Over 700 Ateneo alumni back academic strike vs gov't pandemic, typhoon response

Over 700 Ateneo alumni back academic strike vs gov't pandemic, typhoon response
Photo taken on Nov. 17, 2020, shows a protest demonstration in front of the Ateneo de Manila University.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines / Released

MANILA, Philippines— There should be no repercussions for the students calling for an academic strike, more than 700 graduates of the Ateneo de Manila University said in a statement in support of the grassroots protest against the national government's response to the coronavirus pandemic and the recent onslaught of typhoons.

This new development was reported by the school's official student publication The GUIDON on Saturday afternoon. As of this writing, the statement has a total of 783 signatories.

"We, the undersigned alumni of the Ateneo School System, support the petition calling for a student strike in response to the current political climate of neglect, climate injustice, and suffering this administration has peddled for the past 4 years," it reads.

"The spontaneous call for a mass student strike presented the very real possibility of a political moment. That the idea spread like wildfire beyond Ateneo to campuses around Metro Manila and beyond shows us that the spark for change can come from unexpected places." 

Since the student strike was first publicized last Saturday, it has pervaded national conversation, eliciting an outburst from President Rodrigo Duterte and snide remarks from his spokesman Harry Roque.

Duterte threatened to defund the University of the Philippines during a televised address late Tuesday night — further accusing them of doing nothing but recruit communists — mistakenly identifying the school from which the call for a strike originated.

READ: Tagged again for 'recruiting communists', UP explains what it actually does | 'Vaccinated against budget cuts': Lawmakers reject Duterte threat to defund UP

During the same televised meeting, Roque called the students "loko loko" after warning them last Sunday that they would flunk their subjects if they withheld their requirements.

In their statement, Ateneo alumni said they "reject the misrepresentation of the strike as a 'tantrum' or as a dismissal of the importance of education."

"[T]he strike is in fact an affirmation of the importance and value of education, which is why it is this that is being put on the line," they said. 

In support of the student petitioners, Ateneo alumni urged a no repercussion policy for students taking part in the strike. They also called on Ateneo teachers to "show utmost understanding" to strikers and renounce any penalization of students.

They also echoed students' demands for the national government to either "act now or step down" in light of a deadly pandemic and the wreckage caused by the recent typhoons.

Alumni further backed students' call on the Ateneo administration to condemn the government's "unjust and inhumane" pandemic and typhoon response.

"Let us learn from the students. They are showing the way," the statement ends.

Ateneo urged to throw support behind strike

The university has yet to express support for the strike or the students calling for it.

On Friday, it sought to distance itself from the two street protests which occurred in front of the campus this week.

"Ateneo de Manila University is aware of a protest assembly scheduled today, Friday, 20 November 2020, set to begin at the gates of the Loyola Heights campus. Please be aware that this protest activity and the one held last 17 November are not in any way sanctioned by the University,” a statement released by the school reads.

INTERAKSYON: Ateneo hit for saying student protests outside campus ‘not sanctioned’ by university 

In response, members of the university, through an an open letter addressed to the school's president, Fr. Roberto Yap are calling on the school to "action in support of the student academic strike." As of this writing, the letter, dated November 20, has over 200 signatories.

The GUIDON reported that the authors aim to issue the letter to Yap and the school's board of trustees before Saturday ends.

"As members of the University, we make this urgent appeal to you and the Board of Trustees to express support for the cause of student strikers and our utter disappointment at how blatantly the University administration, through a recent statement from the University Communications Marketing Office, has disavowed our own students," the letter reads.

Members of the university also the urged Ateneo to do the following:

  • Protect the rights of students to organize, form associations and express their grievances
  • To make practical adjustments to the grading system that will be fair to all students, including those who participated in the strike
  • To democratize the highest governing body of the school by seating a meaningful number of student and rank-and-file employees to the board of trustees
  • To renew the school's commitment to serve the nation by standing with the student body in demanding for, planning and building a more equitable Philippine society 

— Bella Perez-Rubio






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