not even go through a process. They just removed our names from the school’s system without due process. They kicked us out just because we are fighting for the students’ rights,” Hannah Marie Pelayo, 18, an incoming third year student and editor in chief of the Earist Technozette, official student publication of the university.
On May 20, Wency Bayuga, 18, incoming fourth year and Rheñer Baquiran, 18, incoming second year posted an announcement in the second floor of the Business Administration building. Minutes later, a man removed what they just posted. The two parted ways. Bayuga went to the Dean’s office and Baquiran to the faculty room.
Inside the Dean’s office, a man who is known as Caillo’s nephew, pushed Bayuga and threw invectives at him. “He forced me to sit down and told me that I am not a student here,” Bayuga told Bulatlat.com.
When Caillo’s alleged nephew left the room, Bayuga ran out of the room. “Then I saw Rheñer [Baquiran] and I signaled him to stay where he is.”
“I stayed for a while in the faculty room. When I saw that the guards are no longer in their post, I went down but Caillo’s nephew saw me on my way down the building. He held me by my arms and asked me where my companion was. Two other guards came. They held me by the arms while Caillo’s nephew was gripping my collar. Then they dragged me to the Office of the President,” Baquiran said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
“I said I was choking, and then Caillo’s nephew said, ‘You’re choking?’ then he tightened his grip on my collar,” Baquiran said.
Inside the Office of the President, Baquiran saw Caillo eating on his table. “He asked me ‘Why are you holding a rally? Do you know that I can sue you?’ I asked him maybe we could settle the issue and let the students who were blacklisted enroll,” Baquiran related.
But Caillo told him to just look for other schools and that they have until Friday, May 23 to get their clearance for honorable dismissal. “I said the students will not leave the school and that is an injustice. And he told me that I could no longer go inside the university premises next Monday.”
For publishing stories regarding protest actions against the development fee, editors and staff of the Earist Technozette, the student publication, also experienced harassments. On April 29, the newly elected president of the Institute of Student Government (ISG) requested the Vice President of Academic Affairs to freeze the publication funds of the Earist Technozette and to conduct an annual audit for purposes of reorganization.
“We do not agree to this and we called for a dialogue (between the ISG and the student publication) but the ISG refused to face us,” Pelayo said. Since their funds were withheld, they could not pay the printing press and the publication was suspended.
Never backing down
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon came to Earist last May 23 but Caillo was adamant in not accepting the blacklisted students. According to Suetado, a meeting was also supposed to be held last Monday, May 26 with Caillo but it never happened.
“The President is not showing any interest. The last call for honorable dismissal was not lifted last Friday, May 23,” Suetado said.
“We are left with no other choice but to fight. Just because we have been questioning the collection of development fee for the construction of the building inside the school, the school administration is doing this to us,” Suetado said.
Despite the collection of development fee, students complained that the construction of the said building has not been progressing. “Where is the more than P25 million ($570,515.49) that the school collected as energy fee and development fee?” Suetado asked.
The blacklisted students said they would never back down from their struggle.
There is nothing wrong with what the students are doing. They have the freedom to express themselves,” Jocelyn said.
“This new spate of harassments against the students standing up for what is right will fail. We will not be made to abandon our fellow Earistians. We will continue to pursue this fight as we have done for the past years. The money stolen from us must be refunded,” Pilipiña said.
Ridon said the acts of the Earist administration are “illegal and unconscionable.”
The youth lawmaker filed House Resolution No. 1160 calling on the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education to investigate the incident and hold the Earist administration accountable for “repressing students whose sole crime is to practice their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to free expression, speech, and peaceable assembly.”
Ridon said the Earist administration violated several existing Philippine jurisprudence on students’ rights. He cited Villar vs. Technological Institute of the Philippines, a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1985, which ruled against the repressive policy of disallowing student activists from re-enrolling for holding protest actions inside school premises.
Ridon said the Earist administration, and all other school administrations that infringe upon the right of students to free speech and peaceful assembly should be rightly called out and made accountable. “Congress must intervene in this case in favor of the blacklisted students,” he said.
Earist students also scored the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) over its inaction on the said issue. “Ched, Earisit and student leaders have had numerous dialogues but failed to arrive at any concrete resolution,” Suetado said.
“Even if it is clear that the collection of development fee was illegal since it didn’t get the Board of Trustees’ approval, Commissioner Patricia Licuanan did not use her power to strike it down. We have appealed to her office repeatedly but our pleas fell on deaf ears,” Suetado said.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) also denounced the mass expulsion of Earist students. “What kind of a state-run school expels its students on the premise that they are fighting for their right to education? Aquino recently boasted that students who are not able to pay the costly tuition in private schools are welcome to enter state colleges and universities. But what did they do to those who opted to enroll in public schools? They expel and harass them verbally and physically,” NUSP-National Capital region spokesman Philip Bautista said.
“We demand from the EARIST administration to immediately retract its expulsion order to the students and refund the illegally collected fees. Aquino should intervene in this matter with Earist being the closest state college to Malacañang,” Bautista said.