09 June 2012

Love Letters to CHED for Higher SUCs Budget and STRAW Bill Passage

Mula sa Balita.net.ph
07 June 2012

Photo courtesy of the UP Diliman CSSP Student Council.
Hiniling ng mga estudyante mula sa Metro Manila at Southern Tagalog sa Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) na suportahan ang House Bill 2190 o Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW).

Sa isang liham, ipinaabot ng Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) ang kanilang pagnanais na sagutin ng CHEd ng “YES” ang kanilang kahilingan.

“We all know that our fight is not only focused on students’ rights violations. We have root cause of these problems. More complex issues have to be resolved especially in the quality, accessibility and relevant education that our students need,” pahayag ni Kristine Baguio, national secretary general ng Bukluran [UP] System.

“Studying in a private university is a privilege. But studying in the cheapest university in the country is an opportunity. We are very sad because every year the education budget does not increase, worse that it’s declining,” pahayag naman Richelle Santiago, estudyante ng Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

“Not providing adequate budget for universities results to inadequate facilities and equipment. These are the primary needs of students when they go to school. Thus, inadequate facilities will not provide a quality education. Unfortunately, lobbying for higher education budget is not enough. We can see a large problem here – misallocation of the national budget,” dugtong ni Santiago.

Binigyan-diin nina Baguio at Santiago na hindi nila maatim na lalong dadami ang bilang ng mga tumitigil sa pag-aaral dahil sa mataas na bayarin sa tuition habang limitado na ang tatanggaping estudyante sa state colleges and universities (SUCs). – Mac Cabreros

08 June 2012

STRAW Bill lined up in Committee says Rep. Angara via Twitter

Good news! Rep. Sonny Angara, Chairman of House Committee on Higher and Technical Education replied to tweets from former UP ALYANSA Vice Chairperson for STRAW Mark Vicencio and from the official Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare Twitter account regarding the STRAW Bill's schedule for committee deliberations.

Break the Chain of Education Crisis!

STRAW Coalition and SCAP 'serenade' CHED to stop unjust tuition increases and to support HB 2190

From the Manila Bulletin:
by Ina Hernando-Malipot
07 June 2012

Photo courtesy of BIGKIS-UPM.

A total of 267 private colleges and universities will raise tuition this school year by an average of 10.11 percent or R40.47 per unit.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) announced yesterday it has approved the schools’ applications to raise fees.

Based on CHEd figures, of the 1,666 private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines, 267 or 16.03 percent got the green light to increase tuition.

As of May 31, 289 HEIs applied for a tuition increase but the applications of 22 were rejected for various reasons.

The National Capital Region (NCR) has the biggest number of HEIs with approved applications – 64 out of the 308 HEIs CHEd monitors.

NCR HEIs posted an average tuition increase of 7.5 percent or an average per unit increase of P76.25 from last school year’s fee, CHEd said.

While NCR had the biggest share of private HEIs, it presented the lowest percentage increase among the regions but the highest in terms of peso equivalent, CHEd said.

Region II or Cagayan Valley had the highest average tuition fee increase of 16.37 percent or an average per unit increase of P54.00. Region VIII or Eastern Visayas had the lowest – P20.86 or 8.94 percent.

CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan said that next school year, data on tuition fee increases released by CHEd will include miscellaneous and other school fees. This, she said, is attributed to CHEd’s enhanced set of guidelines for tuition and other fees contained in Memorandum Order No. 3, series of 2012.

Among the key features of the order are the inclusion of miscellaneous fees during tuition consultations and in cases of violation, the commission may impose penalties and sanctions on erring schools such as the revocation of permits, downgrading of status, phase-out and other penalties after due process, Licuanan said.

Earlier, CHEd said more than three million college students are enrolled in 2,309 public and private schools and universities.

Based on the HEI enrollment by discipline, 3,052,153 students will be enrolled in the 1,666 private HEIs and 110 State, Universities, and Colleges (SUCs) main campuses, 424 satellite campuses, 93 local universities and colleges (LUCs) 16 others including 1 CHED Supervised Institution (CHED-ARMM), 10 other state schools and five Special HEIs.

CHEd also reiterated that the commission "no longer prescribes Academic Calendar to HEIs. "In order to encourage innovation and exercise academic freedom among institutions of higher learning, HEIs may establish their own academic calendars and set their opening days, subject to the guidelines in CHED Memorandum Order No. 1, series of 2011," Licuanan said.

Most private HEIs in Metro Manila start classes on June 14.

With the revised guidelines on tuition and miscellaneous fees increase set for implementation next school year, student leaders on Monday of a "rise of miscellaneous fees" that can be charged by administrators of various Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) this June.

The tuition increase is among the issues that students raised during their rally in front of the CHED office in Quezon City on Monday.

Student-leaders all over Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog "serenaded" CHEd officials for a "yes" to the House Bill 2190 or the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Bill.

Led by the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), the largest alliance of student councils and student political parties in the country, and the Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare, student leaders called for the pursuant of the said bill in Congress.

The STRAW Bill is an Akbayan-authored bill refiled in the 15th Congress to uphold and protect the rights and welfare of the students. It is the Grand Charter for students’ fundamental rights and freedoms. The bill is authored by Akbayan Representatives Kaka Bag-ao and Walden Bello.

"We all know that our fight is not only focused on students’ rights violations. We have the root cause of these problems. More complex issues have to be resolved especially in the quality, accessibility and relevant education that our students need," said [BUKLURAN UP System National Secretary General] Kristine Baguio.

Students also sent "love letters" to CHEd officials, calling for a higher education budget, student representation, and a regulated education system.

01 June 2012

04 June 2012: The National Day of Action for Education Reform

The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), the Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW Coalition), and the Budget Watch Alliance invite you to the National Day of Action for Education Reform at the National Computer Center this June 4, 8:30 a.m. Please wear white!

01 April 2012

SCAP and STRAW Coalition meet with CHR to discuss students' rights violations

From the Manila Bulletin:
by Ina Hernando-Malipot
01 April 2012

Photo courtesy of Gibby Gorres.
MANILA, Philippines — Student leaders are calling on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to monitor schools that may be violating students’ rights after a Catholic school in Cebu City barred four high school students from attending their graduation rites for allegedly posting “indecent” photos in Facebook.

The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), the biggest nationwide alliance of student councils and student political parties, said the CHR—the agency tasked by the Office of the President towards human rights protection and promotion—is in the “best position to police academic institutions” that violate the rights of their students.

“We urge CHR to review the student handbooks of these schools and see to it that school rules and regulations do not violate the rights of students and are in accordance with the law,” SCAP National Spokesperson JC Tejano said.

Tejano said the incident in St. Theresa’s College (STC) in Cebu City where the high school department did not allow its students to attend the graduation exercises last Friday prompted the group to call the CHR’s attention. “Although the court ordered that the said students be made to attend their graduation rights, the school administration refused to honor the issued order,” he said.

The school said the students violated provisions in the STC student handbook including a rule against “posing and uploading pictures on the Internet that entail ample body exposure.”

The students supposedly posted their photos wearing bikinis while holding a cigarette and liquor bottle in Facebook which allegedly violated STC’s rules on immorality, exposure online and smoking and drinking.

STC clarified the students will still be able to graduate since they were “academically qualified.”

SCAP National Secretary General Gibby Torres added that in another incident involving another Catholic school, six boys at the Infant Jesus Academy in Marikina City were not allowed to join the graduation rites because of “kissing” photos on the same social networking site.

“Both incidents can be tagged as an impingement on the personal and private affairs of the students,” said Torres. He added that the incidents are but two of the many instances wherein schools violate students’ rights.

“Our group regularly receives reports from students of various schools presenting similar dilemmas,” he said.

Earlier, SCAP had condemned the move of the schools involved, particularly of STC, saying that it “violated the students’ rights to freedom of expression and speech and several provisions in the Magna Carta for Women by causing psychological and emotional trauma.”

The group also maintained that Catholic academic institutions sanction their students unfairly under the guise of academic freedom. Tejano said that while schools may practice academic freedom, “it should not be used as an excuse to control students in this manner.”

“Academic freedom has limits,” Tejano said. “The students’ personal space, which includes social networking sites such as Facebook, should not be governed by any school policy.”

Tejano added that while it is the responsibility of the schools to instill in their students core values “this role does not give them a license to punish students for what is in the realm of parental guidance.”

He reiterated that the constitutional rights of the students should prevail over student handbooks. “Students’ rights are human rights and human rights are inviolable,” Tejano said. “Not a single student handbook across the country has the power over the rights bestowed on any individual guaranteed by the Constitution.”

SCAP urged legislators to pass a national legislation to protect students’ rights. “A bill protecting students is long overdue. We need to make sure that this generation is afforded with an environment for learning by securing their rights, within or without the campus,” Torres said.

Several versions of students’ rights bills are pending in Congress.

SCAP calls for CHR review of student handbooks

from Sun.Star Manila
01 April 2012

Photo courtesy of Gibby Gorres.
MANILA -- The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Sunday it may review the handbooks of schools after some students were barred to join the graduation rites for allegedly posting lewd photos on the Internet.

Last week, an incident in Cebu City caused online attacks towards St. Theresa’s College (STC) when it did not allow five of its students to attend the graduation rites because of supposed “bikini” photos posted on Facebook.

Although the court ordered that the said students be made to attend their graduation, the school administration refused to honor the issued order.

Another case was reported in Infant Jesus Academy in Marikina City where six boys were denied of joining their graduation rites because of photos posted on the same social networking site showing them simulating a kiss.

Both institutions are Catholic schools.

“We may look into it as this will be in accordance with mandated standards and norms on the right of the child to education and against discrimination and child abuse,” CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales said.

“CHR is in the best position to police these academic institutions,” JC Tejano, national spokesperson of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (Scap), said.

Tejano said they regularly receive reports from students of various schools presenting similar dilemmas.

For Scap, Catholic academic institutions resort to punish their students in an unfair manner under the guise of academic freedom.

“Schools are protected because of academic freedom. But academic freedom should not be used as an excuse to control students in this manner. Students’ personal space, which includes social networking sites such as Facebook, should not be governed by any school policy,” Tejano said.

Earlier, Scap alleged that STC violated the students’ rights to freedom of expression and speech and several provisions in the Magna Carta for Women by causing psychological and emotional trauma.

The group is also urging legislators to expedite the passage of a law protecting students’ rights. Currently, several versions of students’ rights bills are pending before the House of Representatives and the Senate. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

14 March 2012

The National Youth Commission's STRAW Desk

What is the STRAW Desk?

The NYC, on 26 September 2011, approved Resolution No. 127, Series of 2011, entitled A Resolution Supporting the Student Rights and Welfare Bill. The STRAW Desk is the program instituted by the National Youth Commission in support of said Resolution.

The STRAW Desk has the following objectives:

  • to aid in the policy formulation and development of the Students’ Rights and Welfare bills pending in Congress and other forms of policies relevant to students, especially those of relevant government agencies;
  • to promote and advocate STRAW among stakeholders, primarily the students, school administrators and teachers, and relevant government agencies; and
  • to pilot a mechanism for the processing of complaints pertaining to STRAW concerns and violations.

Policy formulation

Ultimately, the goal of this program is for schools to uphold the rights and promote the welfare of students through the enactment of the STRAW bill. To support this, inputs from the grassroots, especially on STRAW concerns and violations, will be used as data to argue for the enactment of the STRAW Bill, and also to strengthen its content.

In addition, data gathered from the STRAW Desk may aid in formulation and development of individual policies of the DepEd, CHED, TESDA, and perhaps schools themselves. For example, on 12 October 2011, the NYC approved Resolution No. 127, entitled A Resolution Supporting the Anti – ‘No Permit, No Exam’ Policy in support of the CHED’s Memorandum Order No. 02, Series of 2010, which provides that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) shall extend utmost flexibility in the implementation of the “no permit, no examination” policy they are adopting. This CHED Memorandum Order also provides that HEIs shall allow students with delinquent accounts to take school examination. Though this policy is not integrated within the text of the STRAW bills pending in Congress, the NYC considers this policy within the ambit of Students’ Rights and Welfare. The STRAW Desk will not only function for the rights and welfare issues provided in the STRAW bill, but it also seeks to tackle a gamut of issues pertaining to STRAW with the purpose of aiding in the development and formulation of individual policies of concerned government agencies and schools nationwide.

Promotion and advocacy

As there is a need to raise awareness on the concept of STRAW among stakeholders not only for the purpose of galvanizing support for the STRAW bill, but more importantly to uphold STRAW, this program will be the platform to introduce the concept of STRAW to stakeholders and to further its advocacy.

Mechanism for complaints

The heart of the STRAW Desk is its function to receive complaints on STRAW concerns and violations primarily through a STRAW website (and supplementary mechanisms), and for the NYC to act on these complaints within its mandate for the benefit of aggrieved students. The NYC endeavors to gather as much information as possible on a received complaint in this website. Depending on the circumstances of each case, the NYC will take action that is within its mandate, particularly endorsing the processed complaints to the concerned school, DepEd, TESDA, CHED, CHR and/or any appropriate party with the power and/or resources to address a specific complaint.

15 December 2011

STRAW Coalition National Congress: Education Reform Conference

Education underfunding has been the signature of the Philippine government for more than two decades now. The Philippine government spends only 2% of the country’s GNP to education, compared to the 6% prescribed by the UNESCO Delors Commission. 

At the same time, tertiary academic institutions have been plagued by campus students’ rights violation due to a lack of a national policy that secures students’ rights and welfare. Academic institutions have remained discriminatory against the LGBT and women. The lack of campus democratization in academic institutions can be linked to the pervasive macho culture of Philippine society. 

Academic institutions have also been export-oriented. Degrees that cater to the need of young Filipinos to migrate are dominant because of high demand. To cater to the high demand of export-oriented degrees means secure income for private academic institutions. 

The crisis in Philippine education is systemic, owing to the minimal responsibility by the government. 

However, the opening of democratic spaces due to the Aquino government has also opened opportunities for reform-minded civil society organizations. The engagement with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education has been recognized by militant student and youth organizations like the Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, and Akbayan! Youth as areas of engagement to infuse reform into the education sector.

The proposed education reform conference intends to consolidate forces and ideas of student leaders from all over the country, from private and public universities, to be able to maximize the reform spaces opened up by the current administration.

Specifically, the Conference has the following objectives:
  • To consult student leaders, student organizations from different regions regarding the education situation specifically the Higher Education Act of 1994, Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, Students' Rights and Welfare Bill, and the Budget Process;
  • To consolidate ideas in the discussions; and
  • To formulate an initial education reform agenda as basis for an education platform.

28 November 2011

De La Salle University Student Government Statement on the Dress Code Issue

The De La Salle University Student Government is an active member organization of the Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare.

Good evening to the Lasallian population!

In the ongoing Student Handbook Revisions Committee, there have been both victories and small compromises for the student sector in championing pro-student changes and policies in the upcoming student handbook. Several of these victories include revising the left ID policy into a more rational yearly maximum (until you reach your sixth for your entire stay in DLSU), changing the automatic minor offense when leaving a campus pass into a small fine per day unless it is declared as lost, removing the minimum grade of 2.0 for the Latin Honors policy effective already for ID109+ students as of this 3rd term of A.Y. 2011-12, and the inclusion of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Queer) rights and political expression in the Students Charter. These changes are all still for the approval by the Academics Council (Deans, Vice-Chancellors, and Brother President); however, they are achievements in terms of getting the SHB committee to see the students’ point of view and recommend these changes.

The pressing issue at hand now is the Dress Code, and how it always seems to be a never-ending debate between students, administration, faculty, and parents.  The problem with the existing policy is that the implementation is still inconsistent, there are still loopholes, students don’t understand the objective/goal or don’t feel that the rationale of the Dress code is enough, the violation of a student is up to the word and point-of-view of the Student Discipline and Formation Office (SDFO) officer at the time which may or may not be the same as the student’s, and students end up unfairly blaming the SDFO officers when they only implement and did not make the policy. There was a move in the SHB committee by the SDFO to further clarify the existing dress code guidelines so as to explicitly state ALL possible items of clothing which should not be allowed (i.e. halter tops, sleeveless, sando, a-shirts, racerback, etc.) so as to eliminate gray areas and double standards during implementation. On the other hand, there was a proposal by the student sector not to delve into specifics on clothing but on what was truly offensive to the community (i.e. cleavage-baring, too much skin, buttocks showing, etc.). However, due to the administration and faculty’s unwavering view that even the existing guidelines are not clear enough to eliminate the rampant violation of the dress code which leads to problems in implementation, arguments on issuance of minor offense and due process, and overall conflict in the community between the students and SDFO, there was another more radical proposal to implement a standard uniform scheme in the University which will eliminate all possible areas of conflict and confusion. The proposal to have the uniform was supported by the Administration and Faculty representatives for the reasons that there would no longer be an ambiguity as to the implementation and due process of the dress code, and no more issuance of minor offenses. The student sector was against this proposal for the reasons being that it does not treat Lasallians as mature individuals capable of deciding what to wear, does not support internationalization of the University, and would hamper and constrain students’ rights, bordering on oppressing their freedom.

In assessing the Dress Code policy, one must understand and consider what are the goals of the University. By adopting a certain dress code, we recognize that DLSU has certain principles and values which it aims to uphold, such as propriety, conservatism, professionalism and respect for other people’s sensibility. It is for this purpose that we have our existing guidelines which tell us what not to wear so as not to offend other members of the community. From another perspective, the existing Dress Code tells us what NOT to wear but does not say what we should be ENCOURAGED to wear; hence, students do not also understand the end goal. It could be that we need a Dress Code that is stated in a more proactive way, listing the goals that it wants to achieve so that students would be able to appreciate the essence and follow accordingly, still with the freedom to wear what they choose within the objectives.

From this, the SHB committee identified that the goal of the Lasallian community with the dress code was to promote professionalism and practice for the workplace in the future, as well as to uphold the Lasallian values of propriety and conservatism. This is where the Smart Casual scheme arose as a possible solution to the problem. It was supported by the Administration and Faculty because it presents a lofty image of students as looking proper and intelligent not only in the community but outside as well, and might lead them to act more maturely. Also, it would eliminate any possibility of questionably proper articles of clothing (such as sandos, slippers, tube tops, etc.) leading to a generally properly-dressed student population. On the other hand, these are the student sector’s arguments against the smart casual scheme:
  • There is no directly proven correlation between the attire and maturity of an individual, or the attire and learning capacity of a student in the University. Universities in Singapore, such as NUS and SMU, do not adopt dress code attires and yet are two of the top universities in the world.
  • The smart casual attire may not apply to all work environments, which range from the corporate world (business attire) to other non-traditional industries, such as the fashion industry, where a flexible, not necessarily conservative, and evolving attire is the norm.
  • Students prioritize practicality in choosing their everyday attire, considering that majority commute, take public transportation, and are subject to the tropical weather most of the time outside classes and when going to and from school.
  • Not all students would have a smart casual kind of attire in their closets, nor the extra income to purchase such attire.
  • And that currently, there is no direct link /document/teaching that teaches us that to be a Lasallian equates to wearing a smart casual attire.

Given this and many other reasons/arguments stated by students and student leaders, the USG is taking a stand against the Smart Casual scheme and will finalize this through a Legislative Assembly resolution this week laying out all possible arguments against the said policy. On our part as student representatives in the SHB Committee, we will not agree to implementing a Smart Casual attire in the University next A.Y. 2012-2013.

On another note, it is important to understand that the student sector cannot win all battles and that as leaders, we must choose and prioritize which battles to fight. In terms of the SHB policy revisions, we know that we have achieved several very crucial and life-changing policies for students (i.e. Latin honors, ID policy). However, it is our judgment that in this certain issue, we cannot stubbornly fight to eradicate the Dress code policy and expect to win. Realistically, if we as the student sector simply voted against the Dress Code, we would be outvoted by both the Administration and Faculty sector and would not be able to achieve any improvement in the current system. What could be even worse is that we would not have fought for the small compromises in the possible policy, which may still have protected the interests of students.

Thus, our action now as the USG is to take a concrete stand against the Smart Casual scheme and to form a Technical Working Group which will meet to craft a more improved, concrete, and feasible proposal to the SHB committee which would take into account the interests of the other sectors of the community as well as the students. This working group would be composed of the USG Executive Board, College Presidents, Political Party presidents, Debate Society, and other leaders who are interested in contributing to this effort. Our goal is to accomplish a concrete proposal in time to present it to the SHB committee during the next meeting on Dec. 1, 2011.

I would like to ask the Lasallian students in the meantime to offer any constructive input, arguments, opinions and ideas that you might have to both the Legislative Assembly drafting the resolution against the Smart Casual scheme, or to the Technical Working Group crafting revised guidelines on the dress code policy. All of your input will be highly appreciated and helpful, and more than ever, you can all contribute in making the policies that will affect us for the next three years. Please email any input to the usg@dlsu.ph as soon as possible.

I pray that in the next few days to come, all of us students would be more critical yet open-minded at the same time, understanding that we do not just consider our rights as students but also our responsibilities and always in the perspective of what is best for the entire Lasallian community.  Needless to say, students will be represented in this matter and in all future policies and issues.

Let’s all pray for the most optimal result.


Camille Aquino
DLSU USG President

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