Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), in partnership with Students’ Rights and Welfare Philippines (STRAW Ph), held the second installment of its Usap Tayo series last February 17, entitled USAP TAYO: Students’ Rights, at room A903, Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall.
Guest speakers discussed resurgent issues in students’ rights and shared their experiences in asserting their freedoms. The discussions were spurred by reports of students’ rights violations, including the censorship controversy in San Beda University’s Senior High School newspaper Bedan Roar for being too “critical” and the suspension of a University of Sto. Tomas student over attempts to convene opposition groups.
Collective but different
PJ Foronda-Tanglao, the National Chairperson of STRAW Ph who became an activist when he was 17 years old, narrated how fear and lack of access to due process prevented students from maximizing their student life. He added that students championing their rights face the “fear of being persecuted, being judged, and being worried [about] the future”. The struggle is further complicated by the lack of knowledge on how to assert their rights as students.
Tanglao emphasized that the “purpose of the school is to educate”, and cited the marginal tuition fee increase approved recently by DLSU as a product of students and University administrators finding a “middle ground” that will benefit both parties. “Right now, we have a functioning [University Student Government], DLSU is fortunate to have no students’ rights issues,” said Tanglao, claiming that the University grievance process is accessible for students in comparison to other universities.
National Chairperson for Youth for Mental Health for Akbayan Youth Dr. RJ Naguit emphasized participatory and inclusive efforts in policymaking for the benefit of the concerned parties. He discussed the Walt and Gilson framework on policymaking, highlighting the necessity of understanding context, interacting with constituents, and assuring that the content of the policy is a fundamental tenet of legislation. Naguit added that students should participate in the policymaking of University administration to ensure that their sentiments and suggestions are taken into consideration.
“Every stage of the process [policymaking], the community should be involved and engaged,” shared Naguit.
“Students’ rights are human rights,” asserted Jeza Rodriguez, the National Chairperson for Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, in discussing the role of student leaders in safeguarding students’ rights.
Jem Garcia, program manager for The Scarecrow Project-Philippines, detailed global efforts by students in upholding their rights through strategic and nonviolent steps. Reports of campus press suppression through financial restrictions and censorship are clear violations against students’ rights, said Garcia. Some of these reports originated from a variety of school publications including the University of the Philippines-Cebu’s Tug-ani and of Saint Louis University’s White & Blue.
Paolo Driz, Vice President for Externals of Tapat, promised to lead efforts in safeguarding students’ rights, “The students should expect that the party will always spearhead advocacies that are relevant to the current state of our nation.”