Progressive students reflect on the UP centennial

The title of this Centennial statement from the Students for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP) is a play of the Filipino words sangdaan (a hundred) and sangandaan (crossroads).

STAND-UP calls on the UP community to reflect the current situation and direction taken by the government and the university administration. The alliance tells the UP community to never lose sight of the vision of a university in total service of the people.

Thank you for CSWCD Prof. Judy Taguiwalo PhD for taking time out to get me a copy of this statement which I wish all UP alumni would read:

As the University of the Philippines reaches its centennial, the Students for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP) is united with the entire UP Community in celebrating UP’s one hundred years.

While it is important to recognize the academic and professional achievements of the University and its grand roster of graduates, Iskolars ng Bayan and the entire community must never lose sight of the pain- staking struggles of generations of UP students, faculty and staff to secure UP’s place in Philippine society as its critical conscience and bastion of enduring calls for genuine democratic reforms. More so, these struggles have decisively forced a shift from the original conception of the UP as a mere training ground for government bureaucrats and technocrats in its early years into a University with an inevitable social role in nation-building and service to the Filipino people through its graduates and academic institutions. It is never enough that UP and its graduates have been successful in their professions and fields, without reaffirming the commitment to serve the Filipino people in whichever way possible.

No one shall ever forget the nascent struggles of Wenceslao Vinzons and Arturo Tolentino when they organized the Young Philippines Party as a counterpoint to a landlord-dominated Philippine Congress in the years of the Philippine Commonwealth, notwithstanding Vinzons’ heroic stand with Bicolano guerillas during World War II against the Japanese occupation. Also, forthwith came Renato Constantino who opened the eyes of generations of UP students on the necessity of studying Philippine history from the lens of the Filipino people, whilst Jose Maria Sison and his comrades provided UP students a plausible revolutionary alternative in changing the structures of Philippine society. More important than these personalities were the student movements of different historic periods in UP which successfully foisted to the public eye the deepest yearnings of a supposedly democratic Philippines, such as the Diliman Commune and the First Quarter Storm of the 60s and 70s, both of which echoed the nation’s anger and rage over unceasing government corruption and creeping, soon naked, authoritarianism. This tradition of struggle for the people’s rights continued until the end of the Marcos dictatorship in which many UP students of the 80s committed themselves to joining a reinvigorated Marcos ouster campaign from the death of Ninoy Aquino until the EDSA Revolt in 1986.

Post-EDSA, the UP students were still unrelenting in fighting for the rights of the people. During the 1990s, no one shall ever forget the UP student caravans to Subic and Clark which decisively contributed to the success of the people’s movement to expel American troops from Philippine soil, notwithstanding the successive UP student movements against the passage of the General Agreement of Tariff and Trade, the Oil Deregulation Law and the Visiting Forces Agreement in the mid-to-late-90s. Moreover, the unity in struggle of the UP students were also tested and proven during EDSA II, when tens of thousand of UP students marched from their different campuses to join the popular uprising against President Estrada over corruption charges.

Today, the tradition of the UP students in defense of the rights of the Filipino people remains, with the various campaigns in UP campuses holding the present Arroyo government accountable for its countless excesses, including massive corruption, human rights violations, and unabated commercialization of education, even right smack in the University of the Philippines, with its 300% tuition increase, commercialization of prime academic assets for the building of call centers, and its unrepentant push for a pro-commercialization and anti-democratic UP Charter.

In all of these, the enigmatic call of Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan continues to resonate among the present crop of Iskolars ng Bayan even if generations had passed since Vinzons first walked past the outstretched arms of the Oblation. It is not due to nostalgia as to why this remains. It is borne out of a full understanding of the fundamental role of the Iskolar ng Bayan as not only maGaling!, but as the living testament of the hopes and aspirations of the Filipino people to whom the University and the Iskolars ng Bayan owe its very existence.

Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan!

Isulong ang Maka-masa at Makabayang Edukasyon!