Ateneo president 'affirms' right to protest, but stops short of backing strike
Ateneo students' strike begins today, November 25, which seeks to hold the Duterte administration to account over its response to the typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic to hit the country
Release/College Editors Guild of the Philippines

Ateneo president 'affirms' right to protest, but stops short of backing strike

Christian Deiparine ( - November 25, 2020 - 7:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo de Manila's president has addressed the academic strike by students seeking to hold the Duterte government accountable for its response to recent typhoons and the pandemic, but his remarks stopped short of supporting the move amid calls by the community.

Students of the Jesuit-run institution in a manifesto threatened to stop turning in school requirements beginning Wednesday, November 25, until their demands for a nationwide academic break as well as the administration ending what they said was military-centric solutions to a public health crisis, to name a few, are not met.

RELATEDGovernment response to typhoons, pandemic leaves students up in protest

Fr. Roberto Yap SJ in a letter to the Ateneo community said the university has begun a dialogue with students on the matter, recognizing the "sense of human solidarity" and the need for collaborative action.

And while he has affirmed "the right of citizens to hold their government accountable," the remarks had no backing of the student-led strike, nor a mention of what will happen to those who would not submit their workload.

"I am heartened in seeing students express grievances as well as call for compassion for those affected by the crisis," Yap said. "In line with our education mission, we recognize differing positions by offering various options consistent with our objective of integral formation for those who wish to engage in protest actions."

Ateneo's student paper The GUIDON over the weekend reported a joint statement by the student formation office with groups, where commitments were made to keep the scholarship for the next semester of scholars who would join the strike and file a "WP" or withdrawn with permission.

What remains unclear, however, is if school administrators would extend a similar consideration for non-scholars participating in the movement, now dubbed as "One Big Strike."

Recently, Ateneo alumni also called for a no repercussion policy for students taking part in it, calling on faculty to "show utmost understanding" and renounce any penalization of students.

"There are many voices and many modes of expression," Yap continued. "We are called upon to grow in the habit of respecting the views of others and to the desire to be bridge-builders who foster productive collaboration."

Signatories of the manifesto have since called on others for a nationwide academic strike, saying the aftermath of the recent calamities is a result of the "criminal neglect of the State."

They also urged the university administration to stand by its students, after Ateneo in a November 20 statement disowned the recent protests as school-sanctioned.

"More than a show of solidarity, especially from a private institution that bears heavy influence, the Ateneo would be able to embolden different institutions to act as well — especially those who belong to the academe," the student-strikers said. "The Ateneo can set an unprecedented example for similar institutions and bring them to the level of consciousness that is direly needed in the march towards meaningful social progress."

More mobilizations are expected by November 30, as the participants of the strike vowed to amplify their demands.

Malacañang had earlier shrugged off the threat of an academic strike by Ateneo students with spokesperson Harry Roque saying they are only bound to fail, but later on only for President Rodrigo Duterte to fume over it and incorrectly threaten to defund the state-run University of the Philippines.

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