UP studes on Rody threat: You drop out
Why not give up your slot instead?
University of the Philippines (UP) students on Friday hurled this challenge to President Duterte after the Chief Executive threatened to give the scholarship slots of protesting students to young members of indigenous peoples (IPs) or “lumad.”
The UP students walked out of their classes in Diliman, Quezon City, on Thursday to join street protests during the National Day of Walkout Against Tyranny and Dictatorship.
“If there is anyone who needs to give up his slot, it is none other than Rodrigo Duterte himself,” the militant student group Stand-UP said in a statement.
Stand-UP, whose acronym means Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP, also slammed the President for his flip-flopping stance on the lumad, whom he had threatened to bomb last year.
The Kabataan party-list group said the administration could expect more class walkouts to denounce the President’s “dictatorship.”
‘Free education’ scam
“His statement exposes the true nature of his ‘free education’ scam: not all will benefit; instead of guaranteeing the right of every child to education, he dangles it around every time there is opposition to his fanatical dictatorship,” Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement on Friday.
“On Feb. 23, expect even more students to walk out of their classes to fight Duterte’s dictatorship and tyrannical attacks on the youth and the people,” Elago added.
In a statement on Friday, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao also slammed Mr. Duterte’s threat to kick out protesting UP students as an “act of oppression” and said that the youth and students “do not answer to Duterte but to the oppressed Filipino people.”
UP students, faculty and alumni had a similar response to Mr. Duterte’s threat: Expect more rallies ahead.
“The Iskolar ng Bayan is geared to launch bigger protest actions, most especially because (the President’s) recent policies, such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law, attack the democratic rights of the Filipino,” said Shari Oliquino, who represents the student body in the board of regents, the highest policymaking body in the university.
Journalism professor Danilo Arao of the UP College of Mass Communication described the President’s threat as tantamount to curtailing free speech and dissent.
“Authoritarianism covers utter disregard for human rights,” the UP alumnus said. “At the rate he’s going, history could end up remembering (Mr. Duterte) as worse than the [late dictator Ferdinand] Marcos.”
Arao added: “Hope Duterte heeds this warning: Don’t pick a fight with the militant youth. You won’t win,” he said.
The Save Our Schools Network Mindanao, an alliance of organizations advocating the rights of indigenous children, stood by the protesting UP students.
“They provided us sanctuary and solidarity [when the] lumad students were [being] threatened by the President [who said] he would order the bombing of their schools,” recalled its spokesperson Rius Valle.
In a speech during the Mindanao IP leaders’ summit in Davao City on Thursday, the President addressed the protesting UP students: “Get out of there and I will give (your slots) to intelligent (tribal people) here. I’ll put them in your stead.”
“Do not go to school anymore. Just stay on the streets,” the President added.
Casilao said he found ironic Mr. Duterte’s threat to give away the UP students’ scholarship slots to the lumad when the President had threatened to bomb the indigenous peoples’ schools in November last year on suspicion that these were being used to teach students to rebel against the government.
“Now suddenly, he wants the lumad to continue their schooling while the militarization of their communities, including their schools, continues,” he added.
Casilao also scored Mr. Duterte’s pronouncement that he would personally choose investors for the lumads’ ancestral domain.
In a recent speech, the President asked hundreds of lumad leaders in Mindanao to open up their ancestral domain to investors, a move long opposed by communities whose lands are protected under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.
“(The President) intends to sell the IP lands to local oligarchs and foreign investors. This only means the wholesale auction of IP lands which definitely displaces thousands of indigenous people out of their communities,” the Anakpawis representative said.
Stand-UP said the bigger protest on Feb. 23 would not only gather students, but also teachers, administrators and vendors from the entire UP community.