The advocacy of students’ rights and welfare has been a longstanding struggle for the Philippine student movement. Given the lack of a clear and comprehensive national policy guaranteeing the realization of the full potential of students, numerous violations against the young Filipino scholars are still continually being committed even after the restoration of student liberty in the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
Even today there are recorded instances of violations against students’ rights and welfare. In a certain private university, for example, students who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are not allowed to form their own organization focused on the support for their cause. In many private schools, students who are discovered to be and pregnant and unmarried are immediately expelled. In our own University, we are still excluded from consultation when it comes to raising tuition and other fee increases.
These are just some of the violations against students’ rights, but clearly they extend to violations to our civil rights. As students and citizens that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution, we cannot let our liberties end upon stepping into the halls of our academic institutions. Beyond the struggle for a higher budget or better facilities, we have to recognize that quality education includes fostering a conducive environment where students are free to excel without the fear of discrimination or repression.
That is the very essence of the Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill. That is the very reason that House Bill No. 2190 must be passed: it ensures us that academic institutions are able to mold tomorrow’s Filipinos into citizens capable of true nation-building.
It should be in the interest of every student, therefore, to join the rest of the student movement in fighting for legislation aimed at guaranteeing our welfare. Specifically, it guarantees the students, their right (1) to admission, non-discrimination and quality education; (2) to organize and establish their own student councils and/or organizations; (3) to participate in policy-making processes; (4) to free expression and information; (5) to exercise their academic freedom; (6) to due process in disciplinary proceedings; (7) to privacy; and other rights such as their right against unreasonable searches and seizures; and (8) to be secured within school premises.
We, the Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare, share in the advocacy of the student movement in the struggle for the promotion and protection of the rights of the Filipino students. In line with this, we recognize the need to formalize and institutionalize legal mechanisms by which the Filipino student can be ensured of his/her enjoyment of the civil liberties provided by the Constitution.
We therefore call on the legislators to pass House Bill No. 2190 filed by Rep. Walden Bello and Rep. Kaka Bag-ao to address the need for a national policy on students’ rights and welfare and the consolidation of laws that protect such.
We also call on our fellow students to join us in making sure that our voices are heard loud and clear. Ultimately, we believe and assert that we are the future of this nation. We can never be part of genuine social progress if social justice is not present in the places where we are supposed to learn.
Once again, in the simplest yet clearest words, we ask only for one thing: Pass the STRAW Bill Now!
– CARLO BROLAGDA
Spokesperson, Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare /
Councilor, UP Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council