Protest greets first day of classes

BAGUIO CITY – Several groups here, led by students and teachers, aired education woes during a demonstration marking the formal resumption of classes on June 5.

The groups decried government’s “abandonment” of public education, saying no significant improvement in school facilities and services was ensured by the Department of Education (DepEd) this school year and instead, ceded their job to private schools.

“Dep-Ed has never learned its lessons. Same yearly problems of lack of classrooms, teaching facilities, and teachers remain as if the past years are just yesterday,” said Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera.

State of neglect

Speaking at the protest, Bagangan cited the lack of public senior high schools (SHS) in the city as manifestation of the government’s neglect of the education sector.

Data from DepEd revealed that only eight public schools or roughly one out of six high schools will offer SHS.

“From eight public SHS last year, the number remains eight this academic year. DepEd must explain why the other 14 high schools refuse to offer SHS tracks,” said Bagangan.

The group said that students were forced to transfer to private schools because of the incapability of public SHS to absorb students.

Based on DepEd figures, Anakbayan estimated that around 17 out of 20 SHS students in Baguio studied in private schools last year.

The group explained the data to be anticipated since roughly five out of every six SHS in the city are privately-owned.

Bagangan cited the enrollment in Baguio City National High School, saying the enrollment period was cut short as slots in various tracks in grade 11 and 12 were filled to the rim.

“Baguio City National High School is the premier SHS in the region. How can you expect other public senior high schools to provide decent services if even city high (BCNHS) can’t”, said the youth leader.

The group cited such problems in public schools force students to enroll in private institutions despite higher costs.

Reports obtained by Anakbayan revealed that several students in private schools were eyeing to transfer to public schools as many fail to benefit from the government scholarship grants through the voucher system.

“Students want to transfer to public schools if given a chance. Given the conditions that public schools have no ability to absorb them, it is either they remain in private schools or totally stop schooling,” said Bagangan.

Teachers sacrifice again

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), is worried of increases in class sizes in public school senior high schools.  In a statement, the group cited that the target class size of 40 was bloated to 50 in BCNHS SHS to accommodate more students.

“While we welcome the decision of BCNHS administration to absorb more students, we fear that the adjustment of class size, without an increase in number of teachers and the necessary improvement of facilities, will make learning and teaching difficult and stressful for students and teachers,” said Thomas Milanes, spokesperson of the ACT Cordillera.

“The bottomline here is the fact that the government failed to improve public schools amid the implementation of the K to 12 program. Instead of spending more for public education sector, the government merely passes their job of providing education (services) to private schools and in addition, financing them (the private schools) through the voucher system,” said Milanes.

Milanes also complained of lack of materials for K12.  Modules for the primary grades are complete only for Grade IV. Grade 7 books are still incomplete.

Private school teachers and employees also joined the protest as more layoffs are expected among private universities and college since no freshmen and sophomores are admitted yet in most schools.

In the first year of K12 implementation, data gathered by ACT showed that around 300 private school teachers in Metro Baguio alone were affected in different forms. Some were retrenched, others were forcedly retired, and others were absorbed in Senior High School but losing tenure and with lowered salaries but with more workloads.

Regrets on the stalled peace talks

The protesting groups expressed regret over the cancellation of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Peace talk efforts have already gone a long way with the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms including those for education is already on the table”, Milanes said.

They called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao saying a military solution to the long-standing issues of the Moro people, which created terrorist groups like the Maute in Marawi, will be futile and just worsen the problem. The Marawi crisis was the trigger in the Martial Law declaration and the withdrawal of the GRP Panel from the fifth round of talks in Netherlands from May 26 to June 2.

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Youth group hits Martial Law declaration

BAGUIO CITY – Youth group Anakbayan Cordillera expressed concern on “intensifying” military rule under the Duterte administration as the president said on Wednesday the possibility of the expansion of the Martial Law implementation to Visayas and Luzon.

The pronouncement came a day after the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, which the administration claimed to be a response to the recent series of violent acts of the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

“The recent pronouncement of putting Mindanao, or worse, the whole country under military rule is completely illogical. Considering Marcos time, Martial law has always been a wrong solution to a poorly assessed problem,” said Luke Bagangan, secretary-general of Anakbayan Cordillera.

The group hit the order, saying the declaration will only create more problems than solutions to lawless activities.

Bagangan said that it can be anticipated that instead of subduing criminal activities, people’s civil and political rights will be curtailed as what they claimed had happened during the Marcos regime.

The group also warned of abuses arising from the suspension of writ of habeas corpus, warrantless arrests, illegal searches and seizures, and the filing of trumped-up charges among civilians.

“If the problem is lawlessness and violence, Martial law will do worse as it tolerates mad-dog thinking among government authorities that they will not be persecuted for any human rights abuses,” said Bagangan.

The youth leader added that while they recognized that terrorist groups like Maute and Abu Sayyaff must not be vindicated for their crimes, “the bloody record of both the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) as human rights abusers should also be considered.”

Waterdown basis

Meanwhile, the group questioned the justification of declaring Martial Law in Mindanao through Proclamation No. 216, saying no substantial basis was cited.

Quoting Article VII Section 18 of the Philippine constitution, Anakbayan claimed that Martial Law can only be declared in “case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

“The fact that the AFP earlier declared that the situation in recently attacked Marawi City is already under government’s full control, it just put the necessity of Martial Law in grave question,” said Bagangan.

The youth leader further cited the said measure as supposedly the last resort of the government given that the Philippine Constitution itself is drafted based on understanding of the abuses during the Marcos administration.

Bagangan added that while acts of Maute and Abu Sayyaf are indeed threat to security of the people of Mindanao, it is “highly arguable if such threats suffice for a nationwide or even an island-wide Martial Law.”

The group explained that the even the AFP could not even give the public a credible estimate of the strength of such groups.

Terror conditioning

As such, Anakbayan feared of a possible conspiracy in the government to establish false notion of security crisis as basis for military rule.

“It is highly probable that everything is planned from the start − from the declaration of State of Lawless Violence to Martial Law. Any terrorist attack, no matter how big it is, the military and Duterte will surely make a big fuss about it,” said Bagangan.

The group also raised possibility of having “government-orchestrated” attack in guise of terrorist acts if nationwide Martial Law will be pushed.

“During the time of Marcos, they just made a story that the then defense minister was ambushed to justify Martial Law. If that happened earlier, the government may do it again,” Bagangan explained.

Anakbayan, together with organizations in Baguio City, slated a protest action today at People’s Park to call for the revocation of Martial Law.

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Students file tuition complaints against SLU and UC

Students from Saint Louis University (SLU) and University of Cordilleras (UC) trooped to the regional office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to file complaints against the “illegal” increases in tuition and other fees in the said universities last Tuesday, March 28.

The complaints are responses to the lack of student consultation despite the passing of university proposals to increase their tuition and other fees for the next academic year as disclosed by Anakbayan Cordillera and Kabataan Partylist Cordillera.

The groups claimed SLU and UC as violators of the CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) number 3 series of 2012, saying that the memorandum order requires school administrators to conduct consultations among affected sectors for every increase in school fees.

Article 3 sec. 5 of the memorandum stated that “all HEIs, public or private, intending to increase their tuition and other school fees for the ensuing academic year shall conduct consultations … with their student councils/governments, and their faculty, alumni and/or non-teaching personnel associations.”

Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera and a student of SLU, expressed dismay that their university bypassed the said provision.

“It is a mandate of university administrators to uphold student rights for a meaningful consultation. However, it seems that students have to beg for their rights as if consultations are discretionary for administrators,” said Bagangan.

Report from the youth group reveals that the SLU administration have not yet responded to the student council’s requests for a consultation.

While talks were conducted in UC, Bagangan said such meeting is far from being a “genuine consultation.”

“In UC, how can you call that a consultation if the school administration failed to compromise with the anti-tuition fee sentiments of the students,” added the youth leader.

The group claimed that the yearly increases in both universities have always resulted to increased drop-out rates of students.

A study of Kabataan Partylist reveals that for every hundred students who enroll in universities and colleges in Baguio, only 65 will reach second year.

The said study also noted that 28 SLU student and 36 UC students for each of their 100 students will drop out of school before reaching second year.

Discrepancies among number freshmen enrollees and yearly graduates were also recorded in the study, where graduates are “far lower” than that of freshmen enrollees, as claimed by Kabataan Partylist.

“Only one out of two students graduate in SLU while only two out of five will graduate in UC,” the study reads.

In another study of the group, an increase of five percent in total fees among the three biggest universities in Baguio City, will reduce enrollment of current students, excluding incoming freshmen, by as much as 57%.

SLU is set to increase their tuition at all year levels at 5 to 10% while UC rates will increase at 5 to 6% for selected year levels.

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Cordillera youth group hits AFP-imposed food blockade in Abra

Regional formation of youth group Anakbayan Cordillera demanded the government to cease their food blockade in war-affected areas in Abra as food is getting “scarce” among civilian population in the area.

Reports from Anakbayan Abra disclosed that army checkpoints were placed since March 16, prohibiting the entry of food while military operations against alleged members of the New People’s Army are still ongoing in Malibcong, Abra.

The group cited that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is deliberately violating international humanitarian laws in the conduct of war, saying civilians were deprived of their right to humanitarian aid.

Part 4 Art. 4 Par. 6 of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL) states that “all persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict shall be treated humanely, provided with adequate food and drinking water, and be afforded safeguards as regards to health and hygiene, and be confined in a secure place.”

“Government military operations seems to target civilians. Instead of providing relief supplies for the communities they ravaged, they even prevented the people to meet their needs,” said Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera.

Bagangan cited incident in March 17, saying that sacks of rice to be used for the fiesta of Brgy Bangilo in Malibcong town were held by the AFP.

The group expressed disappointment as almost no relief came from the government despite disruption of civilian livelihood brought by military operations.

“As of today, farmers cannot even go to their farmlands to tend their crops and farm animals. If they do, the AFP may either misidentify them as members of NPA or they may be used as AFP-human shields in their operations,” said Bagangan.

The youth leader cited that the recent “AFP air bombing” in forests and farmlands of the said town forces civilians to leave their farmlands.

Moreover, the AFP was urged to stop their “harassment” of humanitarian volunteers from different human rights groups.

The demand came after Anakbayan monitored several reports claiming that non-residents of Malibcong, especially human rights watchdogs, who failed to present identification cards were barred from entering the town.

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Ang tuition increase ay kataksilan sa mamamayan: Louisians, magkaisa at lumaban!

Pahayag ng Anakbayan Saint Louis University

Nuong Pebrero, muli nanamang pinakawalan ng administrasyon ng SLU ang taon-taong walang puknat na atake nito laban sa mga estudyante at mamamayan. Ngayong A.Y. 2016–2017 pa lamang ay nagkaroon na ng 5% tuition increase para sa mga incoming freshmen students at para sa darating na A.Y. 2017–2018 ay 10% na ang itataas muli para sa incoming freshmen students. Ang pagtataas ng tuition ay sa kabila ng walang katiyakang bilang ng mga estudyanteng papasok ng kolehiyo dahil sa epekto ng K-12. kaya’t sa kabuuan, 15% o higit pa ang sasalubunging dagdag ng presyo ng tuition ng mga biktima ng makadayuhan at pahirap na K-12. Habang ang papel ng mga private higher educational institution ay tulungan ang gobyerno sa pag-absorb ng mga sobrang estudyante na papasok sa kolehiyo, ang pagtataas ng tuition ng SLU ay pagsasara ng pinto nito sa harap ng mamamayan.

Ang Tuition Increase at Carry-over Scheme
Mula 2010, taun-taon nang nagtataas ng tuition ang SLU at lahat ng ito ay hindi pinalampas na hinarap ng pagkakaisa at protesta ng mga Louisian. Habang nananatiling handa at nagkakaisa sa paglaban ang mga Louisian, nananatili namang masugid na tagapagtanggol ng pagiging negosyo ng edukasyon ang CHED nang inilabas nito ang CHED memorandum order no. 13 series of 2-12. Layun ng CHED memo order 3 na bigyan ng laya ang mga universities and colleges na mag-taas lang ng tuition kung ito ay ipapataw sa incoming first year students lamang. Dahil sa pagkampi ng CHED sa mga kapitalista-edukador, hinati nito ang pagkakaisa at paglaban ng mga Louisian.

Dahil malaya nang nakapagtataas ng tuition ang SLU dahil ipinapataw lang ito sa mga incoming first year students, ipinapatupad naman nito ang carry-over scheme. Dapat mas bumababa na ang binabayarang tuition habang tumataas ang year level ng mga biktima ng tuition increase nung sila ay first year pa lamang, pero dahil sa carry-over scheme ay pasan pa rin ng mga estudyante ang kanilang mas mataas ng tuition hanggang sila ay magtapos ng pag-aaral. Malinaw na tayo ay biktima hanggang sa ngayon ng automatic tuition increase at gagawin ng administrasyon ng SLU ang lahat para mapagtubuan ang mga Louisian. Habang patuloy ang pagpapalawak at pagtatayo ng mga gusali ay nananatiling kulang at hindi umuunlad ang mga pasilidad sa mga laboratoryo, classrooms at iba pang pangangailangan ng mga estudyante upang makasabay at mapaunlad ang kanilang kakayahan batay sa mga praktikal na kinakaharap at pangangailangan ng kanilang piniling kurso. Palaging katwiran ng administrasyon ang pagtataas ng sahod ng mga empleyado upang magtaas ng tuition. Ang pagtataas ng sahod ng mga empleyado ay dapat na nakabatay sa laki ng kinikita ng SLU taun-taon. Nahahati ang tuition ng estudyante sa 70% para sa sahod ng mga empleyado, 20% para sa development ng mga pasilidad at 10% para sa kinikita ng SLU ngunit dahil non stock-nonprofit institution ang SLU, dapat lang na ilaan ng SLU ang kanyang kinikita sa sahod ng mga empleyado at magdagdag para sa pagpapaunlad ng pamantasan. Kahit 20% na ng tuition ang dapat ginagastos para sa mga pasilidad ay nananatili ang maraming sa miscellaneous fees na karamihan ay development fees at laboratory fees na hiwalay sa tuition.

Louisians! Magkaisa at Lumaban
Kailangang labanan ang makadayuhang oryentasyon ng pambansang sistema ng edukasyon, itaguyod ang demokratikong kaayusan sa loob at labas ng paaralan at igiit na ang edukasyon ay karapatan. Ito ang paninindigang dapat panghawakan ng mga Louisians para sa mamamayan kahit pa ang mismong student handbook ay ipinangangalandakan na ang edukasyon ay pribelehiyo lang. Sa panahong sumasalungat ang administrasyon sa itinataguyod nating four core values, ang mga estudyante ang pangunahing maaasahang titipon ng lakas at lalaban para sa tama.

Kailangang basagin ang takot, pag-aalangan at panghahati ng ating pagkakaisa. Sa panahong nagiging matibay ang ating paninindigan ay nagiging kaisa nating ang iba pang aping sektor sa paaralan lalo at tayo’y nagsusulong ng makatarungang panawagan at pagbabago sa loob at labas man ng paaralan. Itinuturo sa atin ng kasaysayan na malaki na ang naiambag na pagbabago ng sama-sama at militanteng pagkilos.

Tama na, sobra na ang pagtataas ng matrikula! Carry-over scheme ibasura! Ito ang napapanahon nating panawagan. Matagal na tayong nagbibigay ng pagkakataong idaan sa petisyon at mas maayos na usapan sa pagitan ng estudyante at administrasyon. Sa ating pagkilos sa Marso 23, 3:00 ng hapon, mula sa panghihingi tayo ay maniningil at mula sa hinaing tayo ay maggigiit. Bitbit ang ating mga paninindigan, tayo ay magtatagumpay.

Labanan ang makadayuhan at maka-negosyong edukasyon!
Itigil ang pagtataas ng matrikula!
Carry-over scheme, ibasura!
Makabayan at libreng edukasyon, ipaglaban!

Youth group pleas to suspend government military operations in Abra

Anakbayan Cordillera urged the government forces to suspend their “intensified pursuit operations” against the New People’s Army in Malibcong, Abra to give way for the resumption of classes and the immediate delivery of goods and services to affected residents.

The Depatment of Education (DEPED) earlier announced the suspension of classes in both elementary and secondary levels since last Monday following the series of armed clashes between the government troops and members of NPA.

As classes are set to resume on March 20, Anakbayan warned that the AFP operations may force DEPED to extend the class suspension.

Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera, disclosed reports saying that parents in the war-affected area were still reluctant to send their children to school due to the said operations.

The youth leader added that the presence of armed elements of the government breeds fear and may even traumatized children in schools.

“How can these children focus on their studies if they know that their schools may be bombed at any moment,” said Bagangan while citing the recent airstrike of the AFP in barangay Lat-ey last Thursday.

As documented by Anakbayan Abra, at least 14 bombs were dropped in forests and farmlands resulting in 56 affected families, including around 200 children.

“We are saddened by the fact that the AFP has complete disregard of the situation of the civilian population in conducting their operations. How can these people live a normal life if they will wake up every morning due to noise of gunfire and air bombs,” added Bagangan.

“The AFP seems to forget that there are existing humanitarian regulations in the conduct of war that prohibits indiscriminate bombings as it may victimize civilians and their properties,” said the youth leader.

Bagangan cited the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), stressing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines are mandated to protect and respect human rights of civilians.

Part 4 Art. 4 Par. 4 of CARHRIL states that “civilian population and civilians shall be distinguished from combatants and… shall likewise be protected against indiscriminate aerial bombardment.”

“This bombing only shows AFP’s disregard of human rights of non-combatants. Civilian lives are nothing for AFP as long as they conduct military offensive against the New Peoples’ Army,” said Bagangan.

Moreover, the group stressed the halting of military operation as a requisite for the conduct of trauma debriefing among the children.

“Failing to cease AFP operations has severe repercussions to children as professional volunteers, who are involve in trauma therapy, will have harder time to enter the area,” said Bagangan.

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AFP operations “target” civilians in Abra

The continuous military operations of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) against the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) resulted in
civilian collateral damages in Malibcong, Abra as disclosed by youth
group Anakbayan Cordillera.

The statement follows as the group recorded indiscriminate aerial
bombing by two AFP fighter planes in Brgy. Lat-ey in the morning of
March 16.

As documented by Anakbayan Abra, at least 14 bombs were dropped in
forests and farmlands resulting in 56 affected families.

A mountain was also burned together with civilian-owned crops and farm
animals as added by the group.

“The AFP seems to forget that there are existing humanitarian
regulations in the conduct of war that prohibits indiscriminate
bombings as it may victimize civilians and their properties,” said
Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera.

Bagangan cited the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human
Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), saying that the
Armed Forces of the Philippines are mandated to protect and respect
human rights of civilians.

Part 4 Art. 4 Par. 4 of CARHRIL states that “civilian population and
civilians shall be distinguished from combatants and… shall likewise
be protected against indiscriminate aerial bombardment.”

“This bombing only shows AFP’s disregard of human rights of
non-combatants. Civilian lives are nothing for AFP as long as they
conduct military offensive against the New Peoples’ Army,” said
Bagangan.

The group also blamed President Rodrigo Duterte, saying that the chief
executive is tolerating such violations.

Duterte was earlier quoted ordering the army to “flatten the hills”
while attending a memorial service for four policemen who were killed
in an ambush by the NPA in Davao del Sur.

“I will allow the police and the military this time to use all
available assets…airplanes, jets, use them… Collateral damage,
pasensya (sorry),” Duterte told reporters in Davao del Sur last week.

Bagangan condemned the statement of Duterte as it may have
repercussions on the action of his troops on the ground.

“Last week, Duterte’s pronouncements are just taken as a joke. Now,
the AFP is on a rampage in bombing civilian communities,” said
Bagangan.
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