Students and various progressive youth groups walked out from their classes to condemn the intensified neoliberal attacks on the youth, particularly their right to a free and accessible education.
Simultaneous decentralized actions were held across the country. In Manila, students from University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines Diliman and Manila, De La Salle University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and other schools marched to Mendiola anew to express their dissent against the colonial, commercialized and fascist characteristics of the current education system.
“We denounce the Duterte regime for the systematic and intensified neoliberal attacks against the youth and how they ceaselessly show how in favor their actions are to the ruling elite and to foreign powers such as the United States,” said College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) national president Jose Mari Callueng.
Callueng noted that government policies anchored on neoliberal framework have caused too much burden on the youth, stressing on the continued deregulation of tuition and other school fees and the implementation of K to 12.
“Our education system is now ran like big businesses. Policies that privatize and commercialize the education system should be scrapped,” he furthered.
He also slammed Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Patricia Licuanan on her remark that free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) is “anti-poor” and “anti-student.”
“The exorbitant tuition rates and its continued increases are what we should call anti-student and anti-poor. Licuanan’s position on free education is a manifestation that they are the main perpetuator of the unyielding neoliberal policies imposed on our education system,” Callueng stressed.
Licuanan’s remark was referring to the P8.3 billion fund that has been set aside to finance the tuition of students in the country’s 114 SUCs.
“It is appalling that even though there is a budget allotted to finance the tuition of students from SUCs, the capitalist character our government and the imperialist United States continues to manifest, encumbering the lives of the Filipino people through the high-cost of education,” he added.
Neoliberal policies also violate students’ democratic rights
“Students are not only burdened by the continuous tuition increases, their rights in exercising civil liberties are also marred by these neoliberal policies,” said Callueng.
He furthered that most schools and universities in the country imprecates the founding of progressive groups and organizations, and bars free speech on student publications—a few of the many ways on how school administrators suppress their students.
He also called on the youth to strongly denounce the implementation of mandatory Reserve Officers Training and Corps (ROTC) in senior high school, noting that the program has long been proven to be a machinery of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to spread militarization in schools.
“Along with Duterte’s declaration of all-out war, the ROTC will help the military to imbibe its fascist operations in academic institutions particularly to the students,” Callueng said, adding that the program is corrupt and that it will only foster a distorted sense of patriotism and nationalism geared to the interest of the ruling class and the imperialist United States.
He likewise called on Duterte to resume the peace talks to address the roots of armed conflict and to stop the all-out war which has intensified human rights violations.
“Duterte’s all-out war has targeted legal democratic mass organizations and civilians, and not the New People’s Army. It is important to note that the peace talks will benefit the Filipino people for it will resolve our main socio-economic problems like the widespread landlessness, low wages, lack of security and other predicaments besetting other sectors,” Callueng explained.
Since Duterte assumed presidency, 32 activists, farmer and indigenous leaders have already been killed. Nine casualties occurred since he declared the all-out war in February alone.
“CEGP joins the youth in their call for a free public education and the immediate junking of neoliberal policies. We will join the fight of youth and student groups across the country to assert our right to a free education that is nationalist, scientific rand mass oriented through these kinds of protests,” Callueng ended.###