on student protest "riots"

There are people who will never fail to unwittingly mention student activism and violence in the same sentence.

Just last week, hundreds of students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) staged a protest against a proposal to increase the school’s tuition by as much as 2,000 percent. The students threw armchairs and tables down to the ground floor where they set these on fire as a symbolic protest to represent the conditions that PUP students go through.

The protest action was branded by some, including the media, as a “riot,” a “barbaric” (sic) act that reveals a complete disregard for “order” and the peaceful means of airing grievances.

Why did they have disrupt classes just so they could denounce the proposed tuition hike? Why did they have to burn school property? Why did they not just… traipse over to the management building and request an audience with the Board of Regents? Surely they could easily settle the matter over… over a nice pot of coffee with the President and his cohorts?

From there, it would be easy to jump into a new set of questions: Why does student activism have to be violent? Aren’t students supposed to bury their noses in books and do what taxpayers tell them to do?

Quite a number of variations of these questions are flooding my Facebook newsfeed lately, and from people I otherwise call my friends. Honestly, I am a little, uh, verklempt. This brand of rhetoric against the protest action is valid only if you assume a number of things:

1. That the PUP adminsitration has tried to proactively engage the student body in a discussion of the proposal;
2. That the proposal to hike tuition fees is a wise policy, i.e.it will not void efforts to demand greater state subsidy; and
3. That student protests, even at their most truly violent, will resolve nothing.

A few days ago, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Emmanuel Angeles categorically declared that no tuition hike willl be approved or implemented in PUP. This position by the CHED became known only during a dialogue with Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino.

We must marvel now about how the PUP administration could have come up with a proposed policy that CHED easily dismissed as rubbish. It is vastly amusing that the school’s administration could shamelessly propose a policy which, in the first place, does not have any merit.

Shamelessness, coupled with stupidity, on the part of those who should know better is a form of violence, too. And maybe, just maybe, it is ultimately worse and more dangerous than setting school armchairs on fire.


16 thoughts on “on student protest "riots"

  1. i can tell you the mere threat of violence and the hormones it releases in decision-makers can be very useful against tuition increases. however, it has to be done in such a way that it climaxes at a decision making meeting. otherwise, its just impotent rage.

  2. isa itong patunay na hindi laging nabibigyan ng katwiran ng pamamaraan ang mga layon. kaya naman hindi natin masisisi kung kinakahon ang mga aktibista sa mga salitang bayolente at magulo.haaay, nakaka-sira tuloy ng damdamin na ang mga kasama sa PUP ay naging marahas at walang lohika.tsk. bad trip.

  3. @Lance: I'm glad to report that the CHED's ruling was prompted primarily by the protest action in PUP and by efforts of other progressive youth groups to foil the tuition hike.@Glentot: What detractors usually fail to mention is that these "school property" that the students set on fire were not exactly what you'd call "armchairs" and "desks." They are all of them broken and have ceased to become of any use to anyone on campus. So yes, as you pointed out, I'm sure they'd look very annoying to anyone who's expected to "value" them.@Yas: Hala. I guess my attempts at sarcasm failed. 😦

  4. Diliman Commune, 1971: lahat ng armchairs ng Art and Science (Palma hall ngayon) binarikada sa labas ng gusali upang pigilan ang pag-infiltrate ng militar ni Marcos sa building. They are still the armchairs we use when we have classes today. so ayun, sira-sira na, at mistulang chair nalang lang arm. many students were killed during that time because the military open fired (fuck!)http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/metro/view/20070212-48880/Diliman_CommuneUP, 2006. UP president emerlinda roman canceled the much awaited lantern parade to have a meeting with the BOR to finalize their decision about the tuition fee increase. Mumunting freshie ako nun excited sa lantern parade and was shock to find the head of president Gloria arroyo and emerlinda roman paraded around the academic oval on fire. PUP, 2010. armchairs set on fire to protest against tuition fee increase. "parang diliman commune lang with a twist" – sabi ng mga kasama kong nanood ng TV. How salient is the word violence if the cost of such act is not enough to save themselves from the tuition fee increase they are facing? 12php per unit to 200 per unit next sem for PUP? 4th year na ako ngayon sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, isa ako sa mga natitirang nag-tutuition ng 300 per unit. sabi ng tatay ko, maswerte ako dahil 300 per unit ako, kung sakali mang 1000 per unit, sa probinsya nalang daw ako mag-aaral ng chem eng'g. parehong goverment workers ang nanay at tatay ko. Open ang discussion tungkol sa relevance o irrelevance ng student activism sa buhay ng estudyante. Isa itong sign ng kritikal na pag-iisip at open-mindedness na mistulang nawawala na sa mga estudyante ngayon. How unfair naman siguro kung mag-babanggit tayo ng mga issues about PUP or other topics without touching its nuances and other related issues. First of all, we have a history of such 'violent acts' ever since the government have been unfair to us. one basic fact: nag-open fire ang militar sa mga estudyante ng UP noong 1971.one important thing: mahalaga ang kalidad na edukasyon para sa ating mga mag-aaral. One basic question: bakit kaya pag-wala nang mai-tustus for tuition ang ating mga magulang ay hindi na tayo pinag-aaral? My cousin, Lara, gathered some news articles/blog posts regarding the student protest last march 24:http://high-in-bohemia.blogspot.com/2010/03/scales-of-injustice-when-structures.htmlCiao!—AD. 🙂

  5. vic, i get you. i'm also against the increase. who's not? kaya lang, nakakainis talaga isipin na they have the verve to throw chairs and tables na, kapag regular days, ay may scarcity na. ang hirap kaya magbitbit ng upuan kapag puno na ang class room. at hanggang sa ibang wing umaabot ang boys sa paghahanap ng teacher's table.bakit kelangang yun ang way nila para mapansin? magaling magpapansin ang mga taga-pup, surely there could have been other ways. o ngayon, lalo lang naging scarce ang chairs. tsk.

  6. newton's third all of motion, motion-reaction, is also applicable in this case if we consider resistance factor to change. the pup management passed a resolution to increase tuition fees for laboratory 'intensive' courses which elicited 'violent' reactions from the students. i guess it's not the 'what' but more of the 'when', 'how' and, obviously the heaviest component of all: 'how much'. the intentions maybe for the good of eveybody (school and students) after all; but, the pup honchos with all their doctorate badges to boot failed miserably in the implementation side of the plan. their paper simply underscores their callousness and, yes, stupidity. although i don't espouse 'violence' in any form, but then kung nagkaron man ng sunog, saang kampo ba ang pinag-simulan ng apoy?to me, the pup management are themselves guilty in the first place of acts 'inciting to rebellion'. nga pala, everytime i see him guesting on tv, bakit ang presidente ng pup laging nakataas ang kilay?

  7. @Adrian: Thanks for taking time to tell us your thoughts. During the time of the Diliman commune, there were also scores who denounced the act. In 2006, when protesters stormed Malcolm Hall where President Roman and her cohort Regents were "deliberating" on the then proposed 300 percent tuition hike, Law students were horrified and offended.There will, indeed, always be people who will dismiss student protest actions as needlessly violent. Of course, they are not necessarily correct. :)@Yas: My brand of sarcasm can be really lame, I know. :D@Nika: Hala. You were the second person who actually thought I was against the protest action. I was being sarcastic in some parts of the post. :(@Colorblind: Very well said. It must also be added that after all that has happened, it is clear now that the PUP administration underestimated the student body by coming up with such a ridiculous proposal. In which case, they were proven utterly wrong.As for the President's raised eyebrow, maybe it was muscle spasm?

  8. If I may, why is it that academic activism always connote images of rallying, quasi-violence, vandalism and subversion? Is it because the thick-skinned hegemony of the academic hierarchy can only be swayed, or at the least implored interest, by such drastic methodologies?Do we not subscribe to the idea that democracy entails an equality of voice? Or rather, a fair chance at argumentation? Discursive as this may appear, both are equally to be blamed. But apparently much more so the administration for shamelessly assuming obedience from the studentry.Nagpakita lang sila ng pangil.Reactionary to the failure of the democratic process. A show of arms to drive the point that they are not oblivious to the actions of their administration, subservient to the decisions of the supposed superiors. And that education, above all, is a human right. Without a price tag.

  9. "If I may, why is it that academic activism always connote images of rallying, quasi-violence, vandalism and subversion? Is it because the thick-skinned hegemony of the academic hierarchy can only be swayed, or at the least implored interest, by such drastic methodologies?" Bravo, Red.The progressive youth think carefully and critically. They choose the best option even when there is just one. 😉

  10. Some snooty, self-righteous liberals assign to high a value to the chairs and desks burned down by PUP students, such that they forget what the real (if not more pressing) issue is and its implications on underprivileged youth who wish to gain access of tertiary education. In the first place, no one would have gotten the idea of incinerating those armchairs had these state colleges and universities (SCUs) been adequately funded by the government to procure decent facilities. And come on, as if the chairs lost to those flames were of significant number to bring forth scarcity. You folks want to talk about scarcity? Perchance you'd like to take the case of students who can't obtain a degree due to the scarcity of SCUs who can truly provide relevant and accessible education to everybody.@Victor, I really like how sharp your assessment is. Virtual thumbs and high five. I'd love to hear more from you (hint, hint: http://kabataanpartylist.com/blog/march-29-is-blog-action-day-for-education/). 🙂

  11. the way the media blatantly put how barbaric the students behavior are is kinda revolting.. and most adults are.. sila arnold clavio etc..sana ifinocus na lang nila ang mga comments nila sa tunay na problema: kapos ang budget ng gobyerno sa education..or hindi priority ng gobyerno ang education.yup naka-disrupt nga ng klase ang pagrarally ng mga kabataan pero PUP na lang ang isa sa mga state universities sa bansa na kilala sa pagtuturo pero affordable ang tuition.aware ako na if people wants quality education, they have to pay for more. e di sana i-privatize na lang ang PUP kung pangarap din ng administrator na maging cono na tulad ng nangyayari ngayon sa up.the adults who knew it all, phd and masterals on their belts, can't figure out simple equations of inequality. these students were pushed and prodded. indignation at its best! kudos victor!-dabo

  12. saw this coming already. my brother was unfortunate to go to PUP for a few months. he had to transfer to a more low profile university because he had problems with senior students who seem to rule the school grounds. according to him the campus gladiators have backers from various organized groups outside of the arena. post-apocalyptic sta. mesa. i just don't know with other campuses.

  13. Isn't PUP a government-sponsored university? Shouldn't the government be shouldering expenses so students don't have to pay much? Galing talaga ng gobyerno natin, heheh

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