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Protest, but do it after classes, Roque tells UP students

By: Leila B. Salaverria - Reporter / @LeilasINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:18 AM February 04, 2018 President Duterte has no intention of curtailing the students’ right to free speech, but he was irked by government funds going to waste because these go to subsidizing the tuition of students who don’t attend classes and walk out instead, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday.

University of the Philippines (UP) students can protest all they want, but they should do it after class.


Roque made the statement amid criticism of Mr. Duterte’s rant against protesting UP students. The President said the slots given to the students were going to waste and would rather give these to intelligent members of the “lumad” community.


Unfazed, student activists warned of more protests and dared the President to give up his seat in Malacañang instead.


Contentious issue

“What the President said is clear. What he objected to was the walkout from class,” Roque said.

“He is not curtailing the right to free speech and the right to peaceful assembly. The students can exercise these rights,” he said at a press briefing in Ilocos Norte.

He said this was the first year that the government was offering free tuition in state universities and colleges, including UP.

Mr. Duterte does not want to see taxpayers’ money being wasted, especially since free tuition for state colleges and universities had been a contentious issue in the Cabinet because of lack of funds, according to Roque.

“What the President is saying is let us not waste the people’s money that we set aside for free tuition in all state universities and colleges,” he said.

Watch out for absences

Roque, a longtime UP professor, also noted that UP students who have frequent absences would face sanctions under university rules.

UP has a maximum absence rule that states that a student who misses 20 percent of class days would be automatically dropped from the course, he said.

As for the entry of lumad into UP, he said members of tribal communities would first have to apply for entry into the university, although they could be given priority based on admission policy.

“If the President would implement this, I’m sure there will be cooperation from the administration of UP,” he added.

UP has a long history of student activism and is no stranger to rallies and protest actions.

Mr. Duterte had vented his ire at the UP students the same day the students walked out of their classrooms to urge the people to “fight the dictatorship of Duterte.”

The students had called for the defense of press freedom and opposed moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, among others.


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