PUP students protest privatization

Photo by The Catalyst

By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) conducted consecutive protests on Monday, February 12, to stand against some provisions of the National Polytechnic University (NPU) Bill, which seek to privatize some services and allow business ventures into the university.

The NPU Bill was stratified into three proposed House Bills (HB), particularly HB 8829, 8860, and 9060, which were discussed in the Committee-level hearing spearheaded by Rep. Mark Go, Chairperson of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

The students pointed out that the hearing continued without prior consultation with the student body.

Due to assertion outside the House of Representatives (HOR), the students were given two seats, particularly to PUP Student Regent Miss Kim Modelo and Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan (SAMASA) Chairperson Ronjay Mendiola.

Budget increase, not privatization

The PUP Sentral na Konseho ng Mag-aaral (SKM) stated that despite the promised budget increase, privatization continues to be a looming threat in the provisions of the NPU Bill.

Section 7 (w) of the NPU Bill states: “To privatize, where most advantageous to the institution, management of non-academic services such as health, food, building or grounds, or property maintenance and similar such other objectives.”

The university can also enter into joint ventures with businesses and industries, as they deem fit “for the profitable development and management of the economic assets of the college or institution” under the same section (q).

During the hearing, Gabriela Women’s Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas reiterated the students’ experiences to explain why there is resistance to the privatization provisions of the bill.

“In their actual experience, prices of basic commodities rise because of the private ventures that enter the University,” she said, underscoring the demographics of the students of the university, most coming from poor families.

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However, Go, said that the experiences of the students are “limited” and that all SUC students are “very lucky” because of these provisions for resource mobilization.

During the committee hearing, Modelo stated their demands such as [1] increase the budget of the university to cater to the 80,000 scholars, [2] ensure salary increases for teaching and non-teaching personnel of the university, [3] stand against the privatization of public services within the university, and [4] uphold academic freedom.

These were also echoed outside the HOR, followed by another protest action in PUP. During the protests, the police violently intervened.

Crippling police violence 

Prior to securing seats, protesting students outside HOR, experienced police brutality caught in a video report of The Catalyst, the official student publication of the University.

In the video, armed police officers from Quezon City Police District (QCPD) violently dispersed the students with their batons and shields.

QC Mayor Joy Belmonte immediately released a statement on X (formerly Twitter), promising further action.

“I will have this matter immediately investigated. I will not countenance any suppression of fundamental rights in Quezon City. This behavior cannot and should not be countenanced nor condoned by our police,” she said.

She also released a second statement, condemning the dispersal by police forces.

“I remind QCPD Chief General Red Maranan that she will not tolerate such acts,” she added, prompting Maranan to investigate violations of Police Operational Procedures.

Notably, this is not an isolated case during the series of protests. The Catalyst reported that there have been repeated instances where the presence of armed police, Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), and some police mobiles were swarming a few meters outside the vicinity of PUP, since Monday morning.

More dialogues

At the end of the hearing, Brosas said there should be clear-cut dialogue regarding the NPU Bill within the University.

“This is for us to know if they were able to include [points on] oppositions and they know the implications of the bill down the ground, to the stakeholders,” she said.

Meanwhile, PUP President Manuel M. Muhi said they will initiate a dialogue with the student sector after the hearing.

The students also clarified that they are not fully against the NPU Bill but only against certain provisions that put the University in the pit of privatization and commercialization. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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