Sa Lupain ni Santa

Marie Carolaine Famero

Hindi mawawalang representasyon tuwing Pasko ang imahe ni Santa Claus—ang matandang lalaking nakapula, may maputing buhok at balbas, at hinihimas-himas ang kaniyang mala-lobong tiyan. Mapagbigay si Santa Claus, kaya’t kahit halik ay ibibigay niya sa iyong ina ayon sa isang awitin.

May ilang pagtatangkang gawing babae si Claus, ngunit hindi matanda, kundi bata, balingkinitan at maputing babae, tulad ng laging representasyon sa mga kababaihan sa telebisyon at billboard. Kahit pasko, nananatili ang hindi pantay na pagtingin sa mga kababaihan, na madalas ikinukulong ang papel sa mga tahanan lalo ngayong kapaskuhan.

Ngunit maraming kababaihan din ang nasa lupain ni Santa Claus, nakikipagsapalaran malayo sa kanilang pamilya. Tinatayang dalawang milyon na ang bilang ng mga Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) sa nagdaang taon—higit sa kalahati nito ay mga babae. Sa murang edad na 25, karamihan sa kanila ay maagang pinapasok ang ganitong trabaho.

Madalas ipagmalaki ng pamahalaan ang kitang dinadala ng mga OFW sa Pilipinas: higit isang trilyon noong nakaraang taon. Kapalit nito ay watak-watak na pamilya at tahanan, diskriminasyon, at karahasang nararanasan ng maraming kababaihan mula sa paninilbihan sa banyaga. Hindi maitatago ang katotohanang maraming kaso ng panggigipit at pang-aabuso ang kanilang nararanasan, upang bigyan ng maayos na pasko ang kanilang mga pamilya.

Isa sa mga hindi-malilimutang trahedya kaugnay nito ay ang sinapit ni Jakatia Pawa sa Kuwait. Simula pa noong administrasyong Arroyo ang kasong pagpatay ni Pawa. Ngunit sa unang buwan ng taong ito, ilang araw matapos ang nagdaang pasko, ay binawi ang kanyang buhay. Depensa niya noon, hindi tugma ang marka ng kanyang daliri sa suspek ng krimen; nangangahulugang hindi makatarungan ang dinanas na parusa.

Si Pawa ay isa lamang sa maraming Pilipinang OFW na hindi na kailanman makakapagdiriwang ng pasko sa bansa. Patuloy ding hinihintay ni Mary Jane Veloso ang kaniyang ganap na paglaya, matapos mapagtagumpayang harangin ang parusang kamatayan sa kaniya sa Indonesia.

Subalit hindi napag-usapan ang kaso ni Veloso noong nagdaang ASEAN Summit sa bansa. Bagaman isang kasunduan ang nilagdaan upang pangalagaan umano ang mga migrante, hindi pabor ang pamahalaan ng Malaysia at Singapore sa bisang legal ng kasunduan. Tikom din ang mga lider sa mga migranteng hindi dokumentado sa mga dayuhang bansa.

Mala-Santa Claus kung tingnan ang mga bansang tumatanggap ng libu-libong manggagawang Pilipino. Ngunit ikinukubli ang karahasang nararanasan ng maraming kababaihan, silang kung hagupitin ay parang duwende sa lupain ni Santa.

Sa harap ng patuloy na hamon sa mga OFW, partikular na ang mga kababaihan, hamon sa mamamayang paigtingin ang panawagan para sa kanilang karapatan. Ang layuning iligtas at ibalik sila sa kani-kanilang pamilya ay nararapat ding tumbasan ng pagbibigay ng mas marami at magandang oportunidad sa kanilang pag-uwi. Samakatuwid, ang pagprotekta sa kanilang mga karapatan ay isang proseso na dapat magpatuloy at hindi dapat tumigil sa isang hakbang lamang.

Sa isang alternatibong mundo—at kung may Pasko man dito—walang Santang dadakilain, hindi siya hahalikan ng sinumang ina, at walang ina ang kailangang magtungo sa ibang bansa.

Sa Ngalan ng Anak

Marvin Ang

Hindi mapakali si Haring Herodes matapos marinig ang balita mula sa tatlong pantas—ipinanganak na ang Mesiyas. Walang pag-iimbot niyang ipinag-utos sa kaniyang mga kawal na paslangin ang mga bata at sanggol, silang maaring banta sa kaniyang kapangyarihan.

Pinagbantaan niyang bobombahin ang kanilang mga paaralan at pamayanan. Binarikadahan ng kaniyang kawal ang daan patungo sa mga pamayanan, kuta umano ito ng mga rebelde. At ang utos ng dakilang hari: hayaang magutom ang mga kabataan, silang mga hadlang sa kaniyang kadakilaan.

Klasikong kuwento ng pagkapanganak kay Hesus ang laging ginugunita tuwing Pasko, bukod pa sa kaniyang pagkakapanganak sa isang sabsaban. Kung ipanganganak si Hesus ngayon, marahil, siya’y ipapanganak sa mga eskinita’t barung-barong, o di kaya’y sa mga tahanan sa kanayunan. Tanda ang kuwentong ito na bagaman sanggol pa lamang, marami na ang nais humamon at humadlang sa pagsilang ng batang Hesus sa mundo.

Dalawang-libong taon makalipas, mas matindi ang mga bantang kinahaharap ng mga batang tulad ni Hesus sa kanilang buhay, lalo na’t malayo sila sa kanilang komunidad at paaralan.

Sa kanayunan, kaliwa’t kanan ang banta sa mga kabataang Lumad: nais ng pamahalaang ipasara ang kanilang paaralan, samantalang kinakampuhan ng militar ang kanilang komunidad dahil sa likas na yamang taglay ng mga ito. Magpahanggang-ngayon, patuloy pa ring hinaharangan ng mga militar ang mga nais mag-abot ng tulong sa mga Lumad.

Patuloy na sinisikil ng estado ang mga paaralang Lumad dahil banta sa kaniya ang uri ng edukasyong nakakamit ng mga kabataang katutubo: makamasa, siyentipiko at lapat sa kanilang pamumuhay at lupang ninuno.

Sa likod ng pamumustura ng pangulo, bahag ang kaniyang buntot sa mga batang katulad ni Hesus—may potensyal na tumindig, kasama ng sambayanan, laban sa mga nag-aastang Herodes at Pilato. Kung kaya’t sa kasalukuyan, gayon din ang takot ng estado sa kabataan– pinatatahimik, binabantaan at tinatakot upang huwag magpatuloy sa paglaban.

Kung kaya patuloy na ipinagsasawalang-bahala ang hinaing ng mga kabataan. Matindi ang trauma na naidudulot ng mga ganitong ligalig sa kabataan, ayon sa grupong Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns. Sa kasalukuyan, may banta pa rin ng airstrikes ng militar dahil hindi pa ibinababa ang Martial Law sa Mindanao.

Simula noong Hulyo 2016, humigit-kumulang 41,000 mga bata na ang naaapektuhan ng digmaan sa Mindanao, ayon sa Children’s Rehabilitation Center. Labag ito sa sa karapatan ng mga batang manirahan at mamuhay nang mapayapa sa kanilang tahanan at komunidad.

Maging sa kalunsuran, hindi pa rin nawawala ang banta ng madugong giyera kontra droga, na ngayo’y ibabalik na naman sa kapulisan. Katulad ni Haring Herodes, walang habas na pinapatay ng kasalukuyang rehimen ang mga kabataang katulad nina Kian Delos Santos at Carl Arnaiz na pinaparatangang gumagamit ng droga. Paano kaya ipagdiriwang nina Maria at Jose, ng sandaigdigan ang Pasko kung sakaling mapagkamalan at mapaslang ang batang Hesus?

Huwad na kapayapaan ang nais ipamana ng kasalukuyang rehimen. Ngunit katulad ni Haring Herodes na inakalang panghabambuhay ang kaniyang paghahari, babagsak din ang Haring Herodes ng kasalukuyan. At katulad ng batang Hesus, susi ang lakas at sigasig ng mamamayan, lalo ng mga kabataan, upang patalsikin siyang naghahari-harian.

‘Pag nahúli na ang lahat

Sheila Abarra

Napakaraming uri ng Paskong Pinoy ang hindi pinatatampok sa mga patalastas sa telebisyon. Puro Pasko ng mayayaman, panggitnang uri at mga bata sa lansangan ang tema. Samantala, sa ibang sitwasyon, gaya ng mga mangingisda sa ibayong dagat, isang malaking pagsubok ang Pasko.

May pinipiling panahon ang pangingisda, kung kaya hindi sapat ang pagbabase ng dami ng huli sa hugis ng buwan at taas ng alon. Dahil hindi rin uso ang handang isda tuwing Pasko, sa halip na magkasaliwa ang lebel ng demand at suplay, kapwa itong mababa.

Dahil matumal ang huli at kita, madalas nagpa-Pasko ang mga mangingisda sa gitna ng dagat, hiwalay sa kani-kaniyang pamilya, alang-alang sa posibleng huli na panghanda sa hapag-kainan. Gayunman, hindi sa Pasko nagwawakas ang hirap ng mga mangingisda, pinagbawalan na rin silang mangisda sa sariling karagatan gaya sa Scarborough o Panatag Shoal.

Naging sanhi ng pagkakalubog sa utang ng mga mangingisda ng Pangasinan at Zambales ang panggigipit ng mga Tsinong coast guards. Bagaman legal na nabawi ng mga mangingisda ang shoal noong nakaraang taon, patuloy pa ring kinakamkam ng Tsina ang ating teritoryo.

Kaiba sa pangako ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte na sasakay siyang jet ski papuntang Panatag Shoal at tatayuan ng watawat ng bansa ang shoal, lumambot itong muli sa bansang Tsina. Patuloy pa rin ang operasyon ng mga militar ng Tsina sa iginigiit nitong 9-dash line sa shoal na siyang 80 porsyentong sakop ng ating teritoryong pang-ekonomiko.

Lumilikha ito ng takot sa ating mga mangingisda ayon sa grupong Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas o PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas. Bukod pa rito, may programa ang pangulo na Build, Build, Build, proyektong imprastraktura kung saan Tsina ang pangunahing nagpopondo.

Tila ang sarili nating karagatan ang binibili ng Tsina, kapalit ang patuloy na tumal ng kita at paghihirap ng ating mga mangingisda. Malaki ang nakukuha ng bansa sa produksyon ng isda ngunit pinakamahihirap ang bumubuo sa sektor ng pangingisda–nasa 39.2 porsyento ayon sa Philippine Statistics Authority.

Bukod pa rito, sa maliliit na palaisdaan talamak at isinisisi ang ilegal na pangingisda. Bagay na idinadahilan ng dayuhang kompanya upang manatili at sakupin ang mga palaisdaan ng maliliit at lokal na mga mangingisda.

Bilang tugon, patuloy na isinusulong ng mga mangingisda ang Fisheries Code ng 1998 kung saan nakasaad ang pangangalaga sa karagatan at ang pagpapayabong ng lokal na industriya, na hindi makikita sa pamamaraan sa kasalukuyan. Dahil sa halip na ito, ang pagpapatayo ng mga dayuhang kompanya ang sinusuportahan ng pamahalaan.

Taong 2013 nang maging ikapito ang bansa sa pinakamalaking prodyuser ng isda sa buong mundo ayon sa Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources o BFAR. Kung kaya hindi ang manaka-nakang tulong pinansiyal mula sa kumpanyang dayuhan ang nararapat at kailangan ng ating mga mangingisda.

Kung ang pagbawi sa Panatag shoal ang pamasko para sa mga mangingisda noong nakaraang taon, isang magandang ideyang panregalo ang isinusulong nilang ekolohikal at legal na pamamaraan ng pangingisda para sa lokal na industriya.

Higit pa sa pagkatampok sa Paskong Pinoy sa telebisyon, ang nararapat at kailangan ng ating mga mangingisda ay ang katiyakan ng masaganang huli, kita, at kapiling na pamilya sa noche buena.

‘Bataan nuke plant revival entails geological hazards’

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◢ Jose Martin V. Singh

Scientists from Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) warn of the dangers of reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in response to a deal forged between the Department of Energy (DoE) and Russian State Atomic Energy Corp. during the ASEAN summit.

The deal involves the study of nuclear energy as power source, including a proposal to possibly re-operate BNPP and build new nuclear power plants in the country.

Geological hazards
Built in 1984 during the Marcos regime, BNPP was closed in 1986 during Corazon Aquino’s presidency.

BNPP is located beside Mt. Natib, a “potentially active” volcano, thus entailing a great risk in the plant’s operation, said AGHAM Secretary-General Finesa Cosico, citing a geological hazards study by Dr. Kelvin S. Rodolfo and company.

“Based on the detailed fieldwork of [Rodolfo’s] study, the volcanic hazards can pose as a threat to the nuclear reactor facility,” said Cosico.

Potentially active volcanoes have no recorded eruptions in recent history but are capable of erupting.

“Commissioning BNPP represents the greatest single threat to the safety of the Filipino people, all because of the mindless greed of a few,” said Rodolfo in an e-mail to the Collegian. Rodolfo is a Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago and a Senior Research Fellow at the Manila Observatory.

“The natural dangers are being greatly compounded by nuclear proponents of great influence who know little geology,” Rodolfo said in the 2016 revision of his study, which was first written in 2010.

“They select ‘facts’ that defend the safety of the plant site, and ignore ‘inconvenient’ scientific truths that are easily available and verifiable,” he said. “This is not only dismissive of the dangers to the people, it is a great disrespect and disdain for natural-hazard science,” he added.

The Philippines is located at the Pacific Ring of Fire, indicating the existence of numerous volcanoes and faultlines.

“The problem in the Philippines with the nuclear option is that a suitable site is needed,” said chair of AGHAM and professor at the UP National Institute of Physics Dr. Giovanni Tapang. Nuclear power plants simply cannot be built near volcanoes, said Tapang, citing international guidelines on nuclear energy resources.

As for BNPP, the active earthquake fault in Lubao runs right through it, said Rodolfo.

Meanwhile, Geology Professor Dr. Carlo Arcilla believes that having a fault beneath the plant would make BNPP immediately inoperable, thus there is no fault under it. There might be one nearby but the earthquake generating potential and the exact distance of it cannot be determined, he said.

Arcilla is professor at the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), Department of Science and Technology. He has also conducted an independent study on the site of BNPP.

Practical energy resources
Arcilla also claims that BNPP is safe for use.

“BNPP is not dilapidated because it was never used,” he said. “The steam generator and turbines might be replaced because these were neglected but the main issue is technical and financial feasibility. BNPP will never be operated unless it is safe,” he said, citing PNRI’s mandate as regulator.

BNPP has existed for a total of 33 years, and its technologies are estimated to be around 50 years old.

With that, BNPP is not anymore reliable when it comes to obtaining energy, said Cosico. “[Its operation will] require a massive rehabilitation that would be costlier than [making use of] other energy resources [in the Philippines],” she said.

The costs are estimated to be around $2.3 million or around P100 million.

Having the target of operating BNPP is a very shortsighted proposition, said Tapang. “While we welcome the study of nuclear energy as an option, grounding it on BNPP makes it dubious,” he added, clarifying AGHAM does not entirely oppose the deal with Russia.

The country can also explore other energy sources, said Cosico.

The Philippines has consistently been among the highest producers of geothermal energy according to the 1995 to 2015 surveys of the World Geothermal Congress.

Aside from geothermal, there are also other good sources of energy in the Philippines such as hydro and solar, said Cosico. “But we have remained dependent on coal energy as generation companies continue to invest on cheaper sources despite its contribution to green house gas emission,” she said.

Privatized energy
AGHAM also sees the privatization of energy supply as a cause of the energy resource fiasco.

“The real problem in our energy’s security is that it is privatized, and if we have a privatized energy outlook, we will always wait for other people to do it,” Tapang said, adding that private companies will not invest unless deemed profitable, making consumers suffer.

Also among the reasons for the Philippines’ perennial problem in electricity supply is the country’s over-reliance on foreign investors, said Tapang. “We are not building our own [industries] regardless of whether there is an investor or not,” he said.

To address this energy crisis, there is a need to reverse the current orientation of a privatized energy industry, said Cosico. ◢ 

Student Election Code to be revised

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◢ Jose Martin V. Singh

The University Student Council (USC) has coordinated with the Office of Student Activities (OSA) to review the UP Diliman Student Election Code (SEC) as previously instructed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA).

There are some provisions in the SEC which are not applicable any longer because of the academic calendar shift implemented in 2014, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jerwin F. Agpaoa.

The SEC serves as the official guidelines for the UPD USC elections held annually in the months toward the end of the academic year. The code provides for the standards of the campaign and electoral processes as well as other procedures related to the USC elections. It was last revised in January 2010 and was approved by then UP President Emerlinda Roman.

The current USC brought up the issue on their fourth General Assembly (GA) which was held on August 28. The council had an earlier discussion with Agpaoa about the possible revisions in an informal meeting held earlier than the GA.

“Every year the USC is consulted regarding the dates of the next election,” said USC Chairperson Benjie Allen Aquino, noting that the SEC topic “was just a ‘by-the-way’ thing.”

For this year, the USC was also asked to look for other provisions that could be amended. But there are no specific provisions subject for change, except for the dates which are the most glaring, said Aquino. Consultations on the SEC are also not yet done, he said.

But aside from the dates, Agpaoa noted that the implementation of free tuition in UP may have an effect on the election code. Electors are required to be duly matriculated in the current SEC. The implementation of free tuition will affect those candidates qualified for it, he added.

On August 3, 2017 President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931), thus paving way for the long sought implementation of free tuition in state universities and colleges like UP. However, the implementing rules and regulations of the law have not been finalized yet.

The revised SEC is originally expected to be done by November 15 but an extension is inevitable.

The deadline has been lifted because of class suspensions on ASEAN week, said Aquino, adding that a new deadline is yet to be set. However, a meeting between Agpaoa, the USC and OSA will be held soon to discuss the SEC revisions including the new deadline for the draft of the revised SEC, said Agpaoa who did not specify the dates.

“The amendments [to the SEC] are crucial,” he said. “If they are not implemented though, we’ll see how we can factor in the new changes in the conduct of the next USC elections,” he added. ◢

Lumad students, teachers camp outside DepEd

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◢ Beatrice P. Puente

Around 200 Lumad students, volunteer teachers and volunteer groups have been camping in front of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Central Office in Pasig City since November 16 to denounce militarization and killings, and to call for the issuance of their schools’ permit to operate.

“Nandito kami ngayon sa Maynila dahil ang lugar namin sa Mindanao ay highly militarized. ‘Yung mga paaralan namin ay ginawang kampo ng mga sundalo at marami na ring pinatay na mga elders namin pati estudyante,” said Leah Mae Serra, a volunteer teacher in a Lumad school.

Ongoing militarization
Obello Bay-ao, a 19-year-old Lumad student, was killed by two members of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) last September 5. Bay-ao’s parents still call for justice two months hence.

Cases of indiscriminate firing were also recorded, affecting a total of 401 students and 26 teachers, according to the Save our Schools Network. “Habang nag-aaral ako, natatakot ako,” said Sarah Sullen, a grade 10 student in a Lumad learning center in Davao del Norte.

But militarization of Lumad schools only arises because it is allowed by the law, Serra said. DepEd Memorandum No. 221 released in 2013 primarily aims to protect children during armed conflict but it also allows military presence in schools.

Still, DepEd has to ensure that schools are “zones of peace” as mandated by its Department Order 44 released in 2005. “Napakaimportante [ng mga ganitong orders] para sa kaligtasan at welfare ng students, teachers and everyone else kaya dati pa namin ito ginagawa,” said DepEd spokesperson and Undersecretary. Jesus Mateo.

The Lumad camp-out has been ongoing for almost two weeks but DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones has not spoken to any of the representatives from the Lumad group. In a forum on November 28, Briones even shrugged a protest off staged by the Lumad, saying DepEd is not the right office to be put into question.

“Huwag ninyo kaming sisihin sa mga bagay na hindi naman ginawa ng DepEd. Siguro sa ibang opisina ninyo dalhin ‘yung inyong mga hinaing,” she said in the forum when asked by a Lumad volunteer teacher about the department’s stand on militarization.

Bakwit school
Aside from their camp in DepEd, the groups have been staying since August in the International Center in UP Diliman where they put up a school for children who evacuated from their militarized communities.

Lumad schools are built in places where there are no DepEd schools as initiated by the communities with the help of volunteer groups. These schools were built to preserve Lumad culture and provide free and accessible education. However, at least 15 out of 200 Lumad schools still have no permit to operate.

“Responsibilidad nila na tugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga Lumad schools. Hindi dapat kami ‘yung nagmamakaawa na bigyan nila ng permit. Dapat ay i-recognize ng departamentong ito ang effort ng Lumad schools na hindi nila naabot,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of the Save our Schools Network-Mindanao, a group advocating for the right of indigenous peoples to education.

To secure a permit, the Lumad need to submit a site plan where the school will be built along with the list of qualified teachers and the curriculum to be approved by the department. At present, around 2.9 million indigenous students attend 2,900 schools, according to DepEd.

The permit to operate, however, would mean nothing if classes are hindered by militarization, Valle said. DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones’ statements ensuring the safety of all schools are mere “big words” she needs to act on, he added.

“Matagal nang pinapalayas ang mga Lumad sa kanilang lupang ninuno. Matagal na silang ine-exploit at niloloko sa pagpapapirma ng kahit anong papeles,” Valle said, adding that Lumads’ rich ancestral lands are still subject to large-scale mining, logging concessions and other commercial investments. Building their own schools is a way of resisting the forms of exploitation done to them, he added.

Meanwhile, Lumad schools are important in achieving DepEd’s vision of making all Filipinos literate in the 21st century, Serra said. “Paano aabutin ‘yun[g vision] kung binobomba naman ang paaralan ng mga Lumad?” she added. ◢

USC to launch org spaces campaign next sem

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◢ Rat San Juan

As a response to issues on lack of tambayans, high venue rentals, and stringent org recognition processes, the UP Diliman University Student Council (UPD USC) is set to launch its official campaign to review and redistribute campus spaces to student organizations next semester.

Temporarily labeled the #WeNeedSpace campaign, the UPD USC’s initiative borrows its name from the UP Manila USC’s campus-wide call for student spaces and clamor against venue rental fee increases. Recently, UPD students have also staged several protests against administrative restraints on organizations.

In the College of Mass Communication (CMC), the Faculty-Student Relations Committee (FSRC) Guidelines for CMC-Based Student Organizations has recently been implemented, worsening the already rigorous process of org-recognition in the college. A total of 21 CMC-based organizations were not registered after withdrawing recognition documents in protest for the new guidelines.

Meanwhile, student orgs in the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) have yet to have their own tambayans more than a year after fire razed the Faculty Center, said CAL Rep. Isaac Punzalan. “Yung iba, tumatambay sa may Vargas Museum, pero pinapaalis sila,” he added.

College administrations have imposed stricter policies on student org recognition over the past few months, according to a statement of the Rise for Education – UP Diliman (R4E-UPD), an alliance of student organizations, councils, and publications in the campus.

“Access to tambayan spaces and event venues has been reduced significantly by the continued implementation of rental fees and oppressive measures concerning the acquisition of tambayan spots,” the statement added.

The Basic Student Services (BSS) and Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) committees started conducting an ocular inspection on the conditions and rental costs of UP Diliman facilities since midyear. Their findings are expected to be published once the data is complete, said BSS co-head Kisha Beringuela.

Other committees involved in the project are the League of College Councils (LCC) and the Committee on Orgs, Frats, and Soros (COFS). LCC will be consolidating local college councils to note all the concerns of each college, while COFS will focus on simplifying org registration process and identifying and distributing available tambayans.

A possible long-term solution is to transfer the org registration process to the students since they are mainly the affected constituents, much like in UP Los Baños (UPLB), said COFS co-head Punzalan.

“Sa UPLB, napagtagumpayan nila na USC mismo ‘yung magre-recognize ng orgs at magpapasa ng documents. Matagal na rin siyang pinaplano sa [UP] Diliman, bagaman madaming promises na binibigay ang admin, hindi talaga siya nagma-materialize so nagkakaroon ng kawalan sa student representation,” he added.

Former LCC head Beata Carolino also proposed a student spaces initiative during the previous USC term but was not fully implemented due to time and resource constraint, said current LCC head Yael Toribio. One of the LCC’s goals is to institutionalize student representation in executive boards across colleges.

Raising awareness on these issues is a crucial step in safeguarding the students’ right to organize, according to COFS co-head Jethro Malimata. The next step is to forward position papers and a general list of demands to respective college administrations and the university administration, he added.

However, more than the USC’s initiative, it will take the student’s “uncompromised” unity to bring the desired change, said Punzalan.

“Dapat kung anong manggagaling sa students, kung ano yung tingin nating just guidelines and policies para ma-recognize ang ating mga organizations – dapat yun talaga ang tuunan ng pansin at pakinggan ng ating administration,” he said. 

IRR draft of free tuition law, full of loopholes – Kabataan

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◢ Rat San Juan

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (R.A. 10931) remains pending three months after the act was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte. However, the latest IRR draft has several contentious provisions that will possibly limit free tuition and loan coverage.

Copies of the IRR draft, last revised on October 13, were provided during a public consultation on R.A. 10931 organized by Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) on October 19.

The government should aim to increase rather than limit student population in state universities and colleges (SUCs), said Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago. “Napaka-mapanganib ang hinggil sa mga exemptions. Kumbaga mas nagtatalakay pa nga [ang IRR draft] sa kung sino ang hindi kasali.”

Exemptions listed in Section 6 of the IRR draft are students who hold a bachelor’s degree, meet their program’s maximum residency rule (MRR), opt out of the free education provision, or fail to comply with admission and retention policies, resulting in the student’s permanent dismissal.

Additionally, for shiftees, any semester where the student benefitted from free education will be subtracted from the remaining expected duration of the current program the student is enrolled in. In the case of transferees, this includes any period when the student was under any government-funded Student Financial Assistance Program (StuFAP).

“Ang ginagawa ng Duterte admin ngayon, inaagaw nila at saka pinagkakait ang tagumpay na nakamit ng mga estudyante…Sa IRR [draft], posible nga na malimitahan, maikutan, at gamitin mismo yung batas para hindi mabigay ang libreng edukasyon,” said Elago.

The IRR draft also reveals a problematic Student Loan Program (SLP), according to Elago. Coverage of the SLP includes private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). “Kung ano mang pondo ang ilalaan diyan, magbibigay siya ng preferential [treatment], o mauuna muna yung mga naka-enroll sa private [HEIs],” she added.

According to Section 39 of the IRR draft, student prioritization for the SLP is based on the availability of alternative financing sources, cost recovery or paying capacity, acknowledgement of the private sector’s contribution to the tertiary education system, and additional incentives to high-performing or highly-abled students. The provision also states that the prioritization mechanism is subject to the availability of funds.

The selective loan program will prove an obstacle to financially-disadvantaged students, said Elago. “Sa laganap pa rin na kahirapan ng ating bayan, kahit libre pa ang tuition and other school fees (OSFs), mahirap pa rin sa maraming kabataan, lalo na ‘yung mula sa mga mahihirap na pamilya, ‘yung daily expenses, [katulad ng] pamasahe, pambaon,” she added.

Such loopholes will mostly affect students who rely on additional financial assistance to sustain themselves. The average living expense of UP Diliman students is estimated at P37,000 each semester based on data from the Office of Student Scholarships and Services (OSSS).

In light of the IRR draft, Student Regent Shari Oliquino has encouraged the youth to guard developments in the campaign for free education and to take an uncompromising stance against tuition, OSFs, and all forms of payment. “Pag sinasabi nating karapatan sa edukasyon, pagtatanggal talaga siya sa lahat ng mekanismo ng paniningil sa mga estudyante,” she said.

The final version of the IRR is set to be released this month, according to UniFAST Interim Deputy Executive Director Nicki Tenazas. ◢

55 injured, 1 arrested after violent dispersal in ASEAN protests

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◢ Beatrice P. Puente

At least 55 protesters were injured while one was arrested, after progressive groups opposing US President Donald Trump’s visit clashed with the police in the series of protests from November 12 to 14. Four of the injured were hospitalized.

Neil Legaspi, a paralegal from human rights group Karapatan, was merely driving their van when he was arrested on November 12 for allegedly bumping the police barricade, based on the complaint. He was released two days later but he will still undergo investigation. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna and Secretary-general Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) were likewise charged for resisting authorities.

“Pinapakita lamang ng rehimeng Duterte ang pagiging pasista nito sa mamamayan na nagpapahayag lamang ng nagaganap na katotohanan,” said Kakay Tolentino, spokesperson of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), among the groups that formed the 2000-strong contingent of protesters coming from different sectors: youth, women, and workers, among others.

Protesters were dispersed using water cannons on the November 12 and 13 rallies to prevent them from reaching the US Embassy and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit meetings were held.

To disrupt the protesters, the police even used a Long Range Acoustic Device sonic alarm which produces loud sound that could damage the hearing of individuals.

The protest actions were primarily held to condemn the intervention of the US and other countries in the affairs within the Southeast Asian region. Aside from Trump, leaders from Canada, Russia, China, Australia, India, and South Korea were present in the summit, along with representatives from the United Nations and the European Council.

“Kahit ‘di sila taga-Asya, yung interes nila ang namamayani rito sa atin na lalong naglalagay sa atin sa dehadong posisyon at kahirapan,” said Reyes.

The militant groups also criticized ASEAN. Nothing much has changed with the state of the country despite being a member of the intergovernmental organization for five decades, according to the groups. The Philippines co-founded ASEAN in 1967, along with Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.

The policies agreed upon in ASEAN for the past 50 years only benefitted neighboring countries and left the Philippines behind, said ACT Partylist Representative Antonio L. Tinio, citing that majority of the Filipinos remain poor and without jobs. They also denounced the costly government spending for holding the summit.

The government spent a total of P15.5 billion for car services, hotels, food and even the local travel of the international leaders.

It is ironic that the administration can allocate funds to host the summit when that amount could have been used to provide basic social services like education, housing, and mass transport systems, said Joms Salvador, secretary-general of women’s rights group Gabriela.

But the government cannot provide for the Filipino people’s basic social needs so long as the Philippine economy is tied to the US, said Reyes.

“Walang mabuting maidudulot sa Pilipinas ang pagbisita ni Donald Trump. Hangad ng mamamayang Pilipino ang tunay na kalayaan mula sa dayuhang dikta. Susi ito para matahak ng Pilipinas ang programang tunay na maglilingkod sa kanyang interes,” according to BAYAN in a statement. ◢ 

Acad Union continues to demand for privileges, incentives

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◢  Jose Martin V. Singh

After concluding the Academic Union Month, members of the All-UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU) continue to demand for certain rights, privileges, and incentives, which are included in a previous negotiation agreement between the union and the UP administration.

The document supporting such is known as the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA), which provides for the concerns of the academic staff in the entire UP system, based on law and past agreements, according to the current CNA effective until July 5, 2020.

All CNAs expire after five years. The last agreement was signed on July 6, 2015 under the administration of then UP President Alfredo Pascual. Its legal effectivity takes place when registered under the Civil Service Commission.

Although implemented already, some provisions, especially the recent additions and amendments, have not yet materialized, said President of AUPAEU Diliman chapter Perlita Raña.

Grievance Machinery and Side Agreements
Under the law, the CNA benefits both workers and academic staff, who are under the Research, Extension and Professional Staff (REPS), said Raña.

“Number one talaga ‘yan [CNA]…Batayan ‘yan ng karapatan namin,” she said. “Kapag nagpanawagan kami na ipasa ‘yung CNA, [ang] apektado talaga sa side namin ay yung REPS at ‘yung faculty,” she added.

The celebration of the Academic Union Month in October highlighted the calls of the academic employees, especially those concerning the CNA, wage rights, promotion, and regularization, said Raña. The university-wide campaign to fully implement the CNA is in line with the five proposed side agreements and the new provisions on the Grievance Procedure. The side agreements are pending discussion points that were not included in the previously signed CNA.

“[The side agreements] include current REPS’ concerns, study privilege for relatives of single and married UP employees without children up to the third degree of consanguinity, expansion of health and wellness benefits for UP employees, housing for retiring and retired employees, and regularization of contractual employees,” said National President of AUPAEU Carl Ramota.

A paid leave and an expanded, system-wide REPS development fund are also included in the side agreement.

Technical working groups comprised of union and admin representatives will also be formed and are expected to submit a preliminary report on December and a final recommendation on March 2018, said Ramota.

“Importante diyan [sa CNA] ‘yung grievance machinery. Sa mga susunod na buwan talagang ‘yan ang aming tututukan,” said Raña. “Kasi for a long time walang grievance machinery na malinaw dito sa UP at marami talaga tayong mga kasamahan na nagkakaroon ng mga problema sa mga usapin sa gawain at sa karapatan,” she added.

Revisions on REPS Manual
Along with the continued calls to fully implement the CNA, the union also campaigns for the approval of the revised REPS Manual, submitted on November 3, 2017 to the Vice President for Academic Affairs Maria Cynthia Bautista.

Another urgent call for implementation, the revised manual is bolstered by a signature campaign calling for the UP administration, the Board of Regents (BOR), and the UP community to support the speedy process.

“This year, under a new AUPAEU leadership and UP administration, we’re reviving this initiative and spearheading a system-wide campaign, together with other REPS groups and sectors, to ensure the immediate approval of the REPS Manual,” said Ramota.

A Manifesto of Unity (MOU) regarding the REPS Manual is currently being circulated in the UP System for signatures.

The manual can be consulted once issues arise in the workplace. It will guide the REPS and Human Resources offices on their work and employment. It will also define who the REPS are and what their responsibilities are to avoid confusion and irregular practices like doing what is beyond their supposed duties, according to the MOU.

The manual is intended to organize existing policies and practices governing the REPS, said Ramota.

However, the proposed REPS Manual is nothing recent to the AUPAEU. It was first brought to discussion in 2003. The AUPAEU and the UP administration have held several workshops and conferences since. The proposed manual’s draft was first finalized in 2015.

“Unfortunately, as in previous attempts, [the manual] was shelved under the previous administration,” said Ramota.

Current progress
The revised manual will still undergo the scrutiny of offices under the UP administration, said Ramota. “But we’re hopeful that with a strong system-wide grassroots campaign, we can persuade the [Danilo] Concepcion administration and the BOR to prioritize it,” he said. “We’re pushing for its inclusion in the agenda of and its immediate approval in the next regular BOR meeting,” he added.

The current progress of the CNA and REPS Manual has not yet been confirmed as it will still be referred to the Vice Presidents concerned, said Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Dalisay, Jr. in an e-mail to the Collegian. Such information cannot be expected until the Executive Comission and President’s Advisory Council meet toward the end of the month, said Dalisay.

“All I’ve determined so far is that the REPS Manual will be reviewed very soon by a committee being organized by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs,” he said. ◢