“Civility and decorum at the height of social unrest and deprivation is consent to the existing status quo and a betrayal to the genuine essence of democracy, a very valuable lesson from the dark days of Martial Law. “ – Students’ Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand-UP)
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Some slighted teachers called them “hooligans.” But activists and revolutionaries hailed them as “courageous” and “true to the Oblation.”
The students of the University of the Philippines who protested against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Sept. 17 not only showed their rage against corruption, they may have also stirred up a debate on “proper decorum” in the face of corruption in government.
Abad was greeted by angry, protesting students led by the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand-UP) as he was leaving a forum at the UP School of Economics auditorium on Sept. 17. The protesters hurled crumpled paper and coins at Abad and shouted “magnanakaw!” (thief!).
This prompted the UP School of Economics faculty members to issue a statement saying that the protest was a “dishonorable event” and “a blow to UP’s honor.” The statement was signed by 23 professors, including media personality Solita “Winnie” Monsod.
“By participating in these events, the protesters have declared themselves enemies, not of Secretary Abad, but of the University itself.” They also enjoined the protesters to apologize to Abad and to UP.
Throwback to martial law
A group of progressive teachers, the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND)-UP Diliman countered this statement and said that “rowdy” and “hooligans” were the same words used by the Marcos dictatorship to malign the student movement.
“All members of the ruling class and their organic intellectuals use the same language to denigrate protests that undermine their powers and privileges.” They pointed out that Martial Law was declared –42 years ago today — to suppress the growing people’s unrest.
“The protest was guided by solid principles and scientific analysis of the issues at hand. It was the culmination of collective anger and frustration at the failure of this government to explain DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), and the ditching of the impeachment complaints filed against a President who refuses to be accountable to the people,” CONTEND said in a statement sent to Bulatlat.com.
UP Professor Mykel Andrada said in his statement, “Activists are not hooligans. Those who call them hooligans are they themselves the hooligans for protecting the criminals who are in the seats of political and economic power.”
“They are reminders that we have long been silenced and it’s high time to verbalize and actualize our collective discontent over Aquino’s hooliganism,” he said.
Andrada further said, “UP did not lose its honor with these students, staff and faculty protesters. They are actually trying to regain the lost honor and humanity of UP — those being snatched away by (UP President Alfredo) Pascual’s perverse commercialization, Aquino’s mammoth privatization, and all the other feudal and capitalist machinations transmogrifying UP into a private university,” Andrada said.
Contend said that Abad’s complaint “may lead to escalation of campus repression.”
Former UP Student Regent Jaqueline Eroles said what the protesters did “was commendable and courageous.”
“UP students cannot by conscience idly sit inside the auditorium, take-in the Malacañang BS propaganda, and pretend they don’t know that P200 billion DAP was a corruption fund invented by co-culprits Aquino and Abad.”
Eroles, who was student regent in school year 2010-2011, pointed out how the Aquino government has, at the start of its term, slashed the budget for state universities and colleges and pushed for tuition hikes and commercialization of education.
“Malacañang and Abad are delusional if they think that they can continue to lure students into a pretend play of ‘sober discourse.’ These students know the truth about DAP, they can see past Aquino’s deception, and they refuse to continue to hear A-Bad lies,” she said.
Eroles said the UP’s oblation stands as “a symbol of selfless service to the Filipino people” and stretches its arms to “welcome everyone” into UP. “But we shut our doors to corrupt politicians, plunderers and liars in government like Abad and Aquino. UP is not a place for defense of pork, corruption and DAP.”
An official Stand-UP statement said they had to “register dissent” in Abad’s presence, that being a “constitutionally-granted right.”
“Abad represents the ongoing greed and corruption in government. It would have been unforgivable to let him get away without showing the anger felt by each and every Filipino suffering every single day from dire poverty and oppression instigated by thieves like Abad and his boss Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III,” said a statement by Stand-UP.
“Civility and decorum at the height of social unrest and deprivation is consent to the existing status quo and a betrayal to the genuine essence of democracy, a very valuable lesson from the dark days of Martial Law,“ the statement said.
The student group also said that merely focusing on the confrontation angle is missing the point.
“To trivialize the protest as mere violence or aggression and to allege that its objective was to harm – these are but poor attempts of the state to sensationalize what happened and veer attention away from the actual and more important issue at hand.“
Stand-UP said DAP funds subsidized infrastructure projects of Aquino’s allies in the Liberal Party, with Abad’s home province Batanes getting the largest allotment. The group said the Aquino regime is making “systematic moves to remain in power,” with the redefinition of “savings” to legalize DAP in the 2015 natiional budget, and the proposal for term extension and Charter Change.
The student group challenged other UP students and their detractor professors to “take a stand against the yellow dictatorship and corruption.”
“The real hooligans with behavior more worthy of condemnation are out there in the government, lambasting our rights and stealing our hard-earned money paid as tax for their own benefit,” said Stand-UP.
It added: “And might we remind all that even if UP is indeed a free and academic institution, but it does not exist in a vacuum. Manners are not defined by intellectual arrogance, but by history – when lives are at stake, etiquette is biased to the ones struggling for our legitimate democratic rights and interests.”
Contend recalled UP’s proud history as being a hotbed of activism.
“We protest. We go out on the streets. And we proudly ‘riot’ if we must, to grant voice to the unheard. As Martin Luther King said ‘riot is the language of the unheard,” the Contend statement said.
“The Diliman Commune during Martial Law, the numerous protest actions against then-President FVR [Fidel V. Ramos] against the Commonwealth Development Plan (CPDP) in the 90s, and the multi-sectoral mobilization against GMA [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] at the George Ty building in recent years, are part of our history as a university. The leniency of so-called ‘liberal tolerance’ only serves the interests of those who would ride roughshod over our basic human rights. To silence the people, Martial Law was declared 42 years ago. Never again!”
The National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) also lauded the protesters.
Sheryl Alapad, executive vice president of the NUSP, said the form of protest should not be the main issue. She said that despite the claims of the government that DAP has benefitted the poor, there still remains 15 million out of school youth, 1.5 million dropouts in the country, minimum wage for workers, backward land reform, privatization of hospitals, overpriced government projects, skyrocketing tuition and commodity prices, among others.
“The Filipino people is now beyond seeking ‘apology’ from these corrupt officials. A call for accountability is now more imperative – the BS Aquino government and all its accomplices must be put in the wires of justice,” said Sarah Jane Elago, national president of the NUSP.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, in it statement, even thanked the protesters. “In confronting Abad, the UP students were able to express the Filipino people’s disgust against Abad and the corruption and cover-ups of the Aquino regime. Considering the gravity of their transgressions, Abad and his ilk deserve much more than a castigation,” the CPP statement said.