PUP admin, student-activists in a tiff
Tension escalated in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) on Thursday after what students said was a “wave of attacks” against activists in the form of “tyrannical and Marcosian” policies, an accusation that PUP president Emmanuel de Guzman dismissed as “all lies.”
Militant groups from the university, which has a storied history of student activism, decried what they said was a clamping of democratic rights through the removal of their student regent, takeover of their campus publication, closure of student offices and deployment of police forces inside PUP.
“Leaders suspect they are being targeted by Malacañang, through the PUP administration, in an attempt to frustrate the growing protests vs Duterte’s fascism,” members of the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Konseho ng Polyteknikong Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (ANAK-PUP) said in a statement.
In an interview with the Inquirer, De Guzman said he had no idea what university students were depicting and that political party Samasa was out for retribution after losing its majority in last year’s student council elections.
“They cannot accept that they lost the election,” De Guzman said. “They are so used to special privileges.”
Movement Against Tyranny, a coalition of student activists and organizations, said the PUP administration replaced student regent Karl Paulie Anareta with an admin-appointed student representative, Elijah San Fernando, who it said was elected by parties sympathetic to the administration in an invitation-only congress.
“The next day, like a thief in the night, he was sworn in by the board of regents,” the group said.
According to De Guzman, aside from Anareta’s term limit having expired on March 21, the former student regent had failed to enrol for two consecutive semesters, which barred him from taking the position under Republic Act No. 8292.
De Guzman accused ANAK-PUP, which is in charge of holding a congress to select the student regent, of suspending the regent’s election because it knew Anareta would lose after the party’s electoral loss in the student council.
On Sept. 25, De Guzman said a standoff occurred at the Commission on Higher Education where both Anareta and Fernando appeared before the board of regents, both asserting they were the duly-elected student representative.
According to De Guzman, the board deliberated the matter and decided that allowing Anareta to remain student regent would be a violation of law given he was not a currently enrolled student.
The PUP president said after the decision, Anareta barged into the room and refused to leave, prompting security guards to escort him out.
According to Rejhon Modesto, ANAK-PUP president, the board of regents wanted Anareta out because he “represented the student opposition to the administration’s plans to implement new fees, mandatory uniform and the takeover of student institutions.”
“They are attacking student organizations to be able to implement corrupt fee collection schemes and policies,” Modesto said.
De Guzman denied any tuition fee increase in PUP, saying that his first promise when he began his tenure in 2012 was that he would not raise the tuition.
Students and the administration also clashed over their version of events regarding Gabriela Silang Hall, a two-story building intended for student activities.
“Yesterday, the administration closed the Gabriela Silang Hall,” student activists said in a statement. “Student offices and ‘tambayans’ in various colleges have been closed … Security officers have forcibly removed students.”
De Guzman told the Inquirer that Gabriela Silang Hall had not been closed, but that a weeklong standoff had occurred when administration officials were trying to get eight individuals, who allegedly made Gabriela Silang Hall their ‘private abode,’ to leave.
Of the eight individuals who occupied the building, De Guzman said only two had been students of PUP, while the other six were “complete outsiders” who were turning the hall into a “motel.”
De Guzman said the eight individuals left on Tuesday but had damaged property, including the lock, door and steel bars at the entrance and the restroom window, when they were kept out by administration officials on the night of Sept. 21 after they briefly left the building to participate in antimartial law rallies.
PUP students are planning nationwide campus protests this week to combat “repression and fascism.”
“We think Malacañang and their agents are behind these dirty tricks aimed at terrorizing Iskolars ng Bayan,” activists said. “They are terrified by the growing youth movement calling for an end to tyranny.”