MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque challenged students of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) to push through with their planned mass student strike while complying with their academic requirements.
This, after students from ADMU earlier planned to “withhold the submission of any school requirements” starting Nov. 18 to condemn the government’s “criminally neglectful response” to recent typhoons that hit the country and the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a Palace press briefing, Roque recalled his experience joining several protests as a student activist, noting that he still managed to comply with requirements needed to graduate from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
“Bilang dating aktibista rin, iyong gawain po naming mga aktibista ay talagang pinararating namin ang aming saloobin sa gobyerno ‘no sa pamamagitan ng mga protesta, mga martsa pati iyon—mga iba’t iba pang paraan (As a former activist myself, what we do as activists, we really want to convey our thoughts to government through protest, marches, in different ways),” he said.
Roque said he continued submitting academic requirements because he did not want taxpayers’ money to go to waste.
All students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) are considered “scholars” under Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education law.
“Iyong nakita ko pong pinu-propose nila na academic strike, hindi po pagsumite ng mga requirements ng eskuwelahan eh hindi po namin nagawa iyan ‘no dahil sinisiguro namin na—bagay po ‘no, sa UP po kami nag-aral, sinubukan po namin bilang mga aktibista na huwag naman sayangin iyong pera ng taumbayan at sinisiguro pa rin namin na pumasa kami at nag-comply kami sa aming mga requirements (How I see their academic strike, refusing to submit requirements, we never experienced doing that because we want to make sure, that as UP students and activists, we don’t waste taxpayers’ money and we see to it that we pass and comply with requirements),” he added.
He, however, acknowledged that the case for private school students could be different.
“Hindi ko lang po alam kung talagang ibang-iba ang patakaran sa mga pribadong mga eskuwelahan dahil sila naman ay nagbabayad ng sarili nilang tuition (I just don’t know if the rules are different for private schools because they pay for their own tuition),” he said.
Roque, a former professor at UP, reminded students that completing academic requirements is a necessary step to earning their respective degrees.
“Kabahagi po ng academic freedom iyong pagsasapubliko ng saloobin ng mga estudyante, pero kabahagi din po ng academic freedom ng mga eskuwelahan na mag-impose ng academic requirements para matapos po ang kurso ng mga estudyante (It’s part of academic freedom to make public your thoughts as students, but it’s also part of academic freedom of the school to impose academic requirements as a basis to finish a student’s program),” he said.
He also reiterated his advice to ADMU students that failing to adhere to academic requirements could prevent them from graduating on time.
“Kapag hindi po nag-comply sa mga academic requirements na iyan eh mayroon silang karapatan na ipagkait ang kahit anong degree sa mga estudyante na hindi po nagsumite o tumapos ng mga academic requirements (And if a student doesn’t comply with those academic requirements, the school has the right to deny students of their degrees),” he added.
This is not the first time Roque advised ADMU students that they may not graduate if they refused to submit their requirements.
“Kahit anong dahilan ng sinasabi niyong strike, ‘pag hindi kayo sumunod sa mga academic requirements, mawawalan kayo ng kinabukasan at hindi ga-graduate sa Ateneo (No matter what your reason is for the strike, if you do not fulfill your academic requirements, you will lose your future and you will not graduate from Ateneo),” he said in an interview with reporters in Tuguegarao City on Sunday.
In a strongly-worded statement, over 150 students of ADMU said that they could “no longer stomach the ever-rising number of deaths due to the state’s blatant incompetence”.
“We cannot prioritize our schoolwork when our countrymen are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of those in power,” the students said. “The national government must act now or step down from their positions. No compromises.” (PNA)