Sat, 28 May 2022

MANILA - As soon as election results, although unofficial and partial, showed Ferdinand Marcos Jr. way ahead of second-placed Vice President Leni Robredo in the presidential race, calls for academic walkouts and suspension of classes floated.

On May 9, the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of the Student Regent declared on its Facebook page that there will be "no classes under a Marcos presidency" and enjoined students to stage a walk out.

Soon after, student councils and colleges of Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University, University of Santo Tomas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and Colegio de San Juan de Letran followed suit, although it wasn't indicated if their decisions to support the UP call was sanctioned by school officials.

The Letran student council posted its appeal to school officials to back the suspension of classes but no reply was made public.

On the night of the elections, organizations - made up mostly of the youth - camped out at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, fronting the Manila Central Post Office, and staged protest rallies outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in Intramuros.

Some went on to stage a so-called "Black Friday Protest" against alleged electoral fraud at the Philippine International Convention Center, where the National Board of Canvassers are tallying the senatorial and party-list votes.

Universidad de Manila (UdM), run by the local government, was quick to the draw and warned its students that joining such walkouts will be considered a "grave offense".

In a memorandum issued Thursday, UdM president Ma. Felma Carlos-Tria reiterated its rules after receiving information about groups inviting their students to walk out.

"Joining the call for walkout, if committed by a student, is a violation of the Student Manual, and such is defined as an act of Participating in unauthorized off-campus extra-curricular activities as an individual or as a group; classified as a Grave Offense and punishable by dismissal or expulsion pursuant to the Student Manual," the memorandum reads.

"Any student who will participate in any case in said walkout will be subjected to disciplinary actions in accordance with the Student Manual," the memo added.

Parents similarly expressed disagreements over academic walkouts and posted their sentiments on social media.

Nikko Buendia, who identified herself as a parent of a "homegrown Atenean from prep and currently a senior", posted an open letter to the university on Friday to express her concern over the Quezon City school's partisan stance.

She said supporting the walkout "has encouraged young impressionable minds to blindly take up your cause against the enemy".

"I have co-parents reaching out to me and expressing grief and concern about how their children are behaving differently and against them. One has even left home to be with her like-minded peers to heal the grief over the defeat of a candidate," Buendia's post read.

Her post has gone viral with over 7,000 reactions and 4,100 shares as of posting time.

Netizen Ma. Elena Balingit said allowing students to join protest rallies may actually do them more harm.

"No, baka mamaya maging mitsa pa ng buhay nila yan kagaya ng Plaza Miranda bombing. Para umunlad ang isang bansa dapat ang mga tao ay may disiplina at sumusunod sa gobyerno. Baka kapag may nangyaring masama sa mga anak nyo ay gobyerno ang sisihin nyo (it may put them in danger just like what happened in the Plaza Miranda bombing [in 1971]. For a country to prosper, its people should have discipline and abide by the government. If something bad happens to your children, you will even blame the government for it)," Balingit posted.

The Benguet State University Supreme Student Organization La Trinidad reminded students that "we shall remain nonpartisan and we censure students' participation in the circulating petition #AcademicWalkout in line with the partial and unofficial result of the election".

"The involvement of any member or officer of the organization in any party-related organizations, whether local or national, does not represent the whole standpoint of the organization. Any views expressed are those of individual expression and may not necessarily reflect the views of the Supreme Student Government and Benguet State University as a whole. We firmly stand that a genuine democratic election is a collective manifestation of the people's sovereignty and a fundamental right of citizens," read the Benguet school organization's Facebook post on Wednesday.

Students were advised to focus instead on the weeklong final examination and comply with requirements.

"Please be advised that participation in the abovementioned petition is not, and will never be, an excuse for negligence to the examination and any school requirements," the post read.

Adamson University, meanwhile, declared a three-day suspension of work and classes from May 13 to 16 "to give our students the time to address post-election stress and take the time to reflect on their election experience".

The Marcos camp has no comment on the reported academic walkouts but continued to adhere to its unity stance.

"Patuloy po akong hihiling ng suporta at pagkakaisa mula sa lahat ng Pilipino tungo sa landas na tatahakin pa natin bilang isang bansa (I continue to ask for the support and cooperation of all Filipinos toward the path we will continue to walk on as one nation)," posted Marcos on Facebook on Saturday.

In an earlier statement, Vice President-elect Sara Duterte told her supporters to be humble in victory and initiate reconciliation.

The Philippine News Agency reached out to Robredo's spokesperson, lawyer Barry Gutierrez, for a comment but he has yet to respond as of posting time.

Marcos and Duterte have more than 31 million votes as of posting time in unofficial tallies while Robredo and running mate Senator Francis Pangilinan have 14 million and 9 million, respectively.

Reports of electoral fraud and other forms of cheating have been downplayed by the Comelec and watchdog Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting.

The poll body likewise encouraged complainants to file formal protests, supported by evidence and witnesses. (PNA)

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