Members of groups such as Akbayan, SCAP, and MASP, have condemned the PUP and UP protests. They called them “barbaric”, “uncivilized”, “shameful”, among other adjectives.
But what are the said groups so angry about?
Concerned students and student organizations have diligently campaigned for a long time regarding the issues raised during the protests. They used what Akbayan might consider “civilized” and “educated” means of dissent: going to classrooms and org tambayans to explain the issue and ask for support, petition-signing, submitting the said petitions to the Administration, submitting position papers to the Administration, holding dialogues between students and the Admin, holding peaceful picket-rallies near wherever the Admin may be, even challenging them to forge a united front with the students and pressuring the present Administration to provide more funds for education.
And all to no avail.
As a member of the dying breed that is the UP student who pays P300 per unit, I can attest to how long certain groups have “peacefully” campaigned for the repealing of the 300% Tuition and Other Fee Increase in the UP System. It has been three long years of the brand of campaigning Akbayan-SCAP-MASP wants, and it has produced nothing. I remember one time, during the July 2008 Regents’ meeting in UP Manila, President Roman agreed to come out of the venue, but only to tell us that “the debate is over” and that nothing we said could change her mind about the 300% TOFI. This is always the response to our civility and goodwill.
Now, the students decide to take a page out of the book of the First Quarter Storm. The Commission on Higher Education commissioner, for the first time in his career, goes out to engage student protesters in a dialogue. And even more, he pledges to oppose the 2000% PUP TFI. The PUP president relents and says he will give way to the CHED decision. Meanwhile, the UP regents’ meeting is cancelled, indefinitely delaying the implementation of the P.E fee and the UPLB large class policy. Even the rights we take for granted are the result of actions which were deemed “barbaric” then: we don’t have to stand up when reciting in class, we have student councils and student newspapers, we don’t have Admin advisors for the councils and publications, etc.
Have the critics ever seen pictures of the rallies back then? Or even had a little chat with the student activists then? Chairs were not only burned, they were used as barricades. Pillboxes and molotov cocktails were a staple in self-defense against the police. Whole campuses were shut down. Yes, they were criticized then. But we recognize them now as important, nay, essential in bringing back our rights as students.
Why then is Akbayan-SCAP-MASP still insisting on the way that has produced no results?
For one, Akbayan is unable to come to the same conclusions as we have. The scientific method says that a hypothesis can only be proved if it goes through an experiment and the results affirm the hypothesis. Akbayan and its allied groups have forgotten the “experiment” part of the process: save for the customary lip-service of their campus parties during election time, they have done nothing regarding tuition fee increases and other student issues in campuses where they have a presence. It is not surprising that they continue to insist on the obsolete methods: they have done nothing, thus, they have no experience and thus are unable to realize the futility of their ways.
But the real reason is that Akbayan and its allies are opportunists , or those who seize every opportunity to perpetuate itself in power. They consistently take the side of the campus Administration (just ask anyone who was a student in UP in 2006) except for moments when the campus balance-of-power shifts: then they jump on the bandwagon and happily claim themselves to be activists too.
The comment of some of their leaders that they are concerned the PUP-UP protests would be used by certain partylist groups is telling. Indirectly, they are already recognizing the popularity of the protests among potential voters. But still they condemn the said action. Why? Would their tune change if they were the ones who burnt the chairs and threw the paint bombs?
If it is true that Akbayan is really concerned about the welfare of the students, it would unite with us to ensure that the CHED and the PUP Admin do not turn back on their pledges. It would unite with us in calling for an emergency budget allocation for the education sector. But what is it doing right now? It is actually attempting to weaken student unity. It is actually “parroting” what the Admin is saying. If being barbaric means being radically different from Akbayan, then there are few civilized students in PUP and UP today.
– Rafael Antonio Dulce
UP Diliman University Student Council 2007-2008