[14 Mar 2014 | Comments Off | 321 views]

Marking the first year since the death of UP Manila freshman Kristel Tejada, students from various public and private universities and colleges in the country walk out of their classes to signify their growing discontent against the “decrepit” education system in the country and the “death of affordable and accessible education.”

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[2 Apr 2014 | Comments Off | 302 views]

Youth and student groups picket CHED hearing on tuition hikes

 

As the Commission on Higher Education-National Capital Region (CHED-NCR) begins the deliberations on the proposed tuition increases in various colleges and universities in Metro Manila, youth and student groups led by Kabataan Partylist and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) picketed outside the CHED Main Office in Quezon City to call on the commission to “act judiciously” on the complaints filed by students and halt all impending tuition hikes for the next academic year. 

By virtue of Section 11 of CHED Memorandum Order No. 3 series of 2012 (CMO 3-2012), CHED-NCR has reconvened the Regional Multi-Sectoral Committee on Tuition and Other School Fees (RMSCTOF) – a monitoring body composed of representatives from various government agencies and representatives from school administrations, teachers, and students – to tackle several complaints against impending tuition hikes. 

Over the course of the past few weeks, a total of 8 complaints regarding violation of tuition increase regulations were filed before CHED-NCR. 

The schools that have allegedly violated the rules and procedures stipulated in CMO 3-2012 include the National University, De La Salle Araneta University, Far Eastern University, San Beda College, FEATI University, University of Manila, University of Sto. Tomas, and University of the East. 

Respective student petitioners cite various violations committed by the said schools, including non-issuance of notices of tuition increase consultations, refusal to present financial statements, unjustifiable tuition hike rates, and bogus fee increase consultations. 

Student petitioners also reported cases of student right violations perpetrated by school administrations against student leaders who initiated anti-tuition hike campaigns in their schools. 

According to independent task force Tuition Monitor, at least 400 colleges and universities in the country have signified their intent to increase tuition and other school fees for AY 2014-2015, with at least 100 coming from NCR alone. 

Article VI of CMO 3-2012 stipulates that complaints and grievances regarding increases in tuition and other school fees can be filed through the concerned CHED regional office. 

“In case of any violation of the provisions of these guidelines, the concerned CHED regional office, after complying with the foregoing procedures, and upon recommendation of the Regional Multi-Sectoral Committee on Tuition and Other School Fees, may bar the HEI or cancel its application for fees increase and introduction of new fees of HEI from effecting other school fee increases and new fees, without prejudice to the filing of administrative and criminal charges against it and/or its responsible officers acting knowingly under existing laws,” Section 14 Article VI of CMO 3-2012 stated. 

‘Stop illegal fee increases’

In a position paper submitted by the NUSP, a member of the RMSCTOF, the student union called on CHED-NCR to “reject immediately and unconditionally all applications on tuition and other school fees hikes of the HEIs who clearly violated the guidelines.” 

“CHED should likewise restrain other schools with reports of violations from increasing all fees until the commission conducts further investigation,” NUSP said. 

The student union further demanded that “in light of the rampant and wholesale violation of CMO 3-2012, it is imperative that the Commission should freeze all pending fee hikes.” 

CHED-NCR has until April 15 to decide on the tuition increase proposals and the student complaints. 

Parallel congressional probe

Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that CMO 3-2012 is “up for review” at the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE). 

“Once the session resumes on May 5, we will immediately push for the CHTE to commence the review of the aforementioned regulation,” Ridon said. 

Ridon has earlier filed House Resolution No. 756 which calls on the CHTE to “conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the implementation of existing tuition and other fee increase guidelines and regulations, particularly Commission on Higher Education Memorandum Order No 3-2012, the enforcement of which has resulted to the passage of unjustifiable, exorbitant, and redundant tuition and other fee increases in hundreds of schools in the past years.” 

“If the implementation of CMO 3-2012 is not immediately enjoined, millions of Filipinos will continue to suffer great or irreparable injury, with the threat of inaccessibility of education resulting in the dropping out of thousands from school,” Ridon said in HR 756.###

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[1 Apr 2014 | Comments Off | 289 views]

K-12 and calendar shift ‘deeply connected’ – youth lawmaker

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon on Tuesday called on the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to stop the impending academic calendar shift proposed by several universities in the country. 

“CHED actually has the power to stop the academic calendar shift, at least for private higher education institutions,” Ridon said, citing pertinent sections of CHED Memorandum Order No. 40, series of 2008, or the Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education Institutions (MORPHE). 

Section 78 of MORPHE prescribes a June opening date for academic years of all higher education institutions (HEIs). 

Section 79 of MORPHE meanwhile states, “Any change in the prescribed school calendar shall require the approval of the Commission. The application shall be filed with the Regional Office concerned not later than fifteen (15) days before the opening of the school term.” 

“Considering that all changes in the academic calendar of private HEIs need CHED approval, the commission then has the power to reject any and all proposals for calendar shifts,” Ridon said. 

The University of Sto. Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University, and Adamson University are among the private HEIs that initially expressed their intent to move the start of their respective school years. 

“Disapproving the proposed calendar shift is the most logical thing to do, considering that even CHED’s technical working group on the issue advised against it,” the youth solon added. 

CHED released a statement last March 26 wherein it said that the commission “does not advise a change in the academic calendar,” explaining that a June opening is the “most feasible” considering factors including the agricultural cycle, climate, and integration with the basic education system of the country. 

“We urge CHED not only to advise against the academic calendar shift, but to rule against any and all proposals for such,” Ridon said. 

Ridon, along with youth groups Anakbayan and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), earlier objected to the proposed academic calendar shift, arguing that the “August-May calendar is incongruent with the climate, culture, and orientation of our education system that it poses dire ramifications to our students and faculty.” 

The youth solon also warned against the rise of “education tourism” due to the calendar shift. 

“Of course, if education becomes another tourist attraction, then we foresee that tuition rates would also come at tourist prices,” Ridon said, echoing a statement from NUSP that predicts a rise in “commercialization and privatization” as a result of the academic calendar shift. 

Profit ties K-12 and acad calendar shift

Meanwhile, Ridon asserted that the K-12 Program and the academic calendar shift are “deep connected.” 

“If we analyze the situation further, we would see that the two issues are actually connected. K-12 is supposedly designed to equip students with technical-vocational skills that would allow them to find employment even without reaching college.” 

“Meanwhile, the academic calendar shift is intended to ‘harmonize’ the school year in the Philippines with that of foreign schools, specifically in ASEAN countries. This would in turn result to a surge in foreign student enrolment.” 

“Putting two and two together, capitalist owners of private universities may be trying to offset the projected decrease in college enrolment due to K-12 by finding ways to boost foreign enrolment. The academic calendar shift can thus be seen as a way for capitalist college educators to recoup lost profits due to K-12,” Ridon explained at length. 

“Just as we oppose K-12 for being a tool to further the country’s labor export policy, we also oppose the academic calendar shift as a means for greedy school owners to increase profits through foreign enrolment,” Ridon concluded.###

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[28 Mar 2014 | Comments Off | 282 views]

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: 

School

Contentious provision in Student Handbook

Penalty

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. 5.3.1.4. 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. 5.3.1.9. 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 Exclusion
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.###

 

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[25 Mar 2014 | Comments Off | 255 views]

The arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, along with their five other companions, in Cebu last Saturday bodes ill for the stalled peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and is marred with several legal infirmities, youth group Kabataan Partylist said Tuesday. 

“As what has been pointed out earlier by past members of GPH-NDFP negotiating panels, the illegal arrest of Tiamzon, Austria, and their companions is a grave violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Every day they spend incarcerated is a repulsive insult to the whole peace process,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon. 

The NDFP has earlier disclosed that Austria is holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name and Tiamzon is the holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND 978227 under the assumed name “Crising Banaag.” 

“What is more alarming is the Aquino administration’s sudden pronouncement that JASIG is no longer in effect due to the NDFP’s failure to validate the identities of its peace consultants. This is pure doublespeak on part of the Aquino administration – how could our government continue harping about peace when it can’t even adhere to and implement basic agreements such as mutual protection and immunity guarantees?” Ridon asked. 

“It is treacherous and uncouth for the Aquino administration to feign adherence to JASIG up until a point when they’ve captured the Tiamzons, then suddenly – poof – JASIG’s not in effect anymore. It is a move deprived of any sense of honor or decency,” he added. 

“If Tiamzon and Austria are truly high-ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as the military purports them to be, then it is all the more essential that their safety and immunity from arrest is guaranteed. If they prove to be truly senior officials of the CPP, then they have a large role to play in the continuation of the peace negotiations – not unless Aquino is just being hypocritical about the peace process and do not actually want the talks to prosper,” Ridon said. 

Trumped-up charges

Kabataan Partylist likewise slammed the filing of trumped-up charges against Tiamzon, Austria, and their companions, who were arrested for the crimes of frustrated murder and murder. 

Ridon argued that the government has filed trumped-up charges against the couple to keep them in prison and deprive them of their right to bail. 

“Filing long-shot trumped-up charges is a common tactic utilized by counterinsurgency operators to provide legal basis for the incarceration of political prisoners. In this case, common crimes were hurdled against the couple and their alleged staff members. Now, additional charges of illegal possession of firearms has been filed, despite issues of planted evidence being raised by their legal counsel. All of these conform to the pattern of abuse used by the military time and again to quell political dissenters,” Ridon said. 

“Proof to this is the fact that despite being considered as senior officials of the CPP, the government has not filed rebellion charges against them,” Ridon said. 

“In People vs. Amado V. Hernandez promulgated in 1956, and in subsequent rulings, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that rebellion may not be complexed with other offenses committed in connection with the said act. The government knows this. That’s why they’re not filing rebellion charges,” Ridon said. 

He explained that if the government charges the couple with rebellion, the other charges will be dropped and subsumed in a single case. 

“By not filing rebellion charges, the government also wants to deprive the couple of their right to bail,” he added. While rebellion is a bailable offense, murder is not.

“Given such legal infirmities, we demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained NDFP consultants, along with their staff. Furthermore, we strongly urge the Aquino administration to continue the stalled peace negotiations with the NDFP and discontinue its treacherous campaign of incarcerating peace consultants,” Ridon ended.###

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[17 Mar 2014 | Comments Off | 306 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has called on Congress to conduct an onsite investigation on the reported dumping of spoiled relief goods meant for Typhoon Yolanda victims.

In House Resolution No. 976 filed this afternoon, Ridon asked the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to go to the town of Palo in Leyte, where the dumping and burying of spoiled food packs meant for typhoon survivors have allegedly taken place.

According to the National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Situational Report No. 107 dated March 14, 2014, Task Force Food and Water Distribution – headed by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman – was able to distribute a total of “3,361,993 food/rice packs, 544,234 liters of water, 142,941 canned goods, and 244,444 high energy biscuits in Tacloban City, Ormoc City, Baybay City and other municipalities in Leyte Province, Eastern Samar, Western Samar, Biliran, and Southern Leyte as of December 24 last year.

However, recent reports have revealed that “truckloads of spoiled relief” have been discarded and buried in the municipal dumpsite of Palo, Leyte.

Soliman has since denied said allegations. However, in recent media reports, Soliman was quoted as saying that while the burying of spoiled goods indeed transpired, only “one sack of used clothing, one sack of biscuits, one sack of cup noodles, and half a sack of rice” were included.

“At present, what we have are initial reports from witnesses in the town of Palo. And their eyewitness accounts vary greatly from what Sec. Soliman reports. I believe that there is a deliberate information embargo implemented by the national government to cover up this issue, that is why we need to conduct an onsite investigation,” Ridon said.

In HR 976, Ridon also stressed the need for the formation of a fact-finding mission composed of experts and independent bodies to aid in the onsite investigation, which will not be limited and “would probably extend to other provinces.”

“Such onsite investigation by members of Congress should be held as scientifically and as objectively as possible, and as such, a fact-finding mission composed by independent bodies and organizations with expertise on the matter must be formed to aid in the onsite investigation,” Ridon explained in HR 976.

“We need all the help we can gather to pinpoint other areas where similar dumping of spoiled goods transpired,” he added.

“If proven accurate, the reported dumping and burying of spoiled relief goods may shed light on the actual scope of the government’s inefficiency in handling relief and rehabilitation efforts, resulting to a gross disadvantage to our sufferingkababayans, some of whom need to scavenge even spoiled food packs just to survive,” Ridon explained.###