Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has called on the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) to conduct a nationwide review of student handbooks and manuals that govern student discipline inside schools, following a spate of student rights violations reported in recent weeks.
Ridon filed House Resolution No. 1005 on Thursday to direct the CHTE to “conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on existing student handbooks, student manuals, and other rules and regulations governing student discipline – including Article XXI of CHED Memorandum Order No 40, series of 2008 or the Manual of Regulation for Private Higher Education Institutions, and Section 22 of CHED Memorandum Order No. 9, series of 2013 or the Enhanced Policies and Guidelines on Student Affairs and Services – for possibly violating constitutionally-guaranteed rights on organization, peaceable assembly, free speech and expression.”
The youth legislator noted that in the past weeks, several student leaders who led the campaign against the new spate of tuition increases were charged by their respective schools with disciplinary cases.
“Using repressive rules codified in individual student handbooks of schools, student leaders were harassed and taunted by school authorities for standing up and fighting for their democratic rights. It is time that we put an end to this,” Ridon said.
Spate of student rights violations
“During the consultation period for tuition increases for the next academic year, Kabataan Partylist teamed up with the National Union of Students of the Philippines and student councils in various schools to form Task Force Tuition Monitor and the alliance ‘Rise for Education,’ both of which spearheaded the campaign against tuition hikes,” Ridon recounted.
“We arranged various protests – ranging from armband wearing to demonstrations in Mendiola – in the past weeks. Student leaders from various public and private schools threw their full support to the movement against tuition hikes. In fact, we were able to file formal charges against schools in CHED for violating tuition increase guidelines,” he continued.
“Yet, just recently, cases of harassment and intimidation through the filing of disciplinary charges against student leaders have surfaced. This is despite the fact that they were only exercising their right to peaceable assembly and expression,” Ridon said.
Disciplinary cases ranging from suspension to exclusion from graduation rites were filed against student leaders from at least three universities: the National University, Far Eastern University, and La Salle Araneta University, the youth solon disclosed.
“We won’t disclose the names of students as the cases are still undergoing arbitration and negotiation. However, the fact remains that school authorities are still abusing their power to hinder dissent,” Ridon said.
Jurisprudence on student rights
Rep. Ridon explained that there is a long list of Philippine jurisprudence that upholds the rights to peaceable assembly and free speech of students, including the landmark case of Malabanan vs. Ramento.
“As reiterated by the Supreme Court in Malabanan vs. Ramento and subsequent decisions, students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. Just as any citizen of the Philippines is accorded the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, students are also entitled to such, and are therefore in liberty to express their views, thoughts and opinions in gatherings, rallies, and other similar protest actions inside or outside school premises,” Ridon said in HR 1005.
“In several decisions of the high court, our justices have continually struck down oppressive school policies that curtail the freedom of peaceable assembly, expression, and speech,” he added.
Repressive rules on student discipline
Ridon explained that colleges and universities “may have violated the Supreme Court’s doctrine of proportional penalty for disciplinary cases” by stipulating arbitrary and excessive penalties on student misconduct.
In HR 1005, Ridon provided a cursory list of contentious provisions found in current student handbooks of several schools:
Contentious provision in Student Handbook
|1. Colegio de San Juan de Letran
||4.2.1. Slanderous or libellous posting of message or printed words, pictures, or any form (e.g. Social Media) other than by spoken words or gestures
||Ranging from three-day suspension to maximum penalty of dismissal.
|4.2.27. Instigating any activity leading to stoppage of classes, preventing students or faculty members or school authorities from attending classes or entering school premises
|2. De La Salle University
||Sec. 220.127.116.11. Deliberate disruption of the academic functions or a school activity that tends to create disorder, tumult, breach of peace or serious disturbance not necessarily connected with any academic function or school activity
||Ranging from probation, suspension, to expulsion as determined by the Student Discipline Formation Board
|Sec. 18.104.22.168. Gross acts of disrespect in words or in deed that tend to put the University or any administrator, faculty member, co-academic personnel, security guard, maintenance personnel, student and visitor in ridicule or contempt
|5.5.5. “Illegal demonstration” includes a public show of feeling or opinion as by a mass meeting or parade accompanied by force, coercion or violence
|3. De La Salle Araneta University
||Under “Serious Offenses”
-Acts of gross disrespect in words or in deed, which tend to insult or subjects to public ridicule or contempt any member of the faculty, administration or support staff, other students and visitors
|For serious offenses, suspension from four to ten days
|Under “Grave Offenses”
-Acts that malign the good name and reputation of the school and its duly constituted authorities such as the malicious imputation of a crime, vice, or of any act, omission, condition status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause dishonor and contempt to the good name and reputation of the university
-Staging rally or mass action inside the campus without a permit
-Initiating walk-out from the classes
-Acts of subversion or insurgency including membership in any subversive organization working for the violent overthrow of the duly constituted government or in any illegal or immoral organization formed or established for the purpose and or propagating and/or engaging in unlawful and immoral acts and beliefs.
|For grave offenses, suspension from one semester to exclusion/expulsion
|4. Far Eastern University
||Section 3. Students shall not bring into the University objects, videos, films, pictures, or literatures which are morally offensive or subversive of the national interest
||Ranging from suspension to expulsion as determined by the Student Discipline office
|Section 8. Students shall at all times be respectful and proper in their conduct. They shall refrain from using language and/or committing acts in any form or medium, such as but not limited to social media, that are disrespectful, vulgar or indecent, scandalous, or which in any manner may cause anguish or tend to disturb or tarnish the good reputation and integrity of the University and its stakeholders
|Section 13. Students shall not form and maintain any unauthorized barricade, make or maintain any form of obstruction to any entrance to or exit from the University campus or prevent, coerce or threaten any other student, faculty member, official or personnel of the University from entering into or going out of the campus.
|5. Lyceum of the Philippines University
||7. Instigating, inciting, provoking, leading or taking part (actively or passively) in illegal and/or violent demonstrations or activities
|9. Recruitment/membership in a fraternity/sorority or any student organisation not recognized by the Lyceum of the Philippines University
|6. National University
||e. Deliberate disruption of an academic function or school activity which tends to create disorder, tumult, breach of peace or serious disturbance not necessarily connected with the function or activity
||Ranging from probation/written reprimand to suspension, and dismissal.
|j. Gross acts of disrespect in words or in deed that tend to put the University or any administrator, member of the faculty, co-academic personnel, security guards, maintenance personnel, students, and visitors in ridicule or contempt
|n. Acts that bring the name of the University into disrepute such as public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance, tending to cause dishonour, discredit or contempt to the name of the University
|s. Acts of subversion or insurgency
|7. San Beda College
||4. Possession or distribution of publications/e-publications, manuscript or other materials considered subversive as interpreted according to the existing laws
||Disciplinary probation for one semester and automatic suspension for the rest of the semester.
|13. Membership in any unauthorized organization such as fraternities and all other groups/organizations, the purposes of which are to use violence or subversion, or which employs as part of any of its ceremonies, rituals or practices, hazing or any act that results in injury to any person, through intimidation, coercion, extortion and any act that tends to injure, degrade, or humiliate any fellow student or an outsider even in mere conspiracy
||Expulsion with dishonorable dismissal.
|25. Engaging in any strike, disorderly picket, or demonstration as a means of first resort against the school or any of its departments; boycotting classes or entities, either directly or indirectly by oneself or through others; preventing students from attending classes and inciting them to violate school regulations
||Expulsion with dishonorable dismissal.
“The above-cited provisions contained in the student handbooks of several universities not only violate the doctrine of proportional sanction but also constitute violations of the constitutionally-guaranteed rights to peaceable assembly, speech and expression through prior restraint. There are even some schools that impose sanctions for joining organizations, which is a violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed right to organize,” Ridon explained in HR 1005.
The youth lawmaker also blamed Article XXI of CHED Memorandum Order No 40, series of 2008 or the Manual of Regulation for Private Higher Education Institutions, and Section 22 of CHED Memorandum Order No. 9, series of 2013 or the Enhanced Policies and Guidelines on Student Affairs and Services for serving as justification for schools to implement “anti-student policies.”
“The continued implementation of these repressive rules codified in student handbooks constitute a gross violation of constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Thus, there is an urgent need for CHED and the House of Representatives to review – and eventually repeal – such policies and guidelines,” Ridon stressed.
The youth solon hopes that CHTE will act upon his resolution “with urgency” when session resumes by May 5. “We need to make a drastic change, and we only have a few weeks in May to do it,” he said.###