Pressure on; UP Manila lifts tuition policy

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Facing snowballing protests and calls for his resignation, University of the Philippines Manila chancellor Manuel Agulto on Tuesday announced the lifting of the “no late payment” policy on tuition at a press briefing that did not allow questions from the media.

The new policy came four days after the death of freshman behavioral science student Kristel Tejada.

Tejada took her own life on March 15, two days after she filed a leave of absence because she could not pay her tuition for the second semester as her family had scrambled to pay off the loan she had taken out for her first-semester tuition.

Agulto denied Tejada’s request for a loan to cover the second semester, citing a university rule that prevents students from being enrolled when the semester has already begun.

Before the press briefing, Agulto and other UP Manila administration officials held a dialogue, which he described as “civil,” with the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and eight student leaders from various colleges concerning the financial process in enrollment.

Reading from a prepared statement, Agulto cited the directive of UP president Alfredo Pascual to all UP system chancellors and UP Cebu dean “to allow a reasonable amount of time for registration and payment of fees” in view of the issues raised regarding the tuition policy.

“Just to make it clear, this means that the no-late-payment policy has been lifted,” Agulto said.

“Any student with financial constraints will no longer have any problems with regard to tuition-payment deadline,” he added.

Professor Andrea Martinez, Tejada’s program adviser, welcomed the concrete steps being implemented by the administration but noted that the policy was only suspended as revocation of the university rule would involve a long process with the Board of Regents.

Not prostudent

“They can implement it again anytime. But at least this serves as an admission and a recognition that the policy is not prostudent and it burdened Kristel and other students,” Martinez said.

She said the faculty’s call for the resignation of Agulto and vice chancellor Josephine de Luna was not brought up during the dialogue because their immediate goal was the suspension of the tuition policy.

Scuffle

There was a scuffle with security guards as CAS students and members of militant youth groups stormed the UP-Philippine General Hospital main lobby demanding to be included in the closed-door dialogue. The Sanlakas party-list group also held a protest and spray-painted the signage of the CAS.

Student journalists of Manila Collegian were blocked at the press briefing that was held in a conference room at UP-PGH and guarded by a security detail.

Reporters who showed up at the PGH Oblation area, where the press briefing was supposed to be held, were told to go in one at a time and were escorted by security officers inside the conference room.

Agulto said that if Tejada’s parents would permit it, her body would be brought to CAS on Friday for the requested public viewing.

Martinez said the parents would not agree. Supporters initially wanted a viewing at the PGH chapel but it has a policy against it.

Apology

A professor, who attended the dialogue but requested not to be named for lack of authority to speak for Agulto, said the chancellor apologized “for some errors.”

“It was a very general apology,” the professor said.

Agulto said psychosocial support would be provided through the Office of Student Affairs and the PGH Department of Psychiatry.

“We will continue to strengthen our student-admin relations through constant dialogue and town hall meetings,” he said.

“We are still as we always have been, the University of the Philippines of, for and by the people. Education is everyone’s right,” he said, adding that the administration condoles with Tejada’s family.

Pressed for comment on calls for his resignation, Agulto held up his statement and said: “This explains it all. This is the main issue raised against me.”

Online petition

The creator of an online petition that quickly gained ground within a few days welcomed the news that UP Manila has suspended the policy that bars students, who do not pay their tuition on time, from attending classes.

The petition, which UP alumnus and former Inquirer reporter Alcuin Papa started on the website, www.change.org, on Friday, called on administrators of UP Manila to revoke the “no late payment” and “forced leave of absence” policies that were linked to the suicide earlier in the day of Tejada.

Papa’s petition quickly garnered 5,000 signatures within two days after he started it on Friday afternoon. As of press time, the petition had garnered 6,349 signatures, which according to change.org administrators made it the biggest and fastest-growing education related petition in the website.

“Due to the pressure we have brought on to the UP administration, this is a partial victory for our petition. We will continue to work for the total revocation of the repressive antistudent and antipoor policies of UP Manila,” Papa said Tuesday afternoon.

Ignored

During a news conference at UP Diliman on Monday, Papa tried to hand over to Agulto the petition along with the many comments by the signatories. Papa said Agulto and UP Manila vice chancellor for academic affairs Josephine de Luna ignored him.

“UP has a long history of providing underprivileged students with a chance of bettering themselves through higher education. Whether the policy is a reason for her suicide or not, policies such as the no late payment and forced leave of absence are anathema to the UP system’s nature as a ‘university of the people,”’ Papa said in his petition.

UP Los Baños

At the UP Los Baños (UPLB) campus in Laguna, students joined calls for officials of the UP Manila campus to step down.

“We belong to one community, facing the same problem over this ‘no late payment’ policy and tuition increases,” said UPLB student Maria Paula Sarigumba.

Sarigumba, an incoming university student councilor, said UPLB students would hold a luksang pamantasan (university mourning) this week for Tejada.

On Tuesday afternoon, she said around 100 students were expected to join an indignation rally and a candle-lighting to call for the scrapping of the no-late payment policy and other forms of tuition increases in state universities.

Draped Oblation

A black cloth was also draped on the UPLB Oblation statue on Tuesday to signify the protest.

“It may not be to that extent (to commit suicide) but there are several other students who find themselves in the same situation as Kristel’s,” Sarigumba said in a phone interview.

She cited, for instance, the case of UPLB student Ynik Ante whose proclamation as the elected University Student Council chair in 2012 was delayed due to unpaid tuition.

In Iloilo, students of UP Visayas (UPV) on Tuesday joined protest actions to demand an overhaul of the university’s tuition scheme and higher government funding for education.

Picket in Iloilo

Students on the UPV campuses in Iloilo City and in Miag-ao town wore black to mourn the death of Tejada.

In Miag-ao town, 44 kilometers south of the city, students held a picket and a minute of silence at the CAS building.

They were scheduled to hold a protest march in the evening from the dormitory area to the administration building where a program and candle-lighting activity will be held, said Angeli Louise Cando, secretary general of the UPV Samasa party alliance.

The students demanded the scrapping of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), a scheme which pegs a  tuition based on the income of a student’s family.

“We are also demanding a tuition rollback and greater subsidy to education,” John Philip Fuego, chairman of the CAS student council, said in a telephone interview.—With reports from Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and  Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas

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  • Eddie AAA Calderon

    I am happy for the change. But I just could not believe that a student has to forfeit her life to make the UP my alma mater implement the needed change. It is like a war where someone has to die in order to make change in the system.

    • Paulstronghold

      Rightly said. In the history of mankind, one must die in order to overturn a seemingly acceptable notion and/or practice just to change a faulty system. Ms Tejada undoubtedly, has personal problems and this tuition problem aggravated her situation that compelled her to end her life. It’s a complex issue. But as Christian, no amount of biblical truth will justify her committing suicide to resolve her problems. It is both an eye-opener to her family and to UP administration.

    • desi derata

      That arrogant autonomous UP should be overhauled from top to bottom. Majority of graduates are ingrate and prove to be very wily in committing fraud and corruption. So many are plagiarists.

      But why UP has to be oppressive? The odds in entering UP is skewed to the rich. I know that most of the Filipinos peak intellectually when they reach their college years. Graduates of public high school are in a disadvantaged position, with teachers who are lazy and schools lacking in teaching aids. UPCAT is an instrument of oppression. Why not focusing on the innate IQ of the applicant? Yes, there are extra-ordinary bright entrants from the provinces but they can’t survive because they don’t have the wherewithal, their parents are mostly uneducated, hence they need to have the means to change their future.

      The system in UP is oppressive. It perpetuates elitism and inequality. It thrives in influence peddling and “whom you know” relationships.

      Many students of UP drive to the campus, their parents can afford to send them to private universities.

      UP should provide a level playing field, it should extend help to students who really need help. The current vice-chancellor should be kicked out. She chose to utter the phrase to make Kristel feel that she did not belong to UP. She is not just brutally inconsiderate, she is cruel and heartless.

      No one should be denied good education just because she poor. No one!

  • Isko

    Is Philippine-style Arab Spring in the opting?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W7TPARCYJFCSA3PBQAM3MVZO3E kurakut

    NGAYON PA!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.pacquing.1 Ben Pacquing

    sayang na buhay pwede namang i hold muna ung mga grades at sa enrolment na lang siya kausapin at least may 2 months pa cilang makakadelihensyang mabayaran ang kulang sa tuition. may paraan kaya lang di cila marunong umintindi sa kahirapan ng kapwa na gustong makatapos at makatulong sa pamilya at bayan later on. sayang…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SPLUBLEOSERDBOIJTDOC6XIWGU mxsclxmxn

    SIN-ADORS and CONGRESSMEN don’t even have receipts to liquidated their PORK BARREL! So why so tight with the government SCHOLARS! The DEATH of KRISTEL is the BLOOD of CORRUPTIONS in the GOVERNMENT in ALL DEPARTMENTS!

    Removing the TUITUION POLICY is but JUST!

    This GOVT is no longer a SERVICE ORIENTED GOVT! All vital government services were already sold! MWSS, MANILA WATERS, PETRON, PAL, ELECTRICITY, (MERALCO), etc. Next, LRT/MRT! Anak ng Tipaklong!

    If they know don’t how to manage those services, individuals assigned to these services should RESIGN! Get a person to do the JOB right and effectively! Not SELL and SELL the important GOVT SERVICES!

    No MONEY! Anak ng tipaklong, ang laki ng PORK BARREL! Why not dissolve it! It ay nagpapahirap sa taong bayan at nagpapalaganap ng CORRUPTION!

  • Serom

    There should be ‘Study Now, Pay Later’ scheme in UP for students who cannot afford. Under the socialized tuition scheme of UP, I think Tejada qualifies to be exempted in paying tuition fees because of her family’s poverty.

  • M C

    MEMO No. 1 – TO: Benigno Simyon FROM: Your Boss. Issue an Executive Order within fifteen (15) after publication hereof providing a “Seed Money” of PP100M from your PP15 Billion President Social Fund given by PAGCOR and creating a nationwide KRISTEL EDUCATIONAL LOAN FUND (KELF) wherefrom students can borrow money to pay for tuition and miscellaneous fees, which loan is payable to DBP within ten years after graduation. Instead of wasting the amount for campaigning for the local election, instruct Budget Czar Abad to prepare the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) within ten (10) days and instruct DepEd to draw the Implementing Rules for immediate implementation in the coming school year. Certify to incoming Congress as urgent a Bill to mandate that all legislators set aside Thirty Percent (30%) of their respective PDAF (euphemistically called “pork barrel”) to augment KELF. FOR YOUR ATTENTION AND IMMEDIATE COMPLIANCE.

    • desi derata

      It seems it is too easy to order the President around.

      Being rude and discourteous does not make you smarter than the elected official.
      Can you not post your piece like a civilized, educated person?

  • Stun Black

    Zero Tuition Fee dapat ang ipaglaban ng mga nasa state universities. Education payback tax na lang monthly kapag may trabaho na. Para maging efficient ang mga unibersidad sa pagproduce ng mga employable citizens. Wala nang requirements na iisipin.

  • Dancing Bear

    Nice. After much pressure from the society, the UP admin can after all make an exception from the rule they’ve been quite sticklers for. I think there’s a fitting phrase in the vernacular which goes like this : PUEDE NAMAN PALA EH.

  • homer

    takot mawalan ng trabaho si agulto hahaha

  • artgarcia

    How to distinguish the real poor students to qualify from the programme from those who are making palusot will be a big challenge to the administrators.

  • Paliwaweng

    She ended her life to change a system. That few can dare. Whatever reasons some pundits wants to paint, for me, she was a hero.

    • Andrei Mendoza

      did she kill herself so that UP system will change? or did she kill herself to avoid embarrassment??

      I don’t think what she had in her mind was to “change the system” – mas realistic na “umiwas lang sya kahihiyan”

  • Tnosce

    True Democracy at work, majority rule ( Students vs The Board of Regent ).Lesson to be learned: Listen to your customers ( students ), customer is always right.

  • JasonBieber

    You just have to feel bad for everyone involved. You never want a lost of life to occur, especially due to schooling payment issue. At the same time, it feels bad for the Chancellor as well because he is only following the payment procedures that was set.

    It’s hard to put blame on one person but the government and the Administration should also take a hard look at the lack of programs they have for PH education. They have not done enough to help college students and their payments.

  • julieboy

    Too late the hero UP!! Someone has to die before you realize what you did was wrong.Sayang na sayang ang buhay ng bata,all she wanted is a future for her and her family.

  • bogli_anakdami

    … how come none of the flipland’s traposakals kill themselves as a conduit for change?
    … sana meron… para haping-hapi ang mga flip gung gongs…

  • JasonBieber

    It would be terrific if PNoy and his people in their nice Palace finally did something significant for college student in helping them study without the major headache of not having money to pay tuition.

    During GMA years she had a lot of scholarships and study now pay later programs to help college students.

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