Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Militant Activism is the Only Alternative

Militant Activism is the Only Alternative

By the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP-
College of Mass Communications

Activism is militant: It does not put up with the current order of things nor does it thrive in the wobbly middle ground. Activism confronts the status quo and dares to change it.

What exactly needs to be confronted? As social scholars, we are aware of injustices governing this very society. Here in the University of the Philippines (UP), injustice is apparent in the rising cost of education that prevents the poor majority from entering the country’s premiere state university.

Year after year, tertiary education is systematically hit with budget cuts. This is in line with the World Bank-International Monetary Fund economic agenda that our government gladly succumbs to. These and other international institutions have been pushing for the Long Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP), which advocates reduction of government subsidy for state colleges and universities (SUCs) so that the private sector can take over.

Adding insult to injury, the UP administration took the university to further commercialization by resorting to utilization of idle assets—spaces that are in the first place idled due to lack of funding for academic facilities. Such is the 25-year land lease of the UP Ayala Technohub—the use of supposed academic space for non-educational purposes (in this case, for private companies’ profits). Pseudo activists see this lease as a necessary band-aid solution while claiming that they still are against the budget cut. Here lies the point of contention. Genuine militant activism never compromises the right to education with commercialization.

Why consider this land lease as a band-aid solution when it is in fact the cause of the problem? In his budget message, President Noynoy Aquino even used SUCs’ self-sufficiency or ability to generate their own income to justify the budget cut. Ironically, UP only collects P160 million to P200 million from the Ayala Technohub annually. The university’s deficit for 2011 alone is about P13 billion. How do we augment this? Just recently, outgoing UP President Emerlinda Roman made another deal with Ayala Corporation to lease the UP Integrated School land with projected P8.5 billion returns for the next 25 years. Still, this falls short in filling in for the reduced state subsidy. Thus, the burden is passed on to us, students. Since the implementation of the Tuition and Other Fee Increase, the number of student loan applications has soared to 380%. Moreover, we still face the threat of a yearly tuition hike depending on inflation.

In the face of such education crisis, militant activism knows better than settling to being student-centered because we truly are part of the bigger picture. After all, similar to LTHEDP, it is the longstanding public sector’s privatization policy that burdens the people with oil, fare, electricity hikes and the like. It is unacceptable for peasants to toil under scorching heat all day and for workers to work long hours at assembly lines, producing tremendous wealth for the nation but never reaping what they sow. It is unacceptable for the massess’ hard-earned revenues to be constantly rechanneled to foreign debt servicing, militarization, and incentive for private investment while economic services like agriculture, public utilities such as transportation and social services like education are abandoned. This is apparent in Aquino’s 2011 national budget with its P80.9 billion increase in debt interest payment, P10 billion additions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ funds, and P15 billion incentives for private investors. Meanwhile, there are cutbacks of P37.8 billion on economic services and P1.4 billion on health services.

Militant activism does not sit idly by. We also refuse to accept government alibi. We assert pro-student and pro-people ideals. It is through our collective action merged with societies’ basic sectors that we can affirm our democratic rights and reclaim what is truly ours.

In advancing peoples’ rights amidst this system of oppression, we do employ Facebook and several other social networking sites to promote mass campaigns on budget cuts or any other issue. But we are critical about being contented just with Facebook status messages, like pages and profile pictures. The Internet is part of arousing the people, especially the students who have access to the Internet. But this is not the form of protest that gives results.

In Egypt, the Internet was pivotal in sparking the fire that led to thousands of people taking to the streets to protest Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. But it was when the people took to the streets that the strongman resigned. We don’t have to look far, since it was people power that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. Some will argue that that was the 80’s; we have other ways of expressing ourselves nowadays. Times have changed, for this is no longer the 70’s and technology has improved so much. Times have changed, but the rotten social system has not. The problems still remain. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Just like Marcos, Aquino is selling our public institutions to private corporations. The state is still abandoning its people.

Yes, times have changed, but what happened in Egypt showed us that street protests and collective action are as effective as ever. Like what happened in Egypt, we need to take the fight to the streets.

All is said and done, for the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) has exhausted all civil means to stop the P1.39 billion budget cut. We lobbied in Congress through KABATAAN partylist and were able to secure signatures of congressmen. We have convened UP KILOS NA, the system-wide alliance of UP students, faculty and staff against the budget cut. But we had to fight harder, and nothing proved more effective than the November 2010 strike against the budget cut. Even Senator Allan Peter Cayetano admitted that had it not been for the student strike and noise barrage outside the Senate on Dec. 1, legislators would not have granted those congressional insertions on the education budget.

No other form of protest delivered concrete results like the thousands of students going out of their classrooms to fight for themselves, for their classmates, and for the thousands of students who could not study in UP, for the millions more who could not study at all.

We shall all be united in militant activism because it is genuine activism. After all is said and done, militant activism is the activism that delivers societal change.

Alagad ng Media. Magmulat. Maglingkod. Makibaka. STAND UP CMC!

(Servants of Media: To Educate, serve and fight.)