Rody threatens to defund UP over academic strike

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    PRESIDENT Duterte on Tuesday night threatened to cut the funding of University of the Philippines if the students, particularly those being subsidized by the government, refuse to attend classes and support anti-government protest actions instead.

    The President, in his weekly public address, said UP students were lucky because government pays for their education and yet they protest against the government. He also said that some UP students are being recruited by some leftist fronts to join the communist movement.

    “Sige. Iyong mga eskwelahan, UP? Fine. Maghinto kayo ng aral. I will stop the funding.

    Nandiyan iyan, wala na ginawa itong ano kundi mag-recruit ng mga komunista diyan. Tapos nag-aaral kayo ang gusto ninyong binibira ang gobyerno. Masyado namang nakasuwerte kayo. Huwag talaga kayong matakot, manakot rather, kasi I will oblige you (All right, those in schools, UP? Stop studying. I will stop the funding. It’s there, but you do nothing but recruit members for the communist. You study but you protest against the government.

    You are so lucky. Do not be threatened, or threaten rather, because I will oblige you)” he said.

    An academic strike has been launched by Ateneo students over the government’s alleged failure to help typhoon victims, an issue brought up by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday night.

    Sen. Francis Pangilinan yesterday described as “legally infirm” Duterte’s threat to cut UP’s budget if students skip classes to join anti-government protests, adding the reason for the students’ protests should be looked into instead.

    “Why are the students protesting? Let’s go back to that. This is not unique to the Philippines. Worldwide, you see student protests. Dito sa Pilipinas, marami sa ating kabataan at estudyante ay (Here in the Philippines a lot of our youth and students are) very concerned about the Anti-Terror Law. And I was a student leader and activist during my student days in UP,” Pangilinan said.

    He pointed out that the country’s national heroes – Dr. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Emilio Aguinaldo – were young students when they redirected the course of history.

    “The youth will always be a source or a catalyst of change. I think more than anything else if you try to stop that, you’re going against how history unfolds. They are who they are, the youth and students will always be catalysts of change,” he added.

    The President took a swipe at students, including those in private universities, who either refuse to attend classes or submit their requirements until all the victims of the recent series of typhoons are provided for by the government.

    Duterte said they should just stop attending school all together and “save money for your parents.” He said they should even wait until a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is available before returning to school.

    He said the students should instead find ways to make better use of their time than worry about the poor and those affected by the typhoon because it is the responsibility of the government and the government is doing something about it.

    The President said government workers are public servants who are there to serve and attend to the people and they are not paid to just sit around and do nothing.

    Duterte said if the students really want to protest, they should wait for the next typhoon and see if the government’s action then and provision of aid then “is enough to your satisfaction.”

    “Bantayan na lang ninyo ‘yung mga bagyong dadating at tignan ninyo ‘yung mga nangangailangan ng tulong na hindi natulungan, then you protest again (Watch out for the typhoon that would arrive and see if those in need were really not helped, then you protest again),” he said.

    He also denied that he was sleeping on the job at the height of the recent typhoons, claiming he had been monitoring the situation and issuing directives even while he was attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) summit then.

    He added that before the typhoons struck, equipment, relief packs and family food packs had been prepositioned while additional personnel had been deployed in areas within the typhoon path.

    Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto said instead of defunding state universities and colleges their budgets should instead be increased.

    “No state university or college should get a budget cut. The amount in the proposed budget should be retained, and will be benchmarked as the floor, meaning it can still be increased.

    Calls for academic freeze will not be met with a funding brake. The correct response is not to defund any, but to increase the funds of as many as possible,” Recto said.

    He said UP, as an example, should be given more funds considering that it also runs the Philippine General Hospital

    “PGH, a unit of UP, for example, deserves an increase, and this pambansang ospital (national hospital) shall get it. Its equipment lack is a pre-existing affliction which must be cured, pandemic or not. And so do the state colleges training our future doctors,” Recto said.

    “In so far as the Senate is concerned, the unanimous consensus is that SUCs are no-cut zones, insofar as their NEP budget is concerned. They have been vaccinated against budget cuts,” he added. – With Raymond Africa