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Mga Tomasinong student-leader, dismayado sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

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Nanawagan ang mga Tomasinong student leader sa Unibersidad na bigyang-linaw at agarang abiso hinggil sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula para sa AY 2021 – 2022.

Noong ika-23 ng Hulyo, matatandaang ibinalik ng Unibersidad ang 50 porsyentong downpayment sa matrikula ng mga freshmen kasunod ng anunsyo na hindi ito magpapatupad ng tuition hike sa panibagong akademikong taon.

Nagpahiwatig ng pagkadismaya ang tagapagsalita ng Central Student Council (CSC) Central Board na si Nathan Agustin, Internal Vice-President ng Communication Arts Students Association (CASA) na si Jeia Jazul, at Internal Vice-President ng UST Journalism Society na si Sophia Castillo sa kakulangan ng komunikasyon at representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa mga inilalabas na patakaran ng Unibersidad.

“They should have consulted us through announcements man lang, even if hindi direkta agad sa councils, […] so that we may immediately say our views or if hindi na talaga mababago, makapag-prepare sana tayo, ‘di ba?” ani ni Agustin sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Binigyang-diin ni Agustin ang pagkakaroon ng maayos na konsultasyon sa pagitan ng Unibersidad at mga mag-aaral bago magpatupad ng mga polisiya para maiwasan ang paulit-ulit na batikos mula sa mga mag-aaral ukol rito.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang pagkakaroon ng representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa pagpapatupad ng iba’t ibang polisiya sa nakaraang State of Thomasian Address 2021 noong ika-24 ng Hulyo.

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Sa isang panayam, nagbigay ng karagdagang paliwanag si Jazul kung bakit mahalaga na bigyang-pansin ang mga hinaing ng mga mag-aaral sa mga ipinatutupad ng Unibersidad.

“Students are the main stakeholders of the University. The school should be listening to the concerns of its students, especially financial [matters]. Instead of increasing the fees, I would ask to please keep it at how much we’ve been paying before when consideration of the pandemic was still a concern,” aniya.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Agustin ang muling pagsingil ng mga dagdag na bayarin mula sa mga mag-aaral katulad ng energy, medical, at dental fees na hindi nagamit ng mga mag-aaral noong nakaraang termino.

“Although there are no tuition fee increases, tandaan natin, hiwalay ang other at miscellaneous fees. Wala ngang tuition fee increase, meron namang other fee increase, meron namang miscellaneous fee increase,” sabi ni Agustin.

Mas mababang downpayment, hindi pa rin sapat umano

Ayon kay Agustin, sa kanilang pagpupulong kasama ang Office of the Vice Rector for Finance (OVRF), sumang-ayon at binaba na ng Unibersidad ang downpayment mula sa 50 porsyento ng matrikula sa P15,000. 

Dagdag pa niya, sa kabila ng pagbaba ng downpayment, masyado pa rin itong mataas para sa ilang mga mag-aaral na nakararanas ng problemang pinansyal dahil sa mas pinahigpit na lockdown dulot ng lumalalang pandemya.

“Even if this amount may not be too much for some, it is too much for others, so there [are] students who may be discouraged to enroll, especially if they don’t know na may means pala para makapag-enroll sila by writing a letter to OVRF,” ani ni Agustin.

Para kay Jazul, hindi nakabubuti ang pagtaas ng mga bayarin sa kabila ng nagpapatuloy na pandemya dahil napipilitang tumigil sa pag-aaral ang mga apektadong mag-aaral.

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

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Inihambing ni Castillo sa isang bitin na eksena sa pelikula ang kanyang pangamba na posibleng hindi siya makapagtapos ng kanyang huling taon sa Unibersidad dahil sa nasabing pagtaas ng bayarin.

“Natatakot ako kasi paano if, yes, naka-enroll ka this semester, pero what if [sa] next sem, tumaas ulit ang tuition or ang downpayment? Parang nasa peak ka ng pag-aaral sabay cut eh,” aniya.

Nitong Biyernes, pinalawig ng Unibersidad ang enrollment para sa unang termino ng panibagong akademikong taon hanggang Miyerkules, ika-25 ng Agosto.

Iniulat ng Department of Education na halos isang milyong mag-aaral ang hindi nakapag-enrol ngayong AY 2021-2022.

Lee Seril
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Nathalie Porras
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UST journ profs oppose NTC’s order to block independent media websites

“Whether we like to admit it or not, the Philippines is still home to a vibrant democracy that should remember it needs to uphold the value of a free press. Journalism is not a crime.”

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Photo from Angie De Silva/Rappler and Glenn Cartsens-Peters/Unsplash

The University’s journalism professors slammed the recent order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to block access to certain websites including independent media outlets Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly.

NTC was asked by the outgoing National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on June 6 to block websites that are allegedly “affiliated to and are supporting” terrorist organizations, specifically the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New Peoples’ Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF). 

Esperon’s request, which listed 28 websites, had all been blocked without prior warning. 

“Bulatlat and the groups in the NSC [National Security Council] list were never informed of the said blocking request,” Janess Ellao, a reporter from Bulatlat wrote.

Since June 17, the 21-year-old alternative news outlet has been inaccessible to its subscribers using PLDT and Smart Communications. After writing to NTC, it was only then that they learned from a reliable source that the national security adviser made such a request.

Journalists around the country, including several professors from the University’s journalism program, aired their concerns with regards to the issue.

For Asst. Prof. Jeremiah Opiniano, democracy values freedom of expression regardless of a news outlet’s political leaning. 

He added that media outlets being “designated” by the NSC is something to be concerned about.

“Regardless of a news outlet’s political leaning (extreme left to left – where the listed news outlets may be categorized; extreme right to right – where the pro-government news outlets fall under), a democracy like ours values freedom of expression,” Opiniano said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“We let these news outlets provide the public with the information that may help people make important life decisions, from daily purchasing necessities to voting during elections,” he added.

Marishelle Medina, another faculty member of UST Journalism, echoed Opiniano’s statement, giving emphasis on being able to “at the very least question [the] government and all its stakeholders’ actions.”

“One of our roles as journalists and as Filipinos (especially as Filipinos) is make the government accountable — or at least provide readers the means that will allow them to do so,” she said in an interview.

“Information is a very important commodity, and it has to be shared if we are to achieve genuine change and unity. It has to be inclusive, not exclusive,” she added.

For Ramon Royandoyan, another Journalism professor, this is the Duterte administration’s “direct attack to constitutionally protected rights” and would continue to send chilling effects to how journalism is practiced in the country. 

“This would cloud Philippine journalism’s struggles to regain the public’s trust and beat back propaganda and disinformation,” he said in an interview.

“Whether we like to admit it or not, the Philippines is still home to a vibrant democracy that should remember it needs to uphold the value of a free press. Journalism is not a crime,” he added.

Aside from journalists, several human rights groups and organizations also expressed concern on the issue, calling it an attack on freedom of expression and information.

What is the basis?

In an interview, UST Journalism program coordinator Felipe Salvosa II questioned Esperon’s basis of his accusation.

“The accusation of being involved in terrorist activities is a heavy one. Was due process observed? Did the NSA ask these news organizations to explain, or tell them what’s wrong with their work?” Salvosa said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

On June 23, Esperon defended the blocking of the sites, affirming that all mentioned in the request were affiliated with the communist insurgency.

This was debunked by the CPP-NPA in an earlier statement saying that only seven of the 28 websites mentioned are affiliated with them.

In Esperon’s request, the national security adviser claimed that these websites “have established pervasive online presence” to publish “propaganda and misinformation campaigns” against the national government.

He utilized the designation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) on the CPP-NPA-NDF as a terrorist organization as a basis to block the said websites.

Designation, as defined in Section 25 of the Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terror Law (ATL), is the power given to ATC to “designate” or identify certain individuals, groups of persons, organizations, or associations as terrorists without any court order.

However, in section 6.4 of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of ATL, the effect of designation is only to freeze the assets of the subject being designated. The IRR also does not indicate any provision that allows blocking of websites. 

It also must be noted that Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, which report about human rights and issues of the marginalized, are not designated as terrorists by the ATC.

As of writing, the websites of Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly remain inaccessible. A “mirror site” is provided for users to continuously access Bulatlat despite the recent incident. 

Ian Patrick Laqui
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Justine Xyrah Rennzel Garcia
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Presidential elections and the Philippine stock market: An explainer

It is not a surprise for the Philippine stock market to move sideways after the partial and unofficial tally of the presidential election results shows Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. is leading over market-friendly Vice President Leni Robredo.

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Photos by Larizza Lucas/TomasinoWeb and Wance Paleri/Unsplash

The Philippines’ next president will have to deal with an embattled nation attempting to pull itself out of the pandemic and grave economic crisis.

It is bleeding red in the Philippines, as presidential aspirant Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. leads the unofficial tally day and the country’s stock exchange index dips to -2.90-percent weekly average as of Tuesday, May 17. 

However, this was not surprising according to top economists and market analysts. For a week now, the global trend is consistent with this drop due to the tightening of US federal monetary policy, among others.

Elections are considered to be one of the major market drivers and the stock market, an indicator of confidence in government. Market jitters during these times are pretty much normal, consistent with past Philippine elections

This year’s high-stake election is different. Usually, investors look at the economic policy directions of candidates, as well as their track record, to assess government competency and market outlook for the years to come.

High government confidence would mean businesses investing in one’s country, which decidedly increases local job opportunities. As of March 2022, the Philippine unemployment rate is at 8.8-percent or 2.875 million unemployed Filipinos.

Zooming out long-term, economic recovery especially at the tail-end of the global health crisis has been the key focus of the current administration, committing to at least bring back the country’s growth to pre-pandemic levels.

For Japan-based global investment firm Nomura Holdings, the lack of Marcos, Jr’s “concrete” economic policies may get foreign investors on the defense, cautious about the Philippine economic crisis that happened after his father bankrupted the Central Bank.

“Marcos Jr., in our view, will likely be regarded as less market-friendly than Robredo, particularly when it comes to experience at the national level and in articulating a strategy for the country to recover from the pandemic,” the January 2022 report said.

Using the five-point categorization, economists of Nomura Global Research assessed presidential candidates on continuity/good governance, infrastructure progress, fiscal discipline, national experience, and business friendliness. 

The Robredo-Pangilinan tandem scored highest with 26 out of 30, while Marcos and his teammate Sara Duterte tallied the lowest mark with 14 out of 30.

The study further added: “Political uncertainty will also likely grow, considering Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s large poll lead over VP Leni Robredo. This will likely weigh on local market sentiment and presents a challenging environment for the Philippines’ net portfolio investment flows.”

A separate report from Bloomberg showed investors favoring a Robredo presidency, with Marcos Jr. at the bottom of the survey along with Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

28 analysts and investors were asked to give ratings to the presidentiables from 1 to 5 who they think will be the best economic leader of the country. Robredo scored 106 while Marcos landed second to the last with 46.

As of press time, the unofficial and partial count of the elections shows the son and namesake of the late dictator Marcos Sr. leading the national polls at more than 58-percent of the total votes. Robredo is trailing behind at 28-percent.

Paolo Alejandrino
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Gulong ng buhay: A Sampaloc driver’s tale of woe

Almost 70,000 PUJ drivers from the Metro lost their source of income in a snap because of the coronavirus outbreak.This included Victor, 57, a driver from the Baclaran-Dapitan route.

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Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb

Sampaloc, Manila was once filled with honking jeepney drivers, but it became a ghost town when President Rodrigo Duterte placed the whole National Capital Region in enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March 2020.

People were barred from leaving their homes including public utility jeepney (PUJ) drivers whose source of income solely relied on driving around the vicinity.

Almost 70,000 PUJ drivers from the Metro lost their source of income in a snap because of the coronavirus outbreak. This included Victor, 57, a driver from the Baclaran-Dapitan route.

For him, the lockdown meant “no profit” because almost everyone was not allowed to go out. 

Being a jeepney driver since 1991, he was able to send his two children to school. One is now a nurse at a hospital in Quezon City, while the other works as a domestic helper in the Middle East. 

They helped him to get by during the lockdown.

“Malaking bagay na may anak kang nakatapos, may nakakatulong ka sa panggastos. Hindi katulad sa iba na walang anak na nakatapos, iyon talaga ang pinaka mahirap sa lahat,” he said.

While he was fortunate, some had it worse. Many PUJ drivers resorted to begging on the streets—the same streets where they used to drive their jeeps.

Carrying plastic containers and cardboard signs around their necks, drivers begged for alms just to make ends meet.

Victor recalled that some of his colleagues used their jeeps as their homes because they did not have enough money to pay rent. 

“Tuwing gabi, makikita mo dito [at Laong Laan terminal], ang dami. Tulog na mga driver kasama iyong mga pamilya nila, iyong mga anak ang liliit pa,” he said.

The lockdown, which was supposed to last only a month, was extended and extended until drivers began to lose hope of plying on their routes again.

Ayuda controversy

During ECQ, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulation Board (LTFRB) promised to give out cash assistance to the affected transport workers but some claimed that they did not receive anything.

According to Victor, the only subsidy that he received was from the Manila Local Government Unit (LGU). 

“Eight thousand ang binigay ng barangay namin. Pero sa LTFRB, wala talaga,” he said.

This was echoed by his co-jeepney driver, Ramon: “Kahit nga bigas, wala kaming natanggap mula sa kanila.” 

Aside from the local government aid, the drivers from the Baclaran-Dapitan route also looked forward to food assistance from some non-governmental organizations. 

But they said that such assistance did not always reach them because the jeep associations in their area were “barring” it.

“Yung mga pinapamigay nila, mas malaki pa iyong naiuuwi nila,” Ramon said. 

“Sila-sila lang din kumikita diyan. Tuwing may nagpapadala, masuwerte na kung maabutan kami ng isang kilong bigas,” he added.

The lockdown was already hard for the drivers, but it grew worse because of associations taking advantage of the already poor situation. 

Ang dami ng naging asosasyon dito, pero walang nag tuloy-tuloy… lagi kasing ganyan,” said by Ramon, a driver for 42 years.

Kaya nga lagi akong nagdarasal noon na makapasada na ulit. Pinapatay lang kami ng mga asosasyon dito eh,” he added.

Killing the traditional

When Metro Manila shifted to General Community Quarantine in June 2020, Victor and Ramon regained hope that they could ply on their route again. 

But their spirits fell short when former spokesperson Harry Roque said that allowing traditional jeep drivers on the road again was “out of question.”

Only modernized jeeps were allowed to resume operations while its older counterparts were still barred from the road. It was a way to push for their phaseout, traditional drivers said.

“Pero walang problema sa amin ang phaseout, basta iyong ipapalit nila ay yung medyo mura-mura naman,” Ramon clarified.

Even before the pandemic started, talks of modernizing jeeps had already been proposed. The Department of Transportation said that it will “improve and strengthen the public transport sector.”

But a modern jeep costs around P2 million, which is a huge amount for drivers who did not have any income for the last few months.

“Nag rally nga kami eh kasi siyempre, hindi kami payag na sila lang ang makakapasada,” Victor said.

Fortunately, the woes of traditional jeepney drivers from Manila had been heard. Before 2020 ended, 70% of traditional jeepneys in the capital were allowed to return to the road.

Stricter protocols

Victor and Ramon were among the first few drivers who got back on their route, but they said that it was not that easy.

“Kailangan ng mga plastic. Hindi pa nga nakakapasada, napagastos na agad,” Victor said, talking about the “ineffective” mandatory plastic barriers.

Before they could return to normal operations, drivers were required to install plastic barriers to ensure physical distance among passengers. 

“Sabi nila para daw ‘di magka-COVID, eh ang dami pa din namang may COVID!” Victor said.

A one seat apart policy was also implemented, reducing the passenger’s load to half of the vehicle’s capacity. 

Although they incurred some losses, the drivers said it was better than having no profit at all. Their P1,000 average daily profit before the pandemic became a challenge to earn within a week during the lockdown. 

They were already lucky if they could earn P200 to P300 each day, Victor recalled.

“Wala ka talagang maitatabi, tamang-tama lang pang kain,” Ramon seconded.

Only a few drivers risked going back on operations because a more or less P300 daily profit was not enough, especially if you still do not own the jeep, they said.

Running in circles

Now that the government is easing the coronavirus restrictions, more jeepneys began plying their routes again. But the king of the road faces a new problem.

Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine is oceans away from the Philippines, drivers can still feel its effect while driving their jeepneys.

“Mas madami ngang sakay, sa krudo lang naman napupunta ang kita,” Victor said.

Drivers have been sighing deep in desperation as oil prices continued to increase each week. Although they are now earning P500 to P600 a day, it is still not enough.

“Talong-talo talaga. Kaya dapat makarami ng ikot at madaming maisakay,” said Ramon, who does five to six round trips everyday.

He also said some drivers started sleeping on their jeeps again while some, including him, skip a few meals—all because they want to save money.

“Sayang eh, pang gas na din iyon,” he added.

Although drivers feel burdened by the weekly oil price hike, they said an increase in fare should not be done.

“Hindi dapat taasan ‘yan, mahirap na ang buhay ngayon. Maganda talaga dyan ay rollback… krudo talaga ang kalaban,” Victor explained.

Dubai crude has breached the $80-mark this week and the Department of Energy says it may rise even more, as supply struggles to keep up with demand.

Now that oil prices are projected to reach P100 per liter, Sampaloc might become a ghost town again—but not because the government is imposing another lockdown. 

For the likes of Victor and Ramon, the wheels of their jeeps might be left unturned again. 

A series of misfortunes, one after the other.

Justine Xyrah Rennzel Garcia
Reports Writer | + posts

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