Mass student strike petitioners unfazed by Roque’s ‘babagsak kayo’ warning

November 17, 2020 - 5:52 PM
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A photo of a mass protest in front of the Ateneo de Manila University from the College Editors Guild of the Philippines on Twitter (CEGP/Released)

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.

The University of the Philippines’ Philippine Collegian reported that Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list) joined the youth strike.

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.

Student’s petitions

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.

Screenshot by Interaksyon from The Guidon

“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.

The Central Assembly of the ADMU, however, voted against this petition. The representatives of the student organizations and the university are set to discuss concerns raised by the students on Tuesday evening.
On the same day, Commission on Higher Education Chair Prospero de Vera III in an interview with CNN Philippines rejected the calls for mass student strike. He said he leaves the decision of implementing an academic break to the colleges and universities.
“No to both. Especially, for the nationwide academic break because the impact of the typhoon and the disasters are different across different parts of the country. No also to Luzon-wide because the universities are also deciding on it,” De Vera said.
Because of this, youth groups and students who staged protest personally went to CHED office in Quezon City to call for semester end. They attempted to submit a petition but were barred from entering the premises of the office.

#WalangPasok

The ADMU, the UP the De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines and other academic institutions such as De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Lyceum of the Philippines University Manila, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and University of the East, among others have declared weeklong suspensions of all their classes and activities until November 21 to help their students and faculty members recover from the typhoons.

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.