To the Memorandum of Student Regent Shahana Abdulwahid

dated 9 January 2009

We, the undersigned students, student organizations, and student councils, write this letter in protest to and as an appeal from the decision of Student Regent (SR) Shahana Abdulwahid released last 30 December 2008, limiting the referendum question only to the following:

"Do you approve of the existing Codified Rules for Student Regent Selection (CRSRS) as rules and qualifications to govern the selection of our student representative to the UP Board of Regents? YES or NO"

We submit that such a decision is an affront to elementary concepts of democratic consultation and maximum student participation. Considering that the subject of the referendum are no less than the rules and qualifications of the SR, it is highly questionable why the referendum question is oversimplified in its present form, when there are other existing proposals that have yet to be discussed head on in the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC). For example, the following proposals have been recommended and supported by a considerable number of student councils:

1. The inclusion of a minimum academic requirement as a qualification for nomination as SR;

2. The inclusion of an express enumeration of powers and responsibilities of the SR;

3. The democratization of the voting structure of the SR to take into account the relative sizes of the units without sacrificing the interests of smaller UP units;

4. The de-politicization of the SR selection process by deleting in the rules the KASAMA sa UP, a political alliance composed of several student councils; and

5. The rationalization of the selection process by extending the effectivity of the rules to at least 3 years, instead of the current system of annual amendment.

Because of the SR’s decision, the above proposals will not be open for discussion, debate, and ultimately, the vote of the students in the referendum. In effect, the students will be asked to approve or disapprove a set of rules which, in most likelihood, they have not even read in full. For all intents and purposes, the referendum process will only be reduced to a rubber stamp for the status quo, all because the above questions of policy will not be passed on to the students for their scrutiny.

Thus, we appeal to the SR’s better sense of judgment to include the above policy determinations in the referendum ballot. We trust that the SR will recognize and honor the growing call from students for informed and meaningful participation in the SR rules referendum.

In the interest of maximum student participation, we call on the SR, in the sternest manner possible, to let the UP students decide.

Democratize the SR Selection process

In her memorandum, the SR supposed that our “main and urgent task” is to have the CRSRS placed in a referendum. However, we respectfully disagree. It is not our task to simply ratify the CRSRS. More significantly, we are duty-bound to ensure that the process for selection of the SR is most representative of students’ values, and is one done in a most democratic manner. What better way to determine this than to ask the students directly what they want?

We believe it is only in this way can we forge and instill in every UP student a close sense of familiarity with, affinity to, and ownership of the Office of the SR.

Much to our disappointment, proposals to amend the existing CRSRS were only “duly noted but not deliberated on” in the December 19 General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) allegedly because the meeting was “not the proper venue to deliberate on those proposals.” The SR would like us to posit that the meeting was “set purposely to discuss and deliberate on the conduct of the SR Referendum.”

However we ask: how is it logically possible to discuss the conduct or procedure of the referendum when the actual substance of the rules to be subjected to the referendum itself is not settled first? Is it not reasonable that before we discuss how the referendum is held, we should initially deliberate what to ask the students in the referendum?

But since there was neither deliberation nor voting in the GASC, the Codified Rules for Student Regent Selection (CRSRS), the status quo rules, cannot be used in the referendum without honoring the results of earnest consultation efforts resulting in proposed improvements to the rules.

Consultation results must be given due respect

In the GASC it was saddening that the consultation reports and proposals by different student councils were decimated to mere recommendations to the SR.

We respectfully manifest to the SR that there is no sincerer way appreciating the diligent efforts of the student councils who conducted massive and comprehensive consultations through convocations, organizations hopping, room-to-room discussions, surveys, etc. than to make sure that their recommendations will be deliberated on in the body which they were made to believe to be the proper venue for them.

But because the GASC, the highest student council institution under the new UP Charter, was hindered from deciding on the proposals of the student councils, it is but prudent to leave it to the student population itself to decide what they want the SR to be and how they want he or she to be chosen. In force and effect, the soundness and necessity of the proposed amendments ultimately fell on the lap of the students themselves when the student leaders in the GASC were not able to decide on it.

The SR cannot arrogate unto herself this highly delicate power when in the very first place, the opportunity for deliberative discussion with all the student councils, i.e. the December 19 GASC, was available to her.

While we may be able to strip the student leaders of the opportunity to discuss and decide on these proposals, as we have done today, we could never, in conscience, take this basic right away from the students.

Current rules urgently need review

The CRSRS, since it was first adopted in 1997 has had its share of criticisms, and now even the SR “acknowledge[s] that there is indeed a need to review the CRSRS.” To say the least, student leaders for the past decade have been in disagreement as to its provisions. Thus, the referendum comes as a welcome opportunity for student representatives to stop arguing and start asking their constituents—those who they seek to represent—what they want in their student regent.

There is no evil in asking directly what the students want. In fact, we submit that it is the highest form of democracy. Students, nay, UP students are no doubt ready for such a harrowing test of intellect. No amount of maneuvering or quibbling as to logistical or financial difficulty can trump any attempt to obstruct their exercise of their supreme right.

Triumph of technicalities

We appeal the SR not to allow a feeble resort to technicalities of procedure triumph over essential democratic rights.

The UP Charter was passed into law on 29 April 2008. The SR sought the legal opinion of Vice President for Legal Affairs Atty. Theodore Te on September as to the effects of the referendum requirement in the UP Charter. From that time hence, when asked by student councils about when and where the GASC would be, the SR answered that she was still waiting for the legal opinion. The student councils were clearly at a loss, and were under the SR’s sole mercy as to how to proceed.

Direction only came on 7 November 2008 when the SR issued a memorandum enjoining that student councils to conduct consultations as to the SR rules and submit comprehensive reports of such efforts. The student councils nevertheless obliged and submitted to the SR the result of their consultation drives. Only to be surprised in the GASC where voices were silenced by the amplified twaddle of technicalities.

The SR cannot blame, and therefore hold accountable, the student councils for supposing that the December 19 GASC was the proper and only venue in which their proposals would be tackled and discussed. Nowhere in the 7 November and also in the 2 December Memoranda of the SR did she mention that the 19 December GASC would be a special one. Nowhere in the CRSRS or the above memoranda was it mentioned that a special GASC does not have the power to decide on, or even discuss recommendations. The SR’s reliance on Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Proceedings as to the effect of a special meeting is patently misplaced and uncalled for when the student councils do not even know that there is such a thing as a special GASC.

As guidance to the student councils, the SR should have categorically informed them of the true nature (regular or irregular or special, and its effects) of the December 19 GASC rather than leaving them in the dark. Their reliance in good faith on the SR’s ambiguous representations that the recommendations will be tackled in GASC is enough reason for her to give ample way for deliberation on the amendments.

Moreover, the SR cannot logically and in good faith invoke the 1 October deadline under the CRSRS for proposing amendments. First, the enactment of the UP Charter effectively ended the effectivity of the CRSRS in governing the selection of the student regent. As thus, until such time the said rule is subjected to a referendum, it cannot be used as a basis for imposing an October 1 deadline.

Even assuming that the CRSRS was still binding, the SR’s own actions preclude her from raising the aforementioned deadline. For one, she only posted the CRSRS in the upsc_osr e-group (the SR on-line information dissemination arm) on 3 October 2008, two (2) days later than the deadline. For another, she did not issue a memorandum reminding the student councils of the 1 October deadline, as was customarily done by all previous SRs. And lastly, even the SR herself was unsure of the next step absent the legal opinion of the VP for Legal Affairs. In fact, in her September 19, 2008 memorandum, the Student Regent’s only directive, despite the apparent confusion caused by the law, was to “please stand by for further details;” thus, she could not have reasonably expected the student councils to know more about how to proceed any more than she did.

Critical analysis, collective action, active promotion of students’ rights and welfare—these are what UP students and their leaders are known for through the years. Heedless resort to technicalities has never been one of these defining characteristics.

To reiterate, it becomes clear that the SR could not and should not allow the SCs to be bound by mere technicalities when what is at stake is the substantive right of the students to a democratically chosen representative in the BOR.

Indeed, the polestar of this protest and appeal is the high ideal of basic democracy.

In times when our national leadership is consistently oblivious to the true expression of our people’s aspirations, and when the powers-that-be continue to dominate and mute worthy dissent, there is all the more gripping reason for student leaders in the University of the Philippines, to want to know what the students specifically want in their SR.

Our call—let the students decide

In this referendum, we dare to ask the students to decide for themselves.

We call on the Student Regent to include in the ballot the proposals submitted by various student councils as alternative questions.

We have attached here a copy of the questions that would be subjected in the referendum. We strongly believe that these questions as formed would promote maximum democracy in the selection of our next SR.

We likewise demand that the student regent halt the growing misapprehension that a “no to the CRSRS” is a “no to the OSR.” This campaign borders on misrepresentation and fraud, and would likely result in more divisiveness. The Student Regent, through her consultations with the UP legal office, knows that as a public officer, a failure to appoint or elect the next student regent will result only in a hold-over of the incumbent.

More than a decade of a status quo that is largely unchecked by the students in the exercise of their primary right to be heard through their vote is simply enough. We should welcome, and not repel, the referendum as an opportunity to hear out the students in its purest, and henceforth most compelling, form.

For if we believe otherwise, if we foreclose, actively or even by omission, the opportunity for students to decide and determine delicate questions of policy, then the Office of the Student Regent is surely in need of defense—not from the state, the UP administration or any one else, but from our very own selves.


Third Bagro, Chairperson*,
UP Diliman University Student Council (UPD USC)

Jan Robert Go, Chairperson*,
UP Manila University Student Council (UPM USC)

Nasvin Del Rosario, Chairperson*,
UP Visayas Cebu College Student Council (UPV CC SC)

Helena Garcia, Chairperson*,
UP Extension Program in Pampanga Student Council (UPEPP SC)

Rafael Usa, Jr., Chairperson,
UP Visayas Tacloban College Student Council (UPV TC SC)

Jobert Navallo, President,
UPD Law Student Government (UPD LSG)

Maria Christina Langit, Chairperson,
UPM College of Medicine Student Council (UPM Med SC)

Jamie Pring, Chairperson,
UPD College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (UPD CSSP SC)

Christopher Yu, Chairperson,
UPD College of Science Student Council (UPD CS SC)

Iris Siy, Chairperson*,
UPD College of Home Economics Student Council (UPD CHE SC)

Sean Su, Chairperson*,
UPD College of Architecture Student Council (UPD Archi SC)

Juan Antonio Maningat, Chairperson*,
UPD School of Statistics Student Council (UPD SSSC)

Bernica Marquez, Chairperson,
UPD College of Business Administration Student Council (UPD CBA SC)

Noel Ricardo Reyes, Chairperson,
UPD School of Economics Student Council (UPD SE SC)

John Almeda, Chairperson,
UPD Asian Institute of Tourism Student Council (UPD AIT SC)

Sheila Mae Sabalburo, Chairperson,
UPD National College of Public Administration and Governance Student Council (UPD NCPAG SC)

Kriska Tayag, Chairperson,
UPD College Music Student Council (UPD CM SC)

McRhonald Banderlipe, Chairperson*,
UPD School of Labor and Industrial Relations Student Council (UPD SOLAIR SC)

Sophia Monica V. San Luis, Law Representative*
UP Diliman University Student Council (UPD USC)

UPD Law Student Government (UP LSG)

UPM College of Medicine Student Council (UPM Med SC)

UPD College of Engineering Student Council (UPD ESC)

UPD College Music Student Council (UPD CM SC)

UPD College of Business Administration Student Council (UPD CBA SC)

UPD School of Economics Student Council (UPD SE SC)

UPD Asian Institute of Tourism Student Council (UPD AIT SC)

UPD National College of Public Administration and Governance Student Council (UPD NCPAG SC)

UPD College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (UPD CSSP SC)

* Signed in their personal capacity as such

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