Black was the color of the day for students at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila last November 23. The death of the university, after all, is said to result from the plan of the UP administration to increase tuition and other fees.
BY REYNA MAE TABBADA
It was a day of fighting, not mourning.
“I’ve never seen so many people wearing black.” Thus remarked a student from the University of the Philippines in Manila (UPM) about the Black Shirt Day held last November 23 on its Padre Faura campus. The campaign was the consolidated effort of its University Student Council (USC), College Student Councils (CSCs), and other student institutions against the impending tuition and other fee increases (ToFI) that the UP administration wants to implement.
USC leaders said at least 250 students walked out of their classes to take part in the rally.
Aside from encouraging UPM students to show their unified opposition on the TFI through the color of their shirts, an indoor rally was also held with student representatives from various organizations voicing their dissent on the proposal.
Demise of state-funded education
In an interview with Bulatlat, USC Chairperson Terry Ridon said, “We chose black as a political statement signifying the impending demise of an accessible and quality state education that the University provides at present. By increasing the tuition and other fees for incoming freshmen, the UP administration effectively curtails the fundamentally vested right of the Filipino youth to a choice of a course of study and profession without financial incapacity serving as a bar to such education.”
In a position paper, the USC said the administration wants to “shortcut the implementation of the increase as they fully know that majority of Iskolars ng Bayan(scholars of the people) will surely oppose their plans to raise the tuition.”
And for the constituents of UP Manila, the story sounds very familiar. “This has been their tactic since the increase in the College of Medicine and it comes as no surprise to us. But in terms of consultations or even negotiations, none has occurred, as far as UPM is concerned,” Ridon said.
Rallying the students
During the indoor rally of the Black Shirt Day campaign, the students were not spared from police intervention as they were blocked when they tried to traverse Padre Faura Street to invite students from other colleges. They were allowed, however, to enter the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) premises as they encouraged their colleagues to attend the program.
As props, the rallyers carried a casket and the image of Kamatayan (Death). Asked by Bulatlat on the significance of these symbols, USC Councilor Kristel Esteban said that it pertains to the “death” of the iskolars ng bayan once the ToFI is implemented.
But all may not be lost for the thousands of Filipino youth who would want to avail of the services and orientation that UP offers. “The opposition to the tuition and other fee increases is a unified and consolidated effort of all student councils and most student groups in the UP system. This even includes fraternities, sororities, faculty unions and workers union, all of whom feel that by increasing the tuition, the democratic right to education shall be utterly constrained. Nonetheless, all our actions, militant and otherwise, is all in view of the exercise of this right, as there is no best expression of the right to education but at a time when it is most challenged, such as now. We are all prepared to fight this increase until the end,” Ridon concluded. (Bulatlat.com)