UP students protest privatization, demand accountability from outgoing head

(Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)
(Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)

Some 200 students stormed the UP Board of Regents meeting in a protest Aug. 25.

By GINO ESTELLA
Bulatlat

Students from different campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP) on August 25 breached a meeting of the highest policy-making body in the system as they called out the outgoing university president on his policies on education.

Following a brief protest on the ground floor of Quezon Hall, around 200 students forced their way through lines of security to reach the meeting room of the Board of Regents (BOR), where UP President Alfredo Pascual sits as co-chairperson.

Pascual was then forced to face the students in a dialogue concerning students’ concerns on policies, such as the Socialized Tuition System and the eUP Project. The protesters were Diliman and Los Baños students from progressive youth groups Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students and Kabataan Party-list.

(Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)
Outgoing UP President Alfredo Pascual (foreground, right most) faces protesting students (Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)

“As a member of the Board of Regents (BOR), we have raised the legitimate demands of the students several times during the BOR meetings,” UP Student Regent Raoul Manuel said. “But responses from the other BOR members, especially UP President Alfredo E. Pascual, have fallen short of addressing the concerns of the UP community.”

The eUP project is an initiative by Pascual in an effort to streamline information systems across UP campuses. It consists of core information systems for the use of each sector of the university, with the Student Academic Information System (SAIS) for the students.

SAIS, however, suffered glitches in its first implementation UP Manila in 2014. Similar cases of technical errors and crashes was seen in this year’s registration in Los Baños, sparking widespread disdain and a protest by 800 students to converge at the Main Library of the campus.

“The UP administration under Pascual has proven during the dialogue with students, faculty and staff that it will defend–until the very end–the university policies that have privatized campus services and raked in huge profits from the students themselves,” said Manuel. “This came at the expense of the rights of students to education, and the incentives that the faculty and staff deserve.”

(Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)
Students protest on the steps of Quezon Hall in UP Diliman (Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)

Manuel further condemned Pascual’s neglect for the university’s primary stakeholders. Pascual’s continued implementation of the project despite widespread clamor for its junking is a reflection of his neglect to his duty as the head of the UP System, said Manuel.

An investigative thesis by two journalism graduates revealed the UP administration’s favor for software company Oracle, and said the administration mentioned the company’s software multiple times when it requested for procurement.

Thesis authors Ronn Bautista and Krixia Subingsubing said this was a direct violation of the Philippine Procurement law. The two further revealed the project to be over budget. Six years in the making, the eUP Project team has constantly reset its deadlines for the systems’ complete implementation.

Students, faculty and employees join ranks in protest

While the eUP Project has been implemented for six years, students also called for the junking of socialized tuition policies in their university system.

“It has been 27 years since the first occurrence of socialized tuition policies in UP, initially in the form of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP),” said Manuel.

“Around the same number of student regents have taken their term and fought against this policy, but in all those 27 years, it all fell into deaf ears.”

(Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)
(Photo by Gino Estella/Bulatlat)

Different sectors of the university, such as faculty and staff were present during the dialogue. Following a lack of resolution to talks on their Collective Negotiation Agreement, the All UP Workers Union and All UP Academic Employees Union said they were ready to take the case to the Ombudsman.

“The Office of the Student Regent is committed to seek accountability from the Pascual
administration and continue to fight with the sectors in UP whose calls remain unaddressed,” said Manuel.

During the dialogue, Pascual said he will be accountable for his actions during his term. ()

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