Several student publications staged a symbolic protest action in front of the Mendiola Peace Arch on July 5, urging President Benigno Aquino III’s administration to change its “flawed and myopic” education policies and condemning the continuing campus press freedom violations.
In the action, staffers from different publications threw “angry birds” across the peace arch, symbolizing the “outrage” of the youth over Aquino’s refusal to increase the budget for education and its prescribed, ineffective measures, said Trina Federis, national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the oldest and widest alliance of student publications nationwide. The action was designed after the popular videogame “Angry Birds,” in which the objective is to launch wingless birds at structures housing the pigs that stole their eggs.
In other regions, CEGP chapters also held their protest actions. In Negros, student publications had a “torch parade” against campus press repression, while the Davao local chapter held a press conference on the state of the campus press. The CEGP Pampanga chapter, meanwhile, started a “radio hopping” campaign against Aquino’s education policies.
“Like these birds, the students have been pushed against the wall, virtually wingless because they no longer have access to quality education. They were wingless with their stunted potential because dilapidated facilities, lack of teachers, classroom shortage and the skyrocketing school fees have hindered their educational development,” said Federis.
“The pig is housed by this structure we call the Malacañang, and is currently the president of the republic. If he does not change course in terms of his policies, the ‘angry students’ will be out in a show of force. This administration of pigs will have to pay dearly for stealing our right to affordable education,” said Federis.
Under the Aquino administration, only 11 percent of the national budget was allotted to education, lower than the allocation of Arroyo administration at 13 percent and the Estrada administration at 18 percent.
Presently, public schools still lack 152,000 classrooms, 95.5 million textbooks, 103,500 teachers, 13.5 million chairs, and 424,600 water and sanitation facilities, according to Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, citing data from the Department of Education DepEd.
With the current conditions in many public schools, it is only logical that the Aquino administration should increase the budget for education, said Christopher Pasion, CEGP national deputy secretary general.
“However, the administration implemented the K+12 program, as if adding two years to the cycle would solve the dilemma of worsening quality of education,” said Pasion. The length of the education cycle has no direct correlation to the quality of education, he explained, adding that students in other countries with cycles shorter than the Philippines’ garnered excellent scores in aptitude exams.
The worsening crisis in education has only paved way for campus press freedom violations, said Pasion. “Many student publications have fearlessly condemned anti-student policies like massive tuition increases and imposition of dubious miscellaneous fees. And always, the response of the school administration is to silence the campus press by censorship, harassment of staffers, withholding of funds and even tolerating military surveillance,” he added.
The CEGP has documented 357 cases of campus press freedom violations for the past schoolyear.
Twenty days before its 80th anniversary and two weeks before the national youth walkout on 19, the CEGP declared that it will continue to lead the campaign against campus press repression, which is only a “repercussion of the education crisis,” said Federis.