Protesters on UP ‘violence’: Real issue is DAP
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After days of silence, protest groups from the University of the Philippines finally spoke up about the September 17 protest against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad which turned violent.
In a statement released Saturday, September 20, student groups STAND UP, Anakbayan-UP Diliman, Alay Sining, LFS-UP Diliman, CNS-UP Diliman, and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines-UP Diliman said trivializing the protest as “mere violence” is an attempt to “veer attention away” from the real issue.
On September 17, some UP students hurled crumpled paper and coins at Abad, while another tried to grab him by the collar, as he walked out of a forum on the proposed 2015 budget held at the premier state university – an act decried by various personalities as "hooliganism."
On this charge, the student groups said, "The real hooligans with behavior more worthy of condemnation are out there in the government, lambasting our rights and stealing our hard-earned money paid as tax for their own benefit.”
Abad and the administration have been criticized for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – a government program with specific acts declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Both Abad and President Benigno Aquino III have repeteadly defended the DAP, saying it was necessary to fast-track economic growth. Abad had offered to resign over the controversy, but Aquino rejected it and maintained his trust and confidence in the Cabinet official.
The student groups said Abad "represents the ongoing greed and corruption in government.”
"It would have been unforgivable to let him get away without showing the anger felt by each and every Filipino suffering every single day from dire poverty and oppression instigated by thieves like Abad and his boss Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. It is therefore necessary to protest; to register dissent against the wrongdoings of this state was urgent,” they said.
They urged UP students and professors who called their behavior “unruly and barbaric” to take a stand against corruption and “the yellow dictatorship,” which is the “true meaning” of the university motto: "Honor and Excellence."
Protest as constitutional right
More than 20 UP professors condemned the incident, saying the protesters declared themselves “enemies, not of Secretary Abad, but of the University itself.” (READ: UP professors condemn violence vs Abad)
They also noted that Abad, as an invited guest, is covered by the "safe passage that the University guarantees to all who set foot on campus.”
But the groups said that even if UP is a free and academic institution, “it does not exist in a vacuum."
"Manners are not defined by intellectual arrogance, but by history – when lives are at stake, etiquette is biased to the ones struggling for our legitimate democratic rights and interests,” they said.
Aquino has expressed his disappointment over the incident, while Abad said there is no place for violence and aggression during discourse, and in an academic environment at that.
But the protesters asserted their rights.
"In the end, we uphold: DAP, corruption and tyranny are all unconstitutional, while how we exercise democracy – the protest we staged – is a constitutionally granted right and has its place in a society ill from crisis,” they said.
Words, not violence
In a separate statement Saturday, Senator Pia Cayetano – chair of the Senate committee on Education, Arts and Culture and a member of the UP Board of Regents – also expressed "extreme disappoint" over the incident since Abad was a guest, and "we do not treat our guests that way."
Cayetano, an alumna of the UP School of Economics, said UP students can express themselves in creative ways that are "more dignified, comprehensive and better thought-out."
“UP's academic freedom gives everyone the right to speak up, to challenge ideas, debate with passion and fight for one's principles. But this freedom does not include the right to physically assault anyone just because you disagree with his or her views," she said, challenging the students to criticize their government and seek change through words and not violence. – Rappler.com