My Noynoy's Complaint? Billions for condoms and not one cent for tuition!
The resignations of UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto and Vice Chancellor Josephine De Luna would have brought to them high honors, but their logical reasoning got the better of them. They thought it was a choice only between this, holding on to their positions as an explicit statement that they did nothing wrong, and that, resigning as an implicit admission of guilt. A limited view. UP did not teach them how to think out of the box. Now they have to think out of the box that carried the body of Kristel Tejada, their student who killed herself because of UP Manila's killer policy on delayed payments of tuition fees. The old lesson for those old school heads? Better late than never!
Does UP want another Kristel Tejada? She was buried Saturday, 23 March 2013, at the Manila North Cemetery after 4 PM, after a Mass was held for her at the Immaculate Conception parish church (LBG, 23 March 2013, gmanetwork.com). Some upbeat music in the background followed her cortege, as was her wish. The marchers weren't so cheerful, thinking that the poor girl's life didn't have to end in tragedy because of failure to pay tuition, that a government school like UP didn’t have the right to deprive any bright student to education precisely because she was poor. So that the good don't have to die young.
The Roman Catholic Church was kinder to the soul of Kristel Tejada as UP Manila was unkinder to her spirit when she was still alive. The Church said Mass for her even if she committed suicide. Caritas Manila Executive Director Fr Anton Pascual said this was out of compassion. Which brings to mind this thought: UP is long in control and short in compassion.
Of state universities and colleges (SUCs), Team PNoy candidate for Senator Edgardo "Sonny" Angara said, "It is the mandate of the SUCs to provide affordable college education" (ANN, 22 March 2013, liberalparty.org). "It is clear in their charters." Affordable, yes, but I prefer rewardable: Reward with free education the bright but poor, from nursery to college. To encourage the good, and prevent another Kristel Tejada. Suicide is not painless, now we know.
The name Kristel Tejada should be indefinitely in the conscience of UP Board of Regents Chair Patricia Licuanan, and Members Alfredo Pascual, Edgardo Angara, Juan Edgardo Angara, Ponciano Rivera, Reynato Puno, Magdaleno Albarracin, Ida Dalmacio, Cleve Arguelles, and Jossel Ebesate. And UP President Alfredo Pascual, and UP Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma, and UPLB Chancellor Rex Victor Cruz, and UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto, and UP Visayas Chancellor Rommel Espinosa, and UP Open University Chancellor Grace Alfonso, and UP Mindanao Chancellor Sylvia Concepcion, and UP Baguio Chancellor Raymundo Rovillos, and not to forget UP Cebu Dean Liza Corro. To the rest of us, Kristel died in pain; to the UP heads, did she die in vain?
"UP must die!" I said (20 March 2013, blogspot.com). Student Regent Cleve Arguelles said, "The government's policy of pushing state universities to be self-sufficient served as a death sentence for Tejada" (Reinir Padua, 21 March 2013, philstar.com). And so Chancellor Agulto, through Vice Chancellor De Luna, tightened his grip on the receivables so much that out came gore. In Shakespeare's A Merchant Of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1, Agulto would be Shylock, the one who would have his pound of flesh extracted, which is in the contract, without considering that it would draw blood, which is not in the contract. What fools these mortals be!
"Instead of resorting to victim-blaming, the UP administration should take steps to ensure that we are not hindering qualified and intelligent students from receiving quality education," Professor Ramon Guillermo said, speaking for the Concerned Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy. UP Manila was blaming Kristel Tejada and her family for failing several times to meet the payment deadline. UP Manila didn't realize that they were adding salt to injury.
UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Marion Tan said the inability to pay tuition fees on time is a problem not just of Kristel Tejada's family but also of those of other poor UP students. I say that is because the University of the Philippines has become no longer a University for the Poor as it was before 2006 and instead has become a University for the Prosperous. That story began when the first and only Lady UP President Emerlinda Roman had the bright idea of raising tuition fees by 300% no matter who got hurt! Only the poor got hurt.
Professor Danilo Arao said the Justice for Kristel Alliance wanted the scrapping of the Student Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and was campaigning for full state subsidy for UP. I understand Kristel was under the STFAP and it didn't work out in her favor. Bureaucratic procedures for those literal-, not liberal-minded: Too many rules spoil the bright.
I'm also strongly for full government subsidy for UP, because strong-willed President of the Philippines Noynoy Aquino cannot say we have no money in the treasury: If Noynoy Aquino can allot this year to the Department of Health an additional budget of PhP 21 Billion, that is, 21 followed by 9 zeros (ph.m.yahoo.com) to distribute free condoms and contraceptives, why can't he bully the Budget Department to give UP at least 10% of that, or PhP 2.1 Billion to distribute free tuitions? To do that, I hope he is bully enough.
In any case, Noynoy Aquino will have to think out of the box: Will he? Only if he has creative will. At this time and in this case, political will wins elections; creative will wins hearts. It takes a hero to have a heart.
Migrante International, an OFW group, said they sympathized with the family of Kristel Tejada. "Her tragedy is also our tragedy because we know all too well how it is to strive hard for (poor) families to survive." Migrante thought Aquino can actually do something about schools raising tuition fees and traders bringing up prices of commodities, "if only he has the political will." I know he has, but he may have misplaced it.
Second thought about full state subsidy: Let's make sure the bureaucratic procedures don't kill more poor students! What did UP Manila Student Councilor Adrian Sampang say? (ph.news.yahoo.com): "One death is one too many."
Still, the best solution I think is for the entire UP System to, first of all, reforest its own bald mountains and hills so that it can breathe in fresh air, so that it will have the energy to pan for its own gold and dig for its own oil - not to beg from a government that prefers plastic to paper:
Billions for condoms & contraceptives and not one cent for tuition!