The higher education budget: the Aquino regime’s borrowed kettle

Thousands of students, teachers, and school administrators will be holding a nationwide protest action against the Aquino regime’s education budget cuts today. As I have not been able to use this online space for some while, allow me to touch on the issue briefly. In a commentary on the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek borrows from a Freudian joke about the borrowed kettle [1]:

A. borrowed a copper kettle from B. and after he had returned it was sued by B. because the kettle now had a big hole in it which made it unusable. His defence was: ‘First, I never borrowed a kettle from B. at all; secondly, the kettle had a hole in it already when I got it from him; and thirdly, I gave him back the kettle undamaged.’ [2]

For Freud, this enumeration of inconsistent arguments that confirms exactly what it tries to deny (that A returned a broken kettle to B) illustrates how the strange logic of dreams works. Žižek attributed this same inconsistency to the US officials’ justification for attacking Iraq.

Apropos the proposed 2011 budget for Philippine public higher education institutions or State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), do we not see precisely the same kind of inconsistency when the Aquino regime and its allies try to justify the slashes in the SUC budgets?

1. In his August 25, 2010 budget message, President Noynoy Aquino announced cutting the SUC budget by 1.7% to “gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent…”

2. After a series of massive student protest actions including the September 24 nationwide walkout and a lightning rally in his 100 days report, Aquino issued a clarification on October 19 stating that the proposed budget cut for SUCs in the next year is not true.

Following his lead, Aquino allies Senator Franklin Drilon and Vicente Sotto III quipped that the students who joined last week’s campus strikes are protesting against “ghost” budget cuts.

3. Aquino asserted that his regime is in fact prioritizing basic education in an interview after the violent dispersal of students who staged another lightning rally in his first official visit to Baguio City last November 26.

4. And in the wake of last week’s mammoth anti-budget cut protests in Manila, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement to the media that SUCs can simply increase tuition and other fees or resort to other commercialization schemes.

Thus, what the Aquino regime and its allies try to deny in this procession of contradictory and inconsistent claims is confirmed in all its clarity. The budget for higher education, as Kabataan Partylist’s 2011 SUCs Budget Briefer notes, is being slashed.

All these false claims by the Aquino regime have of course the devious aim of misleading and dividing the opposition to its anti-people budget for education. These brazen lies seek to direct attention away from the regime’s increased spending for pork barrels, doleouts, military spending, and foreign debt servicing.

Far from deceiving and pacifying the youth and the people, these barefaced machinations only further exposes the rottenness of the ruling regime and the entire social order.

Last week’s series of street protests, walkouts, and campus strikes is only the beginning of broader and stronger mass movements that will assert the people’s rights and welfare and push for fundamental social transformations. ■


1. Slavoj Žižek, “The Iraq War: Where is the True Danger?,” The Universal Exception, eds. Rex Butler and Scott Stephens, London: Continuum, 2006, p. 289.
2. Sigmund Freud, The Penguin Freud Library, 6: Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, ed. and trans. James Strachey, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976, p. 100.


  1. I thought that I should join the protests. But then again, the administration is just being reasonably fair. I agree to cutting funds of SUCs so we could increase subsidies to public elementary and secondary schools. It’s appalling to find one teacher to every 60-70 pupils in crowded and unhealthy classrooms. The condition offers a mere semblance of learning. Let’s not be selfish!

    Mga Iskolar ng Bayan, wag po tayong gahaman!

    1. There is no question about the lamentable state of elementary and secondary schools. But then again, the same appalling state goes for most SUCs nationwide. The problem is with the Aquino 2 regime’s opposing the interests of both sectors when in fact its allocation for its allies’ pork barrels, patronage funds and doleouts, military spending, and foreign debt servicing could very well finance both basic education and SUCs. Let’s not be deluded by the Aquino 2 regime’s lies. Oppose the SUCs budget cut!

      Iskolar ng Bayan, wag po tayong paloko!

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