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Duterte threatens fund cuts for UP, protesting students
President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to stop funding for the University of the Philippines and schools whose students and teachers are protesting against the government, especially in this time of crisis.
STAR/File

Duterte threatens fund cuts for UP, protesting students

Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte was unfazed by calls of students in major colleges and universities in Metro Manila to go on strike to protest the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent spate of typhoons that wreaked havoc on a large part of Luzon.

Duterte threatened to stop funding for the University of the Philippines and schools whose students and teachers are protesting against the government, especially in this time of crisis.

“Stop schooling. That will save money for your parents. Better make use of your time anywhere. Sige. Iyong mga eskwelahan, UP? Fine. Maghinto kayo nang aral. I will stop the funding. Nandiyan ‘yan, wala na ginawa itong ano kung ’di mag-recruit ng mga komunista diyan (OK, stop schooling. You don’t do anything but recruit communists anyway),” the President said in his address to the nation on Tuesday night.

But presidential spokesman Harry Roque pointed out that the President might have confused the proponents of the academic strike, which actually were Ateneo students.

“I think he somehow confused the proponents of this academic strike. I explained it was the Ateneo students advocating for the strike, but someone in the meeting said UP also called for a strike,” Roque said.

“I think the message of the President is, ‘If you don’t want to study, stop studying and we use the funds elsewhere’,” the presidential spokesman said.

Duterte said there is no problem if these students would stop submitting their requirements for their course studies.

“Tapos nag-aaral kayo ang gusto ninyong binibira ang gobyerno. Masyado namang nakasuwerte kayo. Huwag talaga kayong matakot – manakot rather kasi (You study and you want to criticize the government. Aren’t that lucky? Don’t threaten me because) I will oblige you,” the President also said.

Duterte also suggested that the students should just wait for typhoons to come and look for those who need help but are not getting any.

He said the students are taking up the cudgels of the poor ahead of their time.

“That is not your worry, that is the worry of government,” he said, adding that as government workers it’s their job to help the people. He also said if the students insist on the strike maybe it’s best to stop school until everyone is vaccinated.

No hardline, please

Senators yesterday cautioned President Duterte against taking a hardline stance against protesting students from various universities, including UP, and cutting off their funding.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said instead of a funding cut, state universities and colleges should get an increase as the chamber finalizes the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

“Calls for academic freeze will not be met with a funding brake. The correct response is not to defund any, but to increase the funds of as many as possible,” Recto said.

He said for example, the Philippine General Hospital – a unit of UP – deserves a budget increase and “this pambansang ospital (state hospital) shall get it.”

“Its equipment lack is a pre-existing affliction which must be cured, pandemic or not. And so do the state colleges training our future doctors,” he said.

Recto said as far as the Senate is concerned, the unanimous consensus is that SUCs are “no-cut zones, insofar as their NEP (National Expenditure Program) budget is concerned and they have been vaccinated against budget cuts.”

Sen. Richard Gordon, who studied at both UP and Ateneo de Manila University, said Duterte should not be overly piqued by protest actions of students but instead try to dialogue with them.

“Protesting is part of the tradition there (UP) because we want to state that we’re reaching our adulthood with responsibility,” Gordon told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum.

He jokingly advised spokesman Roque, whom he said was a good professor at UP, not to rile the President. – Paolo Romero

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