Student protests against education budget cuts presage rising tide of protests

Campus rallies against SUC budget cuts presage rising tide of youth and people's protests

By Communist Party of the Philippines

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) salutes and supports the struggle of students and other school personnel of the University of the Philippines, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the Philippine Normal University and other state universities and colleges (SUCs) in Metro Manila and other regions against unjust SUC budget cuts.

The CPP hails the militancy and determination of the students, teachers and other school personnel in the mass protest actions they have launched the past two weeks. The CPP takes note of the widespread unity of students, teachers, administrative officials, non-academic workers and supporters against the US-Aquino regime's SUC budget cuts. The broad united front against the budget cuts underscores the popular opposition to the ruling regime's policy to cut state subsidies for SUCs and other direly needed social services, and concentrate the bulk of state spending for foreign debt servicing, military spending, privatization programs, "pork barrels" and the World Bank's Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program for perpetual mendicancy.

The participation of several thousand students, academic and non-academic school personnel and other sectors in campus walkouts and other protest actions the past several days significantly mark a rising tide of mass protests against the US-Aquino regime's antipeople policies.

These rallies in Philippine universities and colleges are taking place at the same time as students wage protest actions in unprecedented numbers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, some states in the U.S., and other countries where governments have carried out similar "austerity measures" resulting in brutal budget cuts in education and other necessary social spending.

The US-Aquino regime's spending cuts for SUCs spell the further deterioration of services and facilities of state tertiary education, and make university and college education more inaccessible to the vast majority of young Filipinos.

Close to 90% of college-age youth are out of school because of the high costs of going to universities and colleges. Yet, funding for SUCs next year has been cut by at least P1.3 billion. The Aquino government slashed the budget of UP by P1.39 billion (from P6.9 billion in 2010 to P5.5 billion in 2011). PUP will only get P672 million out of the P2 billion it needs. The budget of the PNU has also been slashed by P92 million (from P387.23 million to P295.88 million). Funds for government scholarships were also reduced by 43 percent.

The justification by the US-Aquino regime that it reduced the budget for SUCs to prioritize basic and secondary education evades the issue of its gross failure to allocate an adequate budget for public education in general. It also dodges the fact that is has allocated only P10.5 billion (instead of the required P91.5 billion) to solve the grave shortage of public elementary and and high school teachers, principals, books, classrooms, chairs, water and sanitation facilities this school year.

Aquino has only further enraged the students and SUC personnel when he justified the cuts as a measure to push the SUCs toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, a reiteration of the Philippine government's policy of abandoning state tertiary education. For the past years, this policy has pushed SUCs to increasingly engage in profit-oriented commercial operations and raising tuition rates and imposing other fees.

The spending cuts in state tertiary education highlight the continuing budgetary malappropriations. National spending priorities are determined not by needs of the people but by imperialist neoliberal dictates of privatizing public assets and turning social services into commodities, as well as by the US government-designed counterinsurgency program that hinges on further strengthening the military combined with deceptive doleout programs and cosmetics.

Despite its prating about "reforms" and "taking the righteous road," the US-Aquino government has failed to make a significant break from the rotten, antipeople policies of all previous puppet reactionary regimes, and is proving itself to be no different in terms of its pro-imperialist and elitist commercial priorities and programs.

The CPP urges students, teachers, non-academic personnel and officials of SUCs and other schools and communities to continue pressing for bigger and more adequate allocations for state tertiary education in particular and for education in general. Those in state schools should unite with those in private schools to also incisively critique the profit orientation of the entire school system. Students in private schools have as much interest in opposing the budget cuts. In the face of the state abandonment of education, owners of private colleges and universities are only emboldened to further commercialize their operations and keep on raising tuition fees.

The CPP also urges the affected students to unite with the different sectors of Philippine society who are likewises adversely affected by the US-Aquino regime's policy to reduce much-needed social spending. They should help in explaining the issues to the broad masses of workers and peasants and the millions of unemployed and urban poor who continue to suffer gravely from the government's pro-imperialist, commercial, elitist and antipoor policies.

The issues being faced by the students are tightly bound with the political and socio-economic malaise in the country and the masses' concrete problems of poverty, hunger and deprivation of much-needed social services amid the overall spiralling of costs of living and general deterioration of the people's conditions.

The significance and effectivity of mass student protest actions in the past weeks will be amplified severalfold as they unite with the other sectors and forge a broad united front against cuts in basic social spending and other political and socio-economic problems prevailing in the country.

Student councils and associations, youth organizations and progressive groups can organize the students to go en masse to factories and worker and urban poor communities near their schools and even to far-flung peasant communities to generate support for the struggle against education budget cuts. At the same time, they can extend support to the struggle of workers, the unemployed and impoverished masses for jobs, wage increases, and the provision of health, housing and other essential social services. As in many occasions in our past, the streets will again be a venue for the students and the people to make history.

The US-Aquino regime has failed to address the clamor of the people for national industrialization and land reform; for stable domestic jobs and wage increases; for government prioritization of education, health and other essential social services; and for an end to prioritization of allocations for debt-servicing, privatization, mendicancy-perpetuating doleouts, militarization and 'counterinsurgency' operations.

Because of its adamant perpetuation of the old, rotten system and government policies against the interests of the broad masses of the people, the US-Aquino regime is bound to be rocked by massive protests in the coming months and the rest of its term.

The campus strikes and protest actions of the past days and weeks presage rising tides of more wide-ranging people's protests against the policies of the US-Aquino regime that serve only the interests of the imperialists, local big capitalist compradors, big landlords and big bureacrat capitalists. The intensity and heightening of the political and socio-economic crisis in the country increasingly bears down on the people and leaves them with no recourse but to wage militant struggle and revolution.