Responding to the harassment by Duterte supporters of a University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) student for simply asking Duterte a critical question during a forum, youth group Anakbayan said that there is nothing wrong with questioning a candidate’s budgetary priorities.
The youth group assailed Duterte supporters for bullying the UPLB student, saying it is alarmed at how death threats are easily thrown against those who harbour contrary opinions to their own.
Anakbayan asserted that threatening the life of a student just for asking questions is out of place in a democracy. The youth group said this only dampens critical thinking and perpetuates impunity among those in authority by discouraging individuals to raise questions out of fear of harassment.
“Under the Aquino regime, UP has seen chronic budget cuts and tuition and other fee hikes. We thus understand the UPLB student’s concern about a presidential candidate’s budgetary priorities for the next six years,” said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.
The group said that questions on education spending and the national budget are legitimate regardless of the form these are articulated and should be seen as an opportunity to explain the candidate’s stand on the issue rather than as an offence.
He said more students should ask candidates these questions given how the high cost of education under Aquino has pushed many students to desperation, like UP Manila student Kristel Tejada and Jessaven Lagatic who committed suicide just last month after losing his scholarship.
“If anyone should be insulted, it is the students and parents who day after day are being insulted by the commercialized system of education under Aquino. Walang pinag-aralan? Paano ka makakapag-aral e pinipwersa ka ng gobyernong hindi makapag-aral sa taas ng mga bayarin,” said Crisostomo.
Anakbayan challenged all presidential candidates to stand against the “neoliberal” education reforms now being pushed to the hilt by the Aquino regime, saying they should repudiate Aquino’s programs that intensify the blatant commercialization of education.
In particular, Anakbayan calls for the junking of all tuition and other fee hikes. The group also demands the junking of the Marcos-era Education Act of 1982, which perpetuates education deregulation as government policy by allowing private schools to raise fees without any regulation.
The group called on all candidates to increase the budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs) and make education free at all levels, thereby reversing Aquino’s “Roadmap for Public Higher Education Reform” which further privatizes SUCs.
Anakbayan lastly called for the immediate stopping of Aquino’s K-12 program, which it says represents an additional 2 years of financial burden to students and their parents.