President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to cut the funding of the state-run University of the Philippines (UP) over calls for an academic strike—a euphemism for a boycott of classes.
“You stop schooling, I will stop the funding. What they only do there is to recruit communists,” the President said in a taped speech.
A common tactic of student protest is to go on strike (sometimes called a boycott of classes), which occurs when students enrolled at a teaching institution such as a school, college or university refuse to go to class. It is meant to resemble strike action by organized labor.
Duterte criticized the UP students even if the calls for staging academic strike was actually initiated by the Ateneo de Manila University students to protest the government’s typhoon and pandemic response. Other university students followed suit.
The President said students did not know better than to join anti-government protests.
“That’s already there, they have done nothing except to recruit communists. You go to school then criticize the government. You’re too lucky. Don’t threaten me because I will oblige,” he said.
The President told them to let the national government do its job in responding to calamities and the health crisis.
“You are taking the cudgels of the poor ahead of your time. That is not your worry, that is the worry of government,” Duterte said
Duterte assured the students that he and the rest of the government officials were working, disputing allegations that they were sleeping on the job.
He said they should wait for the next typhoon and see if the aid extended by the government “is enough to your satisfaction.” If they would be dissatisfied, he said the students could “protest again.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he had to clarify to Duterte it was the Ateneo students who said “they were not going to send requirements” as a government protest.
However, someone else at Duterte’s meeting with officials on Tuesday told him that UP Manila students would also join the strike, Roque said. He added he was not sure if this was true.
“That’s why the President had to send a message that you’re dealing with something that the government should be dealing (with). It’s ahead of your time,” Roque, who taught at UP for nearly 20 years, told CNN.
He said a proposed “academic freeze” was out of the question, despite the devastating typhoons and the pandemic.
Around 500 Ateneo students, in a statement, pledged to withhold the submission of any school requirement from Nov. 18, until the “national government heeds the people’s demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response.”
Seven weather disturbances have hit the Philippines since mid-October, of which super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses caused major damage largely in Luzon.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francisco Pangilinan said in a statement mass promotion of students should be seriously considered.
“I think the faculty of the UPD (University of the Philippines-Diliman) is considering this -- at least a recommendation that there’ll be a mass promotion, if I understand it correctly, [that] is pass or fail. In other words, they’ve done maybe 90 percent of the semester, and therefore there is bsis basis to have them account for their performance. I am looking at that as a possible next step for the time being because of all the gaps of online distance learning,” Pangilinan said.
Other options being discussed are “pass or drop” and extending the period for completion of requirements.
In an interview with Karen Davila on ANC’s “Headstart” Wednesday, the former Student Regent and Chairperson of the UPD Student Council said that parents and students were struggling even more after the back-to-back-to-back typhoons that devastated the country.
“I can understand where the youth and students are coming from. After all these typhoons, Bicol is devastated, Cagayan is devastated. And then we’re having online distance learning…Given the damage to infrastructure in these areas, they should be seriously considered,” Pangilinan said.
A number of Philippine universities and colleges this week implemented an academic break to help tide students and faculty through the challenges brought by the typhoons.
Students, however, are also proposing an academic freeze to effectively end the semester citing the persisting challenges of online learning that have been escalated by the damages to infrastructure.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, in a statement, said no state university or college should get a budget cut.
“The amount in the proposed budget should be retained, and will be benchmarked as the floor, meaning it can still be increased,” he said.
“Calls for academic freeze will not be met with a funding brake. The correct response is not to defund any, but to increase the funds of as many as possible,” Recto added.