IN DEFENSE OF OUR STUDENT GOVERNMENT: DISCUSSION ON ISSUES REGARDING THE FEBFAIR
What, in the surface, is the most apparent FebFair-related problem that UPLB students and the whole UPLB community?
The most apparent problem of the UPLB community this FebFair is the lack of power supply for organization booths and merchandising sponsors.
What reasons do the Velasco administration and its cohorts give to explain the abovementioned problems?
The Velasco administration and its cohorts make the USC appear responsible for the said problem. Accordingly, the USC failed to “comply with” the conditions set by Memo 007 (Series of 2010). Also, this administration tries to feed to us the illusion that failure to “comply with” the conditions set by Memo 007 is tantamount to violating existing university rules and regulations.
Is it true that the USC failed to comply with the conditions laid out in Memo 007?
Yes and no. No, because the USC took every necessary step and correspondence with concerned units to ensure the smooth conduct of the FebFair. As a matter of fact, these concerned units favourably endorsed the USC’s requests regarding the FebFair. Yes, because the USC condemned items no. 5 (on participation of organizations), 6 (on so-called private concessionaires) and 7 (on the financial statement of past two student councils) of Memo 007 on grounds that these are undemocratic, anti-student and simply flawed.
It is wrong to say that the USC should act in pursuit of Memo 007, to accept that the conditions imposed by Chancellor Velasco are just and reasonable. It is wrong to say that the USC should try to do what the administration demanded, to “comply with” what the administration dictates. Instead, the USC should act—and acted—in pursuit of the interests of the students. The USC acted according to what it is mandated to do.
Why did the USC oppose item no. 5?
Non-recognized orgs. Memo 007 states that only recognized organizations may participate in the FebFair. The thinking behind this condition is flawed. The FebFair is not only for recognized organizations, but for the whole UPLB community, which includes every student—member or non-member of a recognized organization. As a matter of fact, even outsiders participate in the FebFair. To limit participation only to recognized organizations is to do away with the atmosphere of unity that the FebFair is supposed to create.
The right of an organization to do whatever activity it wants to pursue is not based on its being “recognized”. Instead, it is the recognition of organizations that is based on their being legitimate, on their being able to justify themselves as organizations, on their being capable to do what an organization does. To think otherwise is to think distortedly. Such thinking should be turned upside down for it to stand right side up.
If two or more people gather and act together to accomplish a goal, that already is organizing; that
already is to form an organization. And to organize is a necessary right, for otherwise, we will not be able to do anything collectively. In fact, we will not be able to do anything socially significant at all!
To limit participation in the FebFair only to “recognized” organizations is to go against the necessary and constitutionally-guaranteed right to organize; to kill the essence of being an organization; to incapacitate organizations and dissolve them as such. To disallow some organizations to participate in the FebFair is to contradict the meaning of “organization”, i.e., to act together to accomplish a goal.
It is important to note that to disallow participation of non-recognized organizations is to make the situation of these organizations worse. Let us ask: In the first place, why did some organizations fail to have themselves recognized by the Student Organizations and Activities Division (SOAD)? Because the recognition policies set by SOAD/OSA are arbitrary and stringent, i.e the Revised Rules on Student Conduct and Discipline and OSA Memo No. 1.
The FebFair is an opportunity for organizations to have themselves consolidated and, possibly, to increase their membership. If the USC will not allow them to participate in the Fair, their own government shall be responsible for making it harder for organizations to have themselves recognized.
Why did the USC resist in following item no. 6?
“Private concessionaires”. The administration wants the so-called private concessionaires to deal with UPLB Business Affairs Office (BAO) in order for them to carry out their operations during the FebFair. The USC opposed this because the BAO has no right to interfere with the dealings of the USC and the small-scale merchants. These so-called “private concessionaires” are in fact sponsors of the FebFair that the USC needs to protect to the utmost of its abilities.
To make an analogy: If an organization wants to hold a major activity, it needs sponsors to ensure that its plans will pursue. The terms and conditions of the sponsorship packages depend on what the sponsors and the organization shall agree upon. These include what contribution (in cash or in kind) the sponsors may offer and what “gimmicks” the sponsors may conduct during the activity to promote themselves. No other party may interfere with the terms and conditions of the sponsorship packages. Now, of course the organizer of the activity needs a venue to hold its activity or – in the case of a UPLB organization – needs to use facilities in the university. Now, has any organization experienced interference by the BAO with their dealings with their activity sponsors? Should organizations expect such interference? Now, why expect it to happen not with a student organization, but with an autonomous student institution?
The FebFair is not a profit-oriented activity. To allow the BAO to interfere is to tantamount to conceding that it is a profit-oriented activity – something that the holding of FebFair is diametrically opposed to. The history of the FebFair is a history of protest against campus commercialization and repression.
To submit to item 6 of Memo 007 is to allow interference by the administration with the dealings of USC and the small-scale merchants.
In addition, to allow the administration to forbid the small-scale merchants to participate in the FebFair is tantamount to having an empty stage during the FebFair. The small-scale merchants as sponsors of the fair are the lifeblood of the Fair activities. Without them, the activities of the Fair will not pursue.
The possibility of higher “rents” may occur in the following years if the USC allow the administration to unilaterally declare how much the small-scale merchants should contribute to the Fair. (It is important to note, however, that the USC is not collecting “rent” but is receiving contribution from its sponsors, i.e., the small-scale merchants).
Why did the USC resist in following item no. 7 of Memo 007?
Financial reports of past two USC’s. The Velasco administration demands the USC to submit the financial statement of the FebFairs organized by USC 2007 – 2008 and 2008 – 2009. Again, the administration has no right to demand the USC to submit its financial report of the FebFair to the administration.
As an autonomous institution, the USC is not required to pass the financial report of the FebFair to the administration. As a matter of fact, the USC should not pass the said financial report to the administration for to do so would be to surrender its autonomy.
The USC is required to give a copy of its financial statement only in cases when it uses the student fund. This is the fund gathered from the student fee that we pay every semester. This fund is held in trust by the administration, but can only be used by the USC. For documentation purposes, the USC needs to give a copy of how it used the student fund in order for the administration to record how this fund that passed through its coffers are used. It is important to note, however, that the administration has never released the student fund for a year now.
The obligation of the USC is only to its constituents. The USC releases its financial statement by making it known to the students through publishing in the UPLB Perspective. Sadly, the UPLB Perspective is unable to release as many copies as before because its fund is withheld by the university.
To submit to the condition set by item 7 of Memo 007 is tantamount to surrendering the autonomy of the USC. It would be to allow the administration to meddle with its financial operations.
Is it true that defying Memo 007 violates university rules and regulations?
No. It is important to note here that the administration until now fails to state which rules and regulations the USC would be violating if it holds the Fair against items 5, 6 and 7 of Memo 007.
The USC constitution, is ratified by 95.5% of 75.54% of the UPLB studentry who voted during the 2008 plebiscite on recognizing the 1984 USC constitution, is already a part of the UP Code. It guarantees the autonomy of student councils and declares as part of its principles the unwavering commitment to serve the students. Hence, if there is any violation here it is the unilateral imposition of Memo 007.
Is it true that the administration may deprive the USC of use of facilities?
No. The USC has the right to use university facilities for free. Every first semester, it uses that right when it holds Isko’t Iska, a theatrical production that showcases issues in UPLB. Every second semester, it uses that right when it holds the February Fair. Autonomy doesn’t mean isolation. The argument that since the USC is autonomous, it should find its own venue, its own facilities and the like is flawed. It is tantamount to saying that the USC should find its own campus!
In what way has the USC uphold its autonomy by remaining firm in defying items 5, 6 and 7 of Memo 007?
Autonomy is the essence of the USC. Without autonomy, it would be unable to serve the interests of the students.
We may say that the USC is the union of students who face the administration to forward the students’ demands. A union of workers deal with company management on an equal footing. If it starts to deal with the management as its inferior, it would be futile to have negotiations anymore.
Why can we say that the Velasco administration is the one responsible for the problems of the Fair?
This time, it is necessary to raise our discussion to a higher plane – to see this issue as a political affair. Here, we can conclude that the Velasco administration is trying to prevent the holding of the February Fair.
What events confirm the conclusion that Chancellor Velasco is preventing the holding of the Fair?
Last January 7, 2010, the USC held a Council of Student Leaders meeting where the FebFair plan was deliberated and finalized.
The following week, OSA called for an assembly of organizations. No agenda was presented when the organizations were called. Even the USC was not properly informed. During the meeting OSA Director Lt. Col. Vivian V. Gonzales said that the USC sent a letter asking for a dialogue regarding the FebFair. However, she added that the plan of the FebFair was not explained by the USC, so accordingly she called for an assembly of organization wherein they may plan for the Fair. The USC, however, explained that they already had a plan, the copy of which was attached to the letter.
It is important to note here that as early as December 2009, the USC sent letters requesting for a dialogue with the administration with regards to the holding of the February Fair. Several times, however, the USC is ignored if not denied. Chancellor Velasco said that the USC should hold a dialogue with OSA and not with him (contrary to what is usually practiced since earlier times). Hence, the letter to OSA that Lt. Col. Vivian Gonzales talked about.
Back to the assembly. Since there is already a plan, what happened was a mere reiteration and clarification of the FebFair plan. The USC asked Col. Gonzales when the dialogue would be held. Col. Gonzales replied that no dialogue is necessary and whatever plan the USC and organizations would be able to come up with is final. “That’s it!” she said. So after the assembly, we would expect that no problem with the Fair will happen.
However, the week after the assembly, and after the January 15 Walk-Out of 800 students against Large Class Policy, the Office of the Chancellor released Memo 007 on January 18 stating that Velasco approves the holding of February Fair “in principle,” subject to certain conditions. This memo even stated that if the USC fails to comply with the conditions it set, the Office of the Chancellor will use its prerogative to assign any student group to organize the FebFair (as if the Office of the Chancellor really has that prerogative).
The USC tried to ask once again for a dialogue to appeal items 5, 6 and 7 of the memorandum, but the Chancellor denied the need for such a dialogue. Finally, a dialogue was held only a few weeks before the Fair, attended by the USC and representatives of the offices concerned (e.g., PPMSO, OVCCA, OSA, etc.) except for the Office of the Chancellor. In essence, the administration insisted that the USC comply with Memo 007. The USC insisted that items 5, 6 and 7 should be scrapped. However, when OSA released a letter summarizing what happened during the meeting it made the USC appear to have conceded with what the memo provides.
Here we can already see the inconsistency of the administration. While Velasco’s administration wants to make it appear that the final decision for the conduct of the FebFair rests solely on the studentry, it issued Memo 007 that imposes unacceptable conditions, and if the USC failed to “comply with” these conditions, then the USC has already violated university rules and regulations. The political maneuvering to put the USC in a bad light, and therefore take the right of organizing the FebFair from its hands, is already too obvious.
Yet we insisted and continued to fight for the objective aspirations and legitimate interests of the students. Because the whole affair has already transcended diplomacy, we were forced to show our collective force and barricaded the UPLB Gate and pushed through a “Protest Fair” as a protest against this administration.
The disgust of the studentry on the administration has already gotten out of administration’s hand that
in an act of desperation, the OSA through its Officer in Charge Rowena Cardenas imposed a preventive suspension on the USC and even on a non-member of the council. We can say that this suspension order is nothing but a political and tactical ploy to divide the ranks of the studentry.
It is apparent that the administration is only trying to save its face and is trying to transfer the blame to the USC. One tactic in pursuance of this goal is threatening to suspend the top three of the organizations who will participate in the FebFair, although no written order has been released to such effect. Another ploy is the meeting of more or less 22 organizations and local councils with the administration, supposedly to fix matters and push through with the FebFair. The administration has taken advantage of the desire of the students to push through with the FebFair in order to save its face. In this divisive tactic, the same litanies were launched by the administration, citing that the USC failed to “comply with” the unreasonable conditions of Velasco’s undemocratic leadership. That the Velasco administration conceded to talk with the students – it does not matter if it is with the USC or not – is still the studentry’s victory because we have pressured the administration to face us at last, after we have shown political force with a series of barricades at the UPLB gate.
The administration also threatened to sue the provider of the generator set that will be used for the FebFair even in the absence of any basis to do as such. When the guards at the gate were asked where the written memorandum released by the Office of the Chancellor is, they answered that there is none and that the order was only relayed verbally from the higher offices.
Let us remember that these desperate acts of the administration are brought about by our victories. Our collective force has isolated Velasco’s administration and it is now unable to face the unbeatable logic of the USC and the larger ranks of the studentry.
Why is there no basis for the preventive suspension?
The preventive suspension did not undergo due process. In a conversation, Atty. Peralta said the Student Disciplinary Tribunal was not informed of the suspension. Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo commented that the OSA, much less a mere Officer in Charge, has no authority to impose preventive suspension; only the Chancellor has such powers. It is even preposterous that Leo “XL” Fuentes, who is not in any way connected with the FebFair organizing, was also suspended.
What are the other bases for pinning the Velasco administration as the root cause of FebFair intervention?
The Velasco administration is an administration steeped in various commercialization scheme and repressive policies. His administration condoned red-tagging of progressive groups and individuals and calls it a mere “exercise of academic freedom,” attempted repeatedly to discredit our Student Regent, our lone representative in the Board of Regents, and undemocratically imposed the implementation of the Large Lecture Class Policy, among many others.
The issue regarding this year’s FebFair happened only during Velasco’s term. No conditions were necessary before; a dialogue with the chancellor was enough. It would not be unreasonable to conclude, therefore, that behind all these is politics. The FebFair is a potent venue for airing students’ concerns and legitimate calls. It is a venue where policies such as the Large Lecture Class Policy and Tuition and other Fees Increase can be exposed and opposed by the studentry.
What was our response to the administration’s attempt to prevent the holding of the FebFair?
We defied the administration with a series of barricades. We showed that with our collective action we can defend our legitimate aspirations and democratic rights. We took as our inspiration the historical role of the FebFair as a form of protest against the ills of society and the problems that abound in the local and national levels. The FebFair has been a “Protest Fair” since 1972, when it was held as the protest against the injustices of the Marcos regime.
That we pushed through with the FebFair in defiance of the arbitrary and unreasonable conditions set by the administration is an affirmation of our inalienable right to organize and peaceably assemble. Every FebFair is a protest fair against commercialization of education and campus repression that violates our most basic rights.
It cannot be overemphasized that this year’s FebFair will not be held if we did not sustain the barricade that forced the administration to concede to recognize OUR conditions. The effort of the local councils and 22 organizations to talk with the chancellor is in line with our desire to push through with the fair.
Yet this meeting will never be possible without our unwavering insistence.
The intense protest of the students against the policies and impositions of the Velasco administration this semester has never been equalled since 2001. The walkout against the Large Lecture Class Policy is the largest mobilization in UPLB since 2001 during, the height of the Erap Ouster Campaign. The three successful barricades on February 8-9, 2010 was also a milestone in the UPLB student movement.
Why is the successful holding of the FebFair a victory for the studentry?
The collective action of the students to push through with the FebFair despite the stringent and arbitrary conditions imposed by the administration is the culmination of widespread discontent that has been brewing since he assumed office in 2005. It is an affirmation of our desire for collective leadership and militant action, as it upholds genuine academic freedom for a pro-student and pro-people education.
Us, Iskolars ng Bayan, in the face of escalating commercialization of education and campus repression should not bow down but to continue our noble fight to assert our democratic rights. Still there are many issues that await our militant and unwavering response: Large Lecture Class Policy, campilitarization, OUST Lt. Col. Vivian Gonzales campaign, and junk Tuition and other Fees Increase.
ONWARD WITH COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP AND MILITANT ACTION!
UPHOLD GENUINE ACADEMIC FREEDOM FOR A PRO-STUDENT AND PRO-PEOPLE EDUCATION!
The widest party-alliance of student organizations, fraternities and sororities in the whole University of the Philippines System releases this document in pursuit of fairness and academic freedom, and in defense of our student government, the University Student Council. In the midst of the mudslinging tactic employed by the administration and its cohorts, it is necessary for the alliance to present its analysis of FebFair-related concerns.
With our condemnation is a challenge for the draughtsman of the black propaganda against our alliance and its members and against student institutions to show up. Let us raise the discussion on intellectual grounds. It is an insult to the university and to the people to tolerate the circulation of unsigned statements and pamphlets that malign progressive individuals, organizations and student institutions and essentially vilify our tradition of open discourse and intellectual debate.
To our fellow scholars of the people: Let us be steadfast and link our arms against the different ploy of the administration that try to deceive and eventually divide our ranks. This is the time for us be more vigilant in defending our democratic rights and militant in advancing our just demands including quality and accessible education and respect for our right to organize and protest. Let us pursue with our struggle against campus commercialization, repression and militarization.