“Today we walk out against BS. No more lies, no more injustice, no more impunity.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Thousands of students all over the country walked out of their classrooms at noon today in what they called “Blackout for Justice Protest,” demanding truth and accountability in the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash.
The youths’ rage was focused on President Aquino, who, they said, should resign for overall failure of his government, specially in providing education. Students highlighted the rising cost of tuition in their respective schools, which, they said, show the worsening commercialization of education.
With #NoMoreBS, students joined the clamor by various sectors for Aquino’s removal from office.
Starting at around 10 a.m., students mostly in black shirts, or donning black ribbons and armbands, gathered to form snake rallies in various campuses.
The University of the Philippines (UP), the traditional hotbed of student activism from the 60s, took up its old role, as 10 of its 15 campuses became venues of the protests: in Diliman, Manila, Los Baños, Baguio city, Clark, Pampanga, Miagao and Iloilo City, Tacloban city, Cebu, and Mindanao campus in Davao city.
Anakbayan chair Vencer Crisostomo said that Pres. Aquino is “yellow-washing” the investigations into the Mamasapano clash. Aquino claimed ex-Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas “fooled” him into approving the operation, which killed 44 elite cops, 18 Moro rebels and civilians.
“Aquino is entangled in his own web of lies,” said Crisostomo in a statement. “His desperate efforts anger the Filipino people further.
“Today we walk out against BS. No more lies, no more injustice, no more impunity,” he said.
In UP Manila, student groups led by the Youth Act Now and the National Union of Students of the Philippines also commemorated the second year of the death of freshman student Kristel Tejada. On March 15, 2013, Tejada, 16, committed suicide after not being allowed to take her exams, when she failed to pay her student loan.
Protesters draped the Oblation with black cloth, and tied black ribbons on the grill fence in front of the College of Arts and Science.
“We, the batchmates of Kristel, still shed tears over the continuing tragedy for many scholars of the people,” said Lyrra Magtalas, chair of Gabriela Youth-UP Manila. She said the suicide of Rosanna Sanfuego, shows how many poor youths are still being deprived of their right to study.
Magtalas, 18, now a third year Political Science student, said there are many youths who pass the UP College Admission Test (Upcat) but fail to study in UP because of the high tuition. She lamented that there are also many young women who resort to prostitution to be able to afford tuition, or to pay for basic needs.
“It’s clear that we need to fight for our right to education,” said Magtalas. “These two lives that were lost (Tejada and Sanfuego) show that the education system is rotten. There is even more reason to fight, because we don’t want any more lives lost.”
Another protester said: “Scholars of the people, you should not think that you have no right to study because you have no money. Education is the right of everyone.”
The Justice for Kristel, Justice for All Movement held an ecumenical mass and a cultural program later in the evening.
In the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), students held a “Unity Walk” to protest the impending increases in tuition, from 5 percent up to 7.9 percent.
Students also protested in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the University of the East, National University and the National Teachers’ College.
In UP Diliman, students gathered at the steps of Palma Hall at noon. They later proceeded to march around the Academic oval.
Along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, by late afternoon, hundreds of students lit candles in what they called “Katipunan for Truth, Justice and Peace.” Students from Miriam College, Ateneo de Manila University, UP Diliman, Philippine School for Business Administration and nearby residents joined the candle-lighting and formed a human chain along Katipunan.
“The candle lighting is a symbolical action of the students in seeking the light of truth and justice. Despite all the cover ups and lies, the people’s clamor would still prevail in upholding it’s mandate to attain genuine freedom and democracy,” said Mico Pangalangan, YouthAction Now spokesperson.
Students led by the Anakbayan, Youth Act Now, NUSP, League of Filipino Students, Rise for Education and many local student groups joined protests in Baguio City, Pampanga, Laguna, Lucena, Batangas, Naga City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cotabato City, and North Cotabato.
A statement issued by UP Student Regent Neill John Macuha on March 12, called on the UP community to “stand in solidarity with the nation that tirelessly seeks truth and accountability.”
“As head of our state and commander-in-chief, Pres. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III must take full accountability in all these events,” said the statement.
“There is no room for oversight of the errors that ended up in the unnecessary death of our fellow countrymen, including those in the line of service, the improper coordination, bypassed operations, foreign intervention, and violations of existing agreements. Decisions had been made without careful consideration of the grave consequences ahead,” it said.
The statement was also signed by six deans of UP Diliman, namely, Dr. Rosario Alonzo of the College of Education, Prof. Leonardo Rosete of the College of Fine Arts, Prof. Julkipli Wadi of the Institute of Islamic Studies, Dr. Rolando Tolentino of the College of Mass Communications, Dr. Maria Fe Mendoza of the National College of Public Administration and Governance, and Dr. Jose Maria Balmaceda of the College of Science.