26 July 2009

MASP: "To say no to the STRAW Bill is to say no to upholding students' rights and welfare!"

The Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP) strongly condemns the campaign against the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) of different youth and student groups. This deceptively express their opposition to the Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill (STRAW Bill) proposed by Akbayan Party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros.

Number of student and youth groups simultaneously launched several campaigns against the STRAW Bill. For an instance, The Torch Publications, the Official Student Publication of the Philippine Normal University, published an article entitled “Beauty in Disguise: Paglalantad sa Mapanlinlang na Kagandahan ng STRAW Bill”. The article alleged that the bill is anti-student and that it endorses bureaucracy, instead of denouncing it. However, the article did not cite specific provisions to significantly validate their arguments.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party-list (ACT Party-list) and other allied organizations also slammed the passage of the STRAW Bill.

Series of Technical Working Group (TWG) meetings were conducted before the recess of the Congress. The main purpose of these TWG meetings is to consolidate and consider necessary and essential amendments for the Magna Carta of the Students’ Bill (Consolidated version of Rep. Rodriguez’s and Rep. Lagman’s Students’ Magna Carta Bill and Rep. Hontiveros’ Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill). MASP actively participated in the TWG meetings to propose some amendments. However, representatives from different youth organizations and different sectors did not even see the presence of these Anti-STRAW Bill youth groups in the TWG meetings to propose their own amendments.

The first point is that if these Anti-STRAW Bill groups really wanted to propose such amendments specified by The Torch Publications, they should have attended these TWG meetings. The National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) was one of the Anti-STRAW Bill organizations. NUSP President Alvin Peters was present in the TWG meetings; however, he never said that NUSP is against the STRAW Bill. In fact, he even raised more cases that even validate the fact that the legislation of this students’ Magna Carta is really necessary.

The anti-STRAW Bill stand of NUSP is very contradicting to what they showed in the TWG meetings.

Second, the STRAW Bill was written by the students themselves. It is not true that it did not undergo consultations because before it was filed to the Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) in the House of Representatives, it has already undergone series of consultation processes.

Third, Kabataan Party-list did not attend the majority of these TWG meetings. If it is true that they actively participated in proposing their own amendments, they should have attended said TWG meetings.

Finally, the ‘loopholes’ as said by these Anti-STRAW Bill youth groups were already clarified and modified in the TWG meetings and these modifications are already subject for committee deliberation.

The STRAW Bill’s sole intention is to provide protection for the student sector against any form of discrimination and unfair treatment within the universities. It is the bill of the students, for the students and by the students. A students’ bill promoting their own rights and welfare being opposed by students’ group themselves is a mere manifestation of being an ‘anti-student’ group.

If these youth groups have their other agenda, they should take those agenda in the proper venues wherein they can talk about these matters. The immediate legislation of the STRAW Bill should not be compromised because of the delaying tactics of these self-serving groups.

The movement reaffirms that there is a need to legislate a piece of bill that will guarantee the sector’s right and welfare. There is a need to break the chain of campus repression. There is a need to democratize every campus and the education system as a whole. Education democratization is a requisite to radically reform our education system that is envisioned to be accessible, to be of quality and to be empowering to all.

MASP wants to reiterate that saying no to Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill (also known as the Magna Carta of the Students) is tantamount to saying no to upholding students’ rights and welfare and to education reform.

Therefore, MASP, along with the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Coalition, will constantly campaign for the passage of the Magna Carta of the Students Bill and will strongly call to break the chain of campus repression and oppression. 

01 June 2009

Passage of Magna Carta of Students: “Over my dead body!” - Rep. Piamonte

“Over my dead body!” was the response of A-Teacher Rep. Mariano Piamonte, Jr. to student leaders and fellow legislators at the House of Representatives for the passage of Magna Carta of Students in the technical working group meeting for the said bill last May 27.

Akbayan Youth, co-convenor of the Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare, condemns Rep. Piamonte’s brazen statement and attitude given the continuing violation of students’ rights. “The Magna Carta of Students is meritous and long overdue. Rep. Piamonte should justify his opposition otherwise it is a huge insult to students and their families who continue to struggle for the right to education,” Cheanne Matriz, Akbayan Youth Spokesperson for Students’ Rights says.

Students’ rights violations

The Coalition for STRAW cites some examples on students’ rights violation. In St. Joseph’s College in Quezon City unmarried pregnant students are not allowed to continue their studies in the institution unless they “take a leave of absence until after they deliver their babies.” It’s either that or they’re asked to drop out. San Beda College on the other hand is in fact conducting “masculinity tests” on its alleged gay students. Aside from these, a gay student from Philippine Normal University was reportedly prevented to run for Student Council Office unless he cuts his hair accordingly, to look manly enough for a university official.

All over the country, many colleges and universities still do not have student governments and publications; while those who have have their student leaders picked and publications run by the school administration. Students are wary of expressing their opinions for the fear of being kicked out of school.

CHED “lukewarm”

Akbayan Youth also expresses concern over the apparent “lukewarm” treatment of CHED on the substitute Magna Carta bills of Reps. Risa Hontiveros, Edcel Lagman, Rufus Rodriguez and Crispin Remulla in the House of Representatives.

“Instead of being more assertive to pass the bill, CHED has not become helpful in getting the bill a priority concern among policy makers. The CHED has not been consistent in its positions and have sent silent representatives in meetings in Congress,”says Matriz.

Best deal

The consolidated and substitute bill in the Lower House took into consideration the valid concerns of school administrators without necessarily compromising basic students’ rights, according to the Coalition.

“The Magna Carta is not in any way a one way and one shot effort to reform the whole education system but it is a first big step to at least mitigate the worsening students’ rights violations,” says Jamie Pring, Coalition Spokesperson.

The Congresspersons will be voting on June 2 on the substitute bill for it to be taken or not to the plenary after the Congress’s recess.

“We look forward to the legislators’ attendance and support on Tuesday. That will be very important to pave way for another battle to get this bill passed once and for all,” added Pring.

Broad support for Magna Carta

The Magna Carta of Students has been consulted with student councils all over the country. Currently, the Coalition for STRAW includes: Akbayan Youth, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP), Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN); the National Anti-Poverty Commission Youth and Students’ Sector (NAPC YSS), the National Youth Parliament (NYP), Student Councils and organizations from Ateneo De Manila University, University of the Philippines- Diliman and Manila, De La Salle University and College of St. Benilde, Rizal Technological University and  Philippine Normal University. Also part of the Coalition are university and college student councils from Zamboanga City, General Santos City, Davao City, Marawi and Davao Del Norte.

Members of the Coalition have written petition letters and done rounds of personally approaching their Congressman to support the said bill. On June 2, the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education will vote on the bill. 

25 May 2009

UP ALYANSA at the Magna Carta of Students technical working group meeting in Congress

UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (ALYANSA) participated in the final technical working group (TWG) meeting on the proposed Magna Carta of Students filed by Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros in the House of Repesentatives. The meeting aimed to discuss contentions on provisions of the said bill before being voted upon in the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education and, hopefully and eventually, in the House of Representatives plenary. UP ALYANSA, since its inception and in its struggle for students' rights and welfare, has been active in lobbying for the Magna Carta of Students. The formation is currently part of the Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare (STRAW) together with the Student Council Alliance of the Philppines (SCAP), the Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP), Akbayan Youth, BIGKIS UP Manila, and other student groups from various schools. 

In the TWG meeting, the formation was represented by UP ALYANSA Chairperson Viktor Fontanilla and former UP ALYANSA Vice Chairperson for Students' Rights and Welfare Jeff Crisostomo. Also present was USC Councilor Luis Geronimo, head of the newly-formed USC Committee on Policy Reforms, Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Rules. In the previous TWG meetings, UP ALYANSA's resource speakers were Fontanilla, Crisostomo, and former CSSP Student Council Chairperson Jamie Pring.

UP ALYANSA's campaign for the passage of this bill is in line with its Break the Code local campaign which aims to include a bill of students' rights within the proposed UP Diliman Code of Student Conduct. 
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