Philippines: Students protest repression, demand university official’s ouster

Photo by Herbert Docena.

Thirty-four students of the Cavite State University (CvSU) in Silang, in the Filipino province of Cavite, have been sued for libel by school administrators. In response, the start of the second semester was met with a mass protest against harassment, irregularities and the deterioration of the educational system.

The students had earlier sent letters to President Rodrigo Duterte and CvSU president Hernando Robles demanding an investigation into the alleged irregularities and repressive measures carried out by Quintin Subong IV, an academic who holds several key positions, along with former Silang campus dean Dinah Espineli and student council president Kim Almeda.

Subong, Espineli and Almeda subsequently filed libel and perjury suits against the students, three of whom are minors.

Among the issues raised by the students against Subong, Espineli, and Almeda are:

1. Purchase by the student council of a Toyota Innova for private use.

2. Release of P300,000 from the student council fund for the construction of a student park even though CvSU had released P3 million in 2015 for the same project. Said student park is merely paved with gravel and has a non-operational fountain.

3. Questionable legitimacy of the incumbent student council for not having been proclaimed by the student electoral commission. Their claim for legitimacy came from Subong, who at that time was the office of student affairs head.

4. Verbal discrimination of LGBTI students by Subong.

5. Collection of exorbitant fees, including an internet fee even though the school has failed to provide internet connection on campus.

6. The student council’s illegal collection of a student publication fee, in violation of the Campus Journalism Act.

7. Hiring numerous incompetent teaching personnel, including a former mall salesperson to teach economics.

The students called for the immediate removal of Subong, the withdrawal of the libel case, and the holding of snap elections for the student council.

They sought the support of members of the socialist Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) and workers’ group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)-Southern Tagalog.

Together with their parents and their lead counsel, the BMP’s Luke Espiritu, they agreed to meet with the CvSU president.

Robles promised to convince Subong to drop the case, transfer Subong to another CvSU campus, and to hold snap student council elections. But Robles could not assure students that the libel case will be dropped, saying the CvSU administration has nothing to do with it since it is a “personal” case by Subong, Espineli, and Almeda.

Almeda, who attended the dialogue, demanded that students issue a public apology to him as condition for his withdrawal from the libel case. This was vehemently rejected by the students.

The students are now planning to hold more protest actions, organise teach-ins, and field candidates in the coming snap elections.

[Merck Maguddayao is a PLM activist. This article will appear in the PLM's Ang Masa (The Masses) magazine.]