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. 
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