Sunday, April 27, 2008
Fascist UP Administration: Two Former UP Regents Almost Mauled by UP Police for Attempting to Unfurl Traditional Serve the People Banner During UP’s Centennial Graduation
Gross and Fascist Disrespect to Two Former Regents while in the Exercise of University-Honored Freedom of Expression
On the 27th of April, during the final phase of the Centennial Commencement Exercises in UP Diliman, two former Student Regents of the University of the Philippines, J.M. Terry L. Ridon (2007 UP SR) and Ken Leonard Ramos (2005 UP SR), were almost mauled and forcibly pushed like common criminals and no-gooders by members of the UP Police Force (UPF) and the UP Diliman Social Services Brigade (SSB) as they were going up the center stage in Quezon Hall to approach former colleagues in the Board of Regents and the UP Administration, while attempting to conclusively seek clearance from the Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs of UP Diliman (UPD-VCCA) for the coordinated and traditional lightning protest rally seeking to challenge new UP graduates to Serve the People, as per the agreement of former SR Ridon and the VCCA prior to the start of the University Commencement Exercises.
Despite pleas and cries by the former UP SRs to the UPF to recognize their right to attend the convocation of past and present UP System officials during the graduation, the UPF forcibly pushed the two former UP officials away and even grabbed them by their clothing until they were clearly out of the garrison-like security barricade in Quezon Hall. One security official even uttered, “Wala kaming pakialam kung sino pa kayo, basta walang order sa amin, wala kayong karapatan pumasok.” Another also said, “Wala kaming pakialam kung ano pang sabihin ninyo, wala naman kayo sa programa sasali-sali kayo. This the UPF said despite fully knowing the clear orders of the VCCA to allow at least four student leaders to unfurl the Serve the People banner on the bridgeway of Quezon Hall.
The UPF, the SSB, and the central organizers of the UPD Commencement Exercises are clearly in bad faith for this gross disrespect to two former UP System officials that served the University in the best way they can during their respective terms, notwithstanding being among the members of the Board of Regents who have clearly stood for better benefits of SSB members, and better pay for UPF officers. All of these things apparently were of no import to the organizers, particularly the UPF and the SSB, as they treated the former Regents as if they were rioting no-gooders. Clearly, none of the two acted such, and they came neatly dressed in a barong and polo, ready to face former colleagues and impart to fellow students the unstated wisdom of the need to serve the country at a time of crisis. The organizers and UP security officers even conveniently forgot that former Regents join the Graduation Processional and have a place in the center stage. More so, even if former SR Ridon invoked the clearance gave by the Office of the VCCA and despite providing information that the UP President herself knows the former UP Student Regents’ attendance in the graduation, the UP security officers continued to forcibly push the former Regents away from the center stage while hurling invectives similar to those stated above.
Moreover, the two former Regents clearly stated their intentions to the UP Administration prior to the Commencement Exercises that there shall be no attempts to disrupt the program, to the extent that they even asked that the lightning protest be seamlessly integrated into the graduation program. However, the UP Administration clearly reneged on its word to the former UP SRs who volunteered to unfurl the banners to avoid unexpected inconveniences with graduation organizers, believing that fundamental respect would still be accorded them as former UP System officials.
What is most surprising in all of these is the clear attempt by graduation organizers, particularly the UPF and the SSB, to wantonly break the agreement between the VCCA and former UP SR Ridon, even as they perfectly knew the order from the VCCA to allow a maximum of eight student leaders to unfurl their banner.
In all of these, accountability for this gross disrespect to former UP officials lies not only on the shoulders of particular officers of the SSB, UPF and graduation organizers. Full accountability lies on the doorsteps of the UP Administration itself, for its unstated policy of effectively dismantling dissent from students, faculty, staff, among other sectors, even if they be former Student Regents, co-equal student representatives of the UP President in the highest policy-making bodies of the University.
No one forgets how the microphone of the former UP SR was turned off while addressing freshman students on the anti-student impacts of the tuition increase during the June 2007 Freshman Orientation at the UP Theater. During the 2007 UP Lantern Parade, the speech of a former USC Councilor was forcibly cut short for sharply integrating the need of celebrating the spirit of Christmas while confronting commercialization issues. Student leaders and activists were all unceremoniously harangued, pushed, and punched by UP security forces such as the SSB and the UPF during these University events.
On the other hand, it has also been these UP security forces that have been involved in UP-ordered demolitions of underlying urban poor communities at the periphery of UPD’s academic core zone, in pursuit of an anti-people UP policy to clear the University of urban blight. Lastly, it has also been these UP security forces through UP Administration orders that have forcibly and bloodily dismantled the picket of illegally dismissed utility workers by Care Best agency, all of which have led to numerous injuries, including former USC Chairperson Juan Paolo Alfonso.
It is precisely these instances and direct orders of force from high officials of the University Administration which has emboldened our very own security forces to act as if they are security forces of the Arroyo administration when they deal with dissenting members and communities of the University. Lest we forget, the UPF and the SSB’s mandate amounts merely to maintaining peace and order, without infringing on clear and time-honored political and civil rights of members in a university purporting to advocate academic freedom.
In the events stated above, most especially the unfortunate incident involving former UP Regents, we submit that there is a clear transgression of such a mandate. By these acts, the differentiation between rabid Arroyo security forces and aging and well-loved UP security officers shall have blurred, and political repression outside UP shall now have seeped into an academic community supposedly comprised of freedom and democracy-loving persons, by the very policies of our own UP Administration. Only by changing its unstated fascist policy on dissenting members of the academic community can we fully expect a return to its supposedly democratic ideals.
The Demand for a Public Apology and the Relief of Directly Erring Officers
Given all these, the two former Student Regents and the Office of the Student Regent unequivocally demand a formal public apology from UP System and UP Diliman officials for grossly disrespecting the persons of former UP Board of Regents members and assaulting the dignity and integrity of the Office of the Student Regent which facilitated the agreement between the VCCA and the protest rally organizers. By reneging on the agreement to allow the unfurling banners and almost mauling former UP system officials, the Office of the Student Regent’s integrity as the highest student representation in the University shall have been blemished and rendered nugatory for all to disrespect.
We wish to remind the UP Administration that even if we are mere students of this University, we are still former Regents who have fully served the University. More so, the Office which we once represented embody the protracted struggle of the Iskolars ng Bayan to defend their democratic rights, inside or outside UP. The UP security forces may push us all they want, and harangue our persons, but we shall never allow the one of the most cherished UP student institution we once represented to be disrespected like such. If we allow UP to browbeat and intimidate UP Student Regents, shall we then presume that crueler treatment awaits the ordinary UP student?
On the other hand, we demand the immediate relief upon investigation of all directly involved UP security officers in the April 27th incident with the former UP Student Regents. They must be made to pay the price for their arrogance, gross disrespect to former UP officials, and most importantly, defying a clear order from the VCCA to allow student leaders, former UP SRS, to unfurl banners as part of the lightning protest during the commencement exercises. There is no defense to their insubordination and arrogance, as the former UP Regents were clearly within their rights to enter the center stage and approach the VCCA to seek conclusive clearance for the unfurling of the Serve the People banner. By preventing the unfurling of the banner at the bridgeway of Quezon Hall, the graduation organizers and the UP security officials have successfully frustrated the students’ exercise of their right to free expression, as per agreement with the VCCA.
The University of the
Ken Leonard Ramos J.M. Terry L. Ridon
2005 UP Student Regent 2007 UP Student Regent