Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque started a word war against students of a prestigious university after he warned them that they will fail should they continue their protest.
Over 500 students of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) have pledged via online petition to withhold the submission of their academic requirements starting Wednesday, November 18 in protest of the national government’s perceived lackluster response to the onslaught of recent strong typhoons.
When asked about this mass student strike in a chance interview, Roque reminded the students that they will fail if they do not submit their requirements.
“Babagsak po kayo. Bilang isang dating propesor, kahit anong dahilan ang sinasabi niyong strike, ‘pag di kayo sumunod sa mga academic requirements, mawawalan kayo ng kinabukasan, ‘di kayo makaka-graduate sa Ateneo,” Roque said.
When a video clip this was shared on social media, ADMU students and other concerned Filipinos denounced Roque over his remarks as dismissive and insensitive to their concerns.
“Why study for a future we won’t have?” one user asked.
“I’m sorry that was hilarious Roque! Joker ka ba ha? That just shows how much you guys don’t listen to the concerns of your students and how much you don’t care about them,” another Twitter user wrote.
Some online users argued that the students have made more contributions to help typhoon victims than the authorities themselves.
Richard Bolisay, a professor at ADMU, opposed Roque’s remarks.
“Ako nga mismong prof sumusuporta sa strike eh. Walang babagsak!” Bolisay said.
Volleyball player Maddie Madayag, meanwhile, focused on Roque’s manner of wearing his face mask in the video.
“Please wear your mask properly,” she said.
Aside from the mass student strike, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines reported on November 17 that various youth groups and students from several universities proceeded to mobilize in front of the ADMU Gate 2 in Quezon City in line with the celebration of the International Students Day.
NOW: On #ISD2020, various groups gather at Ateneo Gate 2.5 to denounce Duterte's criminal negligence against the Filipino people for failure to provide concrete solutions to pandemic, education, and calamities, November 17. #YouthStrikePH#NationalAcadBreakNow pic.twitter.com/xCqrCifUd0
— CEGP (@CEGPhils) November 17, 2020
The University of the Philippines’ Philippine Collegian reported that Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list) joined the youth strike.
Rep. Sarah Elago, @KabataanPL: Tama na, sobra na, kailangan nang wakasan ang pagpapahirap, paglabag sa karapatng pantao, tiraniya, diskriminasyon, at pasismo na nararanasan ng mga Pilipino. #YouthStrikePH pic.twitter.com/X3i6iss9h2
— Philippine Collegian (@phkule) November 17, 2020
A youth group of the University of Santo Tomas also posted a photo of a banner placed at the campus’ main entrance, saying: “Oust Duterte.”
They used the hashtags #NationalAcadBreakNow and #YouthStrikePH on Twitter.
🐯 gOUSTe DUTERTE 🐯
LOOK: A banner is seen in front of UST’s Arch of the Centuries showing support for the academic strike and the ouster of Duterte. #YouthStrikePH#NationalAcadBreakNow#OustDuterteNow pic.twitter.com/nUrpXDyECk
— Panday Sining UST SHS ✊🏽 (@PS_USTSHS) November 17, 2020
In the copy shared by ADMU’s official student publication The Guidon on November 14, the students denounced the government’s response to natural disasters and the pandemic as “criminally neglectful,” citing the rising number of deaths across the country.
“We believe that things cannot continue business as usual. We can no longer stomach the ever-rising number of deaths due to the state’s blatant incompetence. We cannot prioritize our schoolwork when our countrymen are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of those in power,” the petition read.
They also expressed solidarity with the victims of the typhoons and the still raging COVID-19 crisis.
“From the beginning, no student should have been left behind. We acknowledge the university’s efforts in attempting to close the disparity between those who can afford to go on with schooling and those who have trouble doing so. However, we see that it is not enough in these times of turmoil to simply proceed with academic affairs as though normal,” it read.
The signatories then pledged on non-submission of their requirements “until the national government heeds the people’s demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response.”
On Tuesday, The Sanggunian, the sole autonomous student government of the ADMU, said the university body crafted a revised version of the mass student strike petition bearing new demands that include “no fail policy” as well as fair wages for faculty and staff, among others.
Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro, on the other hand, announced class suspensions in all levels in both private and public schools of the city from November 16 to December 16. The city has been one of the hardest hit by Typhoon Ulysses.