Duterte to students: Pandemic, disaster response 'not your worry'
(The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2020 - 9:41am

MANILA, Philippines — Students protesting what they said is inadequate government response to recent typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic should leave those issues to the government, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday night before threatening to cut funding to the University of the Philippines.

Duterte made the remarks after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who caharacterized the students as "loko loko", brought up the student strike at a televised meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

More than 500 students of Ateneo de Manila University pledged over the weekend not to submit academic requirements in protest, saying "we cannot prioritize our schoolwork when our countrymen are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of those in power."

They said they would hold the academic strike "until the national government heeds the people's demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response."

'We are working'

Duterte, in remarks meant for the students, said they are "taking the cudgels of the poor ahead of your time." 

FROM INTERAKSYON: Mass student strike petitioners unfazed by Roque’s ‘babagsak kayo’ warning

"That is not your worry, that is the worry of government. Kami, sabi ko, nagtatrabaho kami. Government workers kami," the president also said.

The Commission on Higher Education earlier Tuesday thumbed down calls for a nationwide or even a Luzon-wide academic break but left the decision to school administrations. 

"Anong silbi namin dito? Mag-upo lang kung 'di gumalaw para sa tao. (What use are we here? To just sit around if we don't move for the people) At 'yung ganoon mga — huwag kayong pumasok... (then don't go to class) I'd suggest to you stop schooling. Until mabakunahan lahat ng Pilipino, you resume your duty. And you wait for another typhoon and see if the help that we extend is enough to your satisfaction," the president said.

"Bantayan na lang ninyo ‘yung mga bagyong dadating at tignan ninyo ‘yung mga nangangailangan ng tulong na hindi natulungan, then you protest again," he said.

(Just keep an eye out for the next typhoons and look if those who need help are not helped, then you protest again).

He added that those who don't who don't want to go attend classes would "save money for your parents [and] better make use of your time anywhere."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, education in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world has been done remotely, either online or through modules. Lack of access to gagdets and to stable internet connections have put an added challenge to students already dealing with anxiety caused by COVID-19.

The recent string of typhoons has also disrupted classes further.

"We strike in solidarity with the students who are victims of calamities and of COVID-19, who cannot be expected to catch up with their studies within three to five working days. From the beginning, no student should have been left behind," Ateneo students participating in the strike said.

Duterte threatens to cut UP funding

Duterte also took the time to threaten to defund UP — students and teachers from the state university have expressed support for the student strike — claiming in Filipino that the university "has done nothing but recruit communists there." 

Although UP has a reputation for activism, not all UP students are activists. Neither are all activists communists. Being a communist has also not been illegal since the 1990s, when the Anti-Subversion Law was repealed.

RELATED: 'Being leftist is far from being a terrorist,' Justice secretary stresses

"Tapos nag-aaral kayo ang gusto ninyong binibira ang gobyerno. Masyado namang nakasuwerte kayo. Huwag talaga kayong matakot — manakot rather kasi I will oblige you," the president also said.

(You study and you want to criticize the government. Are you that lucky? Don't threaten me because I will oblige you.)

Education at UP is subsidized by the government as part of the state's policy — according to the University of the Philippines chapter — to "promote, foster, nurture and protect the right of all citizens to accessible quality education."  

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