INDIGNATION. Condemning the worsening education crisis in the Philippines, youth groups from different universities and colleges led by Kabataan Party-list stage a picket Friday at the Freedom Park in Davao City. ( photo by Ace R. Morandante)

Militant youth group Anakbayan believes that the question about budgetary priorities asked by the University of the Philippines Los Baños student to presidential candidate, Rodrigo Duterte in a forum on Friday, March 11 is a legitimate question. This photo was taken in a rally by student activists in Davao in 2013. ( file photo by Ace R. Morandante)

DAVAO CITY — Militant youth group Anakbayan said they saw nothing wrong about the question posed to presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte by a student of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, who was bullied after the video of the forum on Friday, March 11 went viral.

During the academic forum, student Stephen Villena said: “So sana pakisagot po ‘yung tanong ng diretso kasi ‘yung tanong ko lang naman po hindi po ba madadagdagan ‘yung budget for defense sa pag implement n’yo ng ginagawa n’yo sa Davao City sa buong Pilipinas, so sana po pakisagot lang po ng diretso kasi nagtatanong lang kami ng diretso para makauwi na po kayo.”

(Please answer the question directly. I was asking if the defense budget will not be increased if you implement your (peace and order) programs in Davao City to the whole Philippines. Please answer it directly because we are asking you directly, so you can go home after.)

The video was not shown in full and the student appeared rude for the supporters of the PDP-Laban presidential candidate.

Anakbayan said that questions about education spending and the national budget are “legitimate regardless of the form these are articulated and should be seen as an opportunity to explain the candidate’s stand on the issue rather than as an offense.”

“Under the Aquino regime, UP has seen chronic budget cuts and tuition and other fee hikes. We understand the UPLB student’s concern about a presidential candidate’s budgetary priorities for the next six years,” said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo in a statement.

He said more students should ask the candidates these questions given how the high cost of education under Aquino has pushed many students to desperation, like UP Manila student Kristel Tejada and Jessaven Lagatic who committed suicide just last month after losing his scholarship.

The youth group also condemned Duterte supporters for bullying the UPLB student.

“If anyone should be insulted, it is the students and parents who day after day are being insulted by the commercialized system of education under Aquino. Walang pinag-aralan? Paano ka makakapag-aral e pinipwersa ka ng gobyernong hindi makapag-aral sa taas ng mga bayarin (Uneducated? How can you go to school if the government is forcing you to stop schooling because of the costly matriculation),” said Crisostomo.

Anakbayan said that threatening the life of a student just for asking questions is “out of place in a democracy”.

The group called on all candidates to increase the budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs) and make education free at all levels, thereby reversing Aquino’s “Roadmap for Public Higher Education Reform” which further privatizes SUCs.

Meanwhile, Duterte has called on his supporters to refrain from attacking his critics online.

“We respect each other’s opinions,” he said. “We always say that it’s OK if we disagree. And I may not agree with what you said or say, but I will defend your right to say it. That’s how it should be,” he said in an interview with the media.

Duterte said he himself did not feel disrespected during the forum.(

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