|January 22, 1998|
Barely 15 weeks ago, the campus came alive with one of the largest rallies in recent history. Our call was simple, as it echoed across Quezon Hall: No to Commonwealth Property Development Project (CPDP). The Board of Regents, with an 8-1 vote in favor of the CDPD, was met with outrage. Our voices of dissent lasted late into the night, only to fade early the next morning. Yet despite all this, the Project was lifted to Malacanang to await the President's approval. It was assumed, afterward, that the Project and all efforts against it had slowly died a natural death.
The issue has been thrust upon us once again, shattering the silence that culminated over time. A recent statement by President Ramos himself, assuring approval of the Project after two conditions are met, resurrects the basic sentiments over commercialization and the CPDP. And now, even more than before, we stand firm against the Project that looms before us.
Proponents of the CPDP highlight the need for modernizing UP facilities as the University approaches the next century. We are told that the projected cash that the CPDP is supposed to generate will provide the basic thrust toward larger employee salaries, newer equipment. The government has already begun to re-channel funding for education, particularly toward primary and secondary education, since these are what are most available to a greater number of Filipinos. As it stands, UP already gets the lion's share of the budget among state colleges and universities (SCUs). It is in this light, we are further told, that we must learn to maximize our assets and earn income for ourselves.
While these are relevant considerations, a larger look at the CPDP, and of commercialization in general, still leave pressing questions unanswered.
What is more appalling about the CPDP's imminent approval is the utter lack of genuine consultation among the students, faculty, and employees. While there occurred a series of convocations on the matter, the most that was achieved through these was an exchange of ideas. But the object of "consultation" was basically a done deal. This, despite the objections of a great majority of the UP sectors. Such disregard of the majority stand reflects a centralized administration, unresponsive to popular clamor over this tumultuous issue.
Furthermore, why should we condone the government's measly budget for education by turning toward economic self-sufficiency? Proponents argue over the impracticality of asking the government for a higher budget; yet we are left to wonder why we should have to ask for something that we have long been entitled to. Government officials cannot always point to empty state coffers, what with millions being expended on the military, debt servicing, and pork barrel yearly. The state of Philippine education continues to decline, yet government spending remains misprioritized.
Finally, we do not oppose the possible benefits that the CPDP may offer. But rather, we are against the long-term effects of the Project and others like it. UP, as the prototype for the country's SCUs, has a great amount of assets in the form of land. Curbing administrative policies toward greater economic self-sufficiency, as in the case of UP, could prove disastrous for other SCUs which lack any workable assets in the first place. It is not that we do not wish to benefit financially, it is that we do not wish to benefit alone.
The call has come upon us once again to oppose the CPDP. But this time, it is the President of the Republic to whom we raise our voices.