“Gusto kong malaman ng UP students ang peace talks. Bakit kailangan nilang makialam.” — Krista Melgarejo, UP’s 31st Student Regent
By EDGIE FRANCIS B. UYANGUREN
QUEZON CITY, Philippines — She may be young in age, but the new Student Regent (SR) of the University of the Philippines (UP) thinks beyond the box.
For after all, one would immediately expect that she’ll only focus on the issues surrounding the UP system. Yet this lass from Davao City believes that students should not just talk about tuition fees, the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) or the budget for state colleges and universities.
Krista Melgarejo, the first-ever SR from Mindanao, said that among other things, she wants to focus on the peace talks between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The idea was included in her vision paper, she said, which she presented to the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) last Sunday at the UP Visayas Miag-ao in Iloilo City during the system-wide selection for the 31st SR.
“Gusto kong malaman ng UP students ang peace talks. Bakit kailangan nilang makialam,” she said.
For her, the second agenda of the GPH-NDPF peace process is very important because it would tackle the socio-economic reforms. Part of this, she added, would be the reforms on education
“Hindi lang problema ng UP ang edukasyon. It’s a nationwide problem,” she pointed out.
This would certainly be a challenge to Melgarejo after the GPH unilaterally terminated the peace talks in April and said it would rather consider a different approach to resolve the armed conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP.
But Melgarejo, who’s also a writer-contributor of davaotoday.com, has high hopes even though she only has one-year term as an SR. She’ll be officially proclaimed this June in UP Diliman, replacing UP’s 30th SR, Cleve Ken Robert Arguelles of UP Manila.
“It’s such an honor to be selected as the 31st student regent,” Melgarejo said recalling that just like the other six nominees, she was “grilled” during the system-wide deliberation where student councils gathered to debate and select.
She shared that with her consent, she was nominated by her friend Marianne May Loquias, a student of Anthropology in UP Mindanao. Afterwhich, she underwent both the college and university wide deliberations held at their campus.
She was happy that another student from VisMin (Visayas and Mindanao) became an SR. The last time, she said, was in 2006 with Raffy Jones Sanchez of UP Cebu. However, she noted, that wherever a SR may come from, he (she) will be capable of holding an office as long as the support of UP students is with him (her).
Melgarejo said part of her program as the new SR is to give “genuine student representation” within the constituent units, noting that despite the presence of SR, not all student issues are raised to the Board of Regents (BOR).
The Office of the Student Regent (OSR) is the only student member of the UP BOR which represents over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all UP campuses, the UP OSR website said.
It added, “(T)he OSR has always been the center of genuine, progressive and critical student representation and leadership inside and outside UP tracing its founding roots during the height of the student movement in the Martial Law years.”
Genuine representation, according to Melgarejo, would be the students’ safeguard within the said constituent units.
“I really want to give student leaders’ power sa loob ng constituent units para doon, ma resolve na agad ang mga problema, hindi na kailangang i-raise sa BOR level,” she said.
The OSR, together with the BOR members, formulates, amends and review governance, academic, fiscal, and other policies by the university.
While Melgarejo said that she will continue the programs implemented by the OSR, as she believed with its historical practice, she said she could contribute more by applying the Mindanao perspective on issues and in coming up with new ways to implement the program and her visions.
Coming from an island where the struggles of the Moro and Lumad people are glaring, she said she will support the call to their right to self-determination and ancestral domains, among others.
She will still push for the scrapping of the STFAP because it is not the solution to the woes of the many poor iskolar ng bayan.
“The OSR has been reviewing STFAP for the past few years. Let’s take it to the next level. It’s high time to junk it because it’s useless,” she said, recalling the case of UP Manila’s Kristel Tejada who committed suicide because her poor family was unable to pay for the tuition amidst the university’s strict order of disallowing students to enroll should they fail to pay their dues.
But before rendering the STFAP useless, she said, UP students must first call for the roll back of tuition and call for a higher state subsidy.
“Ang hindi pag-receive ng estudyante ng education ay isang form ng human rights violation,” she said.
She asked for her fellow Isko and Iska’s support and for a unified action to win their campaigns within and outside the BOR.
“Aasahan na ang OSR ay haharap sa maraming pagsubok at issues. Ang paghuhugotan ng laks ng SR at office nito ay ang mga estudyante. Kung wala ang suporta nila, walang magagawa ang isang SR,” she said.
Melgarejo who graduated from Bachelor of Science in Food Technology last April said she’s preparing her requirements to enroll in UP Diliman either for a masteral degree or a candidate program. From Mindanao, she will base in Diliman for a year, at least. (With a report from Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)Board of Regents, Cebu, Diliman, education budget, gph, Mindanao, ndfp, Office of the Student Regent, peace talks, University of the Philippines