“The move is a desperate effort to frustrate campus protests and terrorize students.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Martial law is yet to be declared nationwide, but students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila said they already feel the climate of repression as the school administration locked down student offices, removed the incumbent student regent and is set to take over the campus publication.
These were all denied by PUP President Emmanuel de Guzman in news reports in answer to the protests raised by the student groups.
In an telephone interview with Bulatlat, Karl Paulie Anareta, the student regent who was recently replaced said De Guzman has only exposed the PUP administration’s intention to suppress the student organizations that are critical of the anti-student policies, especially against attempts to increase their base tuition which remains at P12 ($.24) per unit.
Anareta said that on Sept. 21, while they were at the Luneta rally, the university police ransacked their office located at the Gabriela Silang Hall. The administration had given them up to Sept. 30 to vacate the building, supposedly for renovation. He said their registration cards, their identification cards, some documents, gadgets and personal belongings went missing and have yet to be returned to them up to now.
“The guards would bar us whenever we get near the building. We are worried as some of our things are still in inside our office while the guards freely come inside and out of the building. Hindi namin alam kung anong ginagawa nila doon,” he said.
The PUP, a known bastion of student activism, has the most affordable tuition among state-run universities in Manila. Most of its students come from poor families. The school administration, past and present had attempted to increase tuition by more than a hundred percent but was always met by strong student opposition led by progressive youth groups. They are also active in opposing national issues affecting the Filipino people.
De Guzman said in news report that Anareta was not enrolled for a year which disqualified him for the post. He also alleged that the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Konseho ng Polyteknikong Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (Anak-PUP), the federation of student councils of the whole PUP system which is mandated to select student regent has been delaying the elections.
Anareta admitted that he was not enrolled this semester. However, he said that when he was elected as president of the student council, he was a bona fide student of the university, thus making him qualified for the student regent post. This school year, he said his family had a financial problem which forced him to not enroll.
But the constitution of the federation, he said, states that officers shall serve for one year or until they are replaced by the new set of elected officers. The student regent is replaced through a general assembly of all student councils.
He said there was an official memorandum issued by Anak-PUP which scheduled the election on Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 but the administration had funded and set the election one week earlier when most of the invited student parties are administration-leaning groups, such as the PUP Speak.
Anareta claimed it was a bogus election, s it was not announced to all, and other councils in other campuses were not also not invited.
In protest, some student leaaders walked out of the election process.
Anareta said the school administration is barred from intervening in the process of selecting the student regent; it is an issue which can only resolved by the federation.
“If there are delays in conducting the general assembly, it is the federation’s duty to work on it. He (De Guzman) is further exposing his intervention (in the federation). We have maintain the federation’s independence as its constitution mandates that Anak-PUP shall be an independent student council federation of the whole PUP systems,” he said.
He also slam the Central Student Council for posting in social media a certification that he was not enrolled. Anareta viewed this as harassment as the certification was made and posted without his consent.
“I do not feel ashamed that I was not enrolled but I felt that my right to privacy was violated. If they can do it to me, they can do that again to other people,” he said.
After that post, he was barred to attend the finance committee hearing of the board of regents. He reiterated that the administration should not bar the student representative in board of regents meeting because it was the student council federation’s mandate to do so.
In a statement, Anak-PUP president Rejhon Modesto said the administration wants Anareta out of his post because of his vocal opposition against administration’s plans to implement new fees, mandatory uniform, and the takeover of student institutions.
“They are attacking student organizations to be able to implement corrupt fee collection schemes and policies,” Modesto said.
The student council elections scheduled this month have also been cancelled indefinitely.
Eviction in the guise of renovation
For several years now, Anareta said the administration has been using renovation as an excuse to evict the student organizations in Gabriela Silang Hall and Charlie Del Rosario Building, venues which are intended for student organizations and activities. Three years ago, he said, the administration released a memorandum to renovate the Charlie Del Rosario Building but this did not happen.
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Gabriela Silang Hall was closed down by the university police.
“The campus security personnel nailed the doors shut, forcibly removed the students and threatened that they will be arrested and brought to the police if they try to assert their rights. Activists are being threatened with expulsion,” Modesto said in a statement.
Anareta also said that the office of Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan (Samasa), the broadest alliance in PUP, located at the Charlie Del Rosario Building was also locked down. The student organizations of College of Social Science and Development and College of Arts and Letters also face threats of eviction.
Anareta said that even if De Guzman did not impose a mandatory school uniform, some students were being barred from entering the school because they were not in uniform. As reported by The Catalyst in their official social media platform. The uniforms cost P600 ($12) to P800 ($16) per set.
The administration also charged freshmen students of tuition for academic 2017-2018 despite the implementation of the Free Tuition Policy which took effect on this academic year.
Taking over of student publication
Since last year, Anareta said the PUP administration has been persistent on taking over The Catalyst, the official student publication. He said the plan was presented to the board of regents, which he rejected as representative of students.
De Guzman claimed that the Student Publication Office (SPO) was only a revived to “process the selection of writer.” The SPO will also control the funds, printing, distribution, administration and editorial policies of the student publication. He said in De Guzman’s interview just showed that the real intention is to produce writers which will report favorably to the administration.
“We have been sensitive when it comes to the administration’s direct intervention in student publication because we know that they only want to silence their critics,” he said.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the oldest student organization in the Philippines, assailed the administration’s move to intervene in the publication saying it was an attack on campus press freedom and democratic rights.
Meanwhile, progressive group Anakbayan sees a bigger picture behind the student repression in PUP.
“The move is a desperate effort to frustrate campus protests and terrorize students fighting the US-Duterte fascist regime,” the group said in a statement.
It noted that last August, when the broad alliance Movement Against Tyranny was launched, truckloads of anti-riot police were deployed in PUP in anticipation of mass protests. However, no activity was held in PUP at that time, which made the presence of the police unusual.
Through it all, progressive groups vowed to fight “tyranny in PUP.”
“We believe Malacanang and its agents are behind these attacks aimed at terrorizing Iskolars ng Bayan. They are terrified by the growing youth movement calling for an end to tyranny, dictatorship and fascist rule. If Duterte and his minions think they can scare us, they are dead wrong,” said Modesto.