Penoy

So let’s see, what has Aquino managed to do so far? Chase after his predecessor using slipshod, ill-advised legal tactics, check. Throw a hissy fit after a co-equal branch of government catches his mistake, check. Throw another hissy fit after the same co-equal branch of government decides to finally give the land that his family has claimed for decades to the people who actually own it, check. Throw a massive tantrum and pick an unbelievably childish fight with same co-equal branch of government, check. Send his spin doctors all over the media to widen his bullying efforts, check.

Promise to gradually disavow public tertiary education and focus instead on creating a workforce of merely employable sub-professionals—and thereby giving up on national development efforts—check.

This whole Corona impeachment issue has revealed Aquino for whom he truly is: an inexperienced, whiny, inconsolable brat with more hubris than hair. Even this early on, we know that Aquino is a forgettable President.

Pedring damage

Kuya JC and I took a walk around the Academic Oval at around 1130pm Tuesday, just hours after the worst of Pedring. The campus is hella devastated, although thankfully not as much as Roxas Boulevard, the Mall of Asia and Sofitel.

Tons of fallen branches. I woke up Tuesday morning to see lashing winds outside my window; a text from the Chancellor had spread around saying that classes were suspended—until 1pm, which is really a WTF move, considering that, oh, I don’t know, there’s a nasty storm ripping apart roofs and uprooting trees outside.

Thankfully, an hour after that announcement was made, it was superseded by a whole-day suspension. The following day there wasn’t any rain anymore, and classes were once again suspended until 1pm to give everyone time to recover before we went back to studying and fighting for greater state subsidy.

Trees in front of UP-Ayala Technohub, now growing sideways thanks to Pedring.

These are the times we live in.

Tonight I thought I’d stop by AS on my way to dinner to find out what was going on. They’re having a cultural night, with performances from various artists that depict the history of the struggle of the university and its students.

What an auspicious way to spend the night before the university makes history once more. Tomorrow, UP students and administrators will walk all the way from Quezon City to Mendiola, along with other state and private universities, to signify their opposition to Noynoy Aquino’s abhorrent policies. They will march in opposition to yet another hefty budget cut the national university is poised to sustain. They will march in opposition to cuts to the budgets of state tertiary schools. They will march in opposition to Aquino’s gross underfunding of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and of public health in general.

Simply put, UP will march all the way from Diliman to Mendiola because our President has neglected his responsibility to his nation’s youth and people too gravely.

Frankly, I do not think Aquino will be shaken in the least by tomorrow’s demonstration. His policy—to gradually drop quality tertiary education from the list of his government’s responsibilities—has been rock solid since last year. No matter how resonant our call is—and more fundamentally, how crucial quality college education is to the development of a nation—he will probably not listen to it.

But what will matter is that he will know that we know what he is doing. He will know that we won’t forget, neither will future generations, and neither will history. He will know that even as he has not been in power for two years, we already know what he will be remembered as: the President who shirked his responsibility to the nation’s future.

UP is on strike.

Starting yesterday, the University of the Philippines Diliman went on strike to oppose the Aquino government’s continuing neglect of its responsibility to state universities and colleges.

San Juan Representative JV Ejercito paid a visit to the AS steps, where youth leaders, UP officials and some of his fellow congressmen spoke for greater state subsidy. He said more than 100 lawmakers have signed a manifesto supporting the call for state support for tertiary schools.

Student Regent Kristina Conti said such a manifesto, though nice, is really an empty gesture because there isn’t any overt action accompanying it. Sure, you want more financial support for state universities, but where’s the money?

Kabataan Partylist Representative Mong Palatino, meanwhile, said that however determined Congress might be to increase the budget of SUCs, Aquino will still have the final say. Even if both houses of Congress agree to add to the budget of state schools, when the budget bill reaches Aquino’s desk he can still choose to veto such additions. This is why it’s a good idea to pressure Malacañang and the Department of Budget and Management about state subsidy for SUCs, he says.

In 2010, Aquino said, “We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent” because they had the “ability to raise their income.” By income-raising ability, he probably means leasing public lands meant for academic use in shady and nonbeneficial deals, or shifting the burden to supposedly state-funded scholars by charging them higher tuition and laboratory fees.

The sad truth is that Aquino’s outlook on quality state-supported tertiary education in the Philippines is this: “I don’t give a shit.” He does not care about training and creating our future engineers, social scientists, artists, journalists, filmmakers and novelists. He does not care about securing the country’s industrial, cultural and social future.

He does not care about the future of this country.

His communications team will, of course, say that he does, and will point to his myopic programs—the Conditional Cash Transfer and Public-Private Partnerships—as evidence. Perhaps some will believe their drivel.

But those of us who know what’s really at stake, who really understand why there is such an uproar over Aquino’s admitted policy on quality tertiary education in this country, know that he has no sense of history, that he has a complete lack of ability to see beyond the horizon. Any president who looks at quality college education as an unwanted burden on the state does not understand what quality college education really means, especially if that president went to a private university and is a rich haciendero.

It’s only been two years since his ascent to power, but we all know that for all the history and prestige he used to climb to the top, he will be a forgettable president.

We will not forget.

September 14, 2011: one more reason to hate Manila

Manila is a mess. It’s a poetic thing to say in a literature or creative writing class, but not so much when you’re stewing in traffic on Padre Faura at 245pm when you should have been in the lobby of the Supreme Court for a class field trip at 155pm.

At 115pm I was in a taxi on Katipunan, on the way to the LRT station. At 125pm I was on the platform. While waiting for the train I called my classmate Elle to confirm the instructions I’d received earlier (train to Recto, transfer to Line One, train to UN Avenue). She handed the phone over to Angge, who told me I should have taken the MRT to save time. The taxi driver had told me the same thing, but we were already more than halfway to the Katipunan station and I wasn’t about to tell him to go to Quezon Avenue instead.

Angge said I could get off at the Cubao station and board the MRT from there. When I got to the MRT there was a hellish line to get tickets—I’ve never seen a working MRT ticket machine in my life, and apparently they don’t sell stored-value tickets—and I decided I might as well fall in, seeing as how I was already there.

While I was in line, a woman came up to my left and walked alongside me as the queue progressed, apparently trying to cut in front of me. I’m generally nice, but I have little tolerance for people who cut lines. I don’t care if you’re in a hurry or are running late for something. Unless you need immediate medical attention, the back of the line’s that way.

So anyway, this woman, she was walking alongside me, and we started to play this silent queue game. I started to position my body to block any attempts she might make to step in front of me. She must have noticed, but she tried hard to stay nonchalant about the whole thing, keeping her gaze squarely on the ticket counter, pretending to crane her neck worriedly and wiping her neck with a piece of tissue. In the end, though, I got to buy my ticket to Taft before she did. Victory.

Or so I thought. The MRT is almost always very crowded, and I had to squeeze in and stand all the way from Cubao to Taft. (It’s not as bad as Line 1, which requires passengers to inhale all manner of human stenches, but not as nice as Line 2, which, even during rush hour, is peaceful and roomy.) At Taft I flagged down a taxi and told the driver I needed to get to the Supreme Court.

“Sa Padre Faura ‘yun, diba?” he asked.

A tentative “opo” was all I could manage, because back in Diliman I only have to know which color goes where to know I won’t get lost. On Roxas Boulevard the driver confirmed directions with me, and I, finally surrendering to my geographical ineptitude, consulted Google Maps.

Google Maps, by the way, for all its amazing features, wasn’t able to give me driving, transit or pedestrian directions from Roxas Boulevard to the Supreme Court. It was able to tell me that the Supreme Court was indeed on Padre Faura, though. “Oo nga po, sa Faura nga po,” I told the driver confidently.

The next thing I know we’re in Robinson’s Manila, waiting to turn left onto a one-way street when I had a really strong hunch the gate I was looking for was the other way. But because I really can’t find my way around Manila, I trusted my driver.

Just two corners later we were stuck in traffic again, this time on the street fronting the Philam Life building. By this time the taxi meter was at P110, and my now-agitated driver said he would turn right to UN Avenue, but go no further. It must have been around 240pm by then, and I was running out of options, so I paid him and walked out of the taxi and into the clogged street. I remember thinking, “This is so like those Hollywood movies where the protagonist is running late and the window of opportunity he’s been waiting for the entire movie is about to close.”

So, not long after that, I went all the way with the Hollywood metaphor and broke into a sprint. I presented my ID to the guards at the first Supreme Court gate I saw. They told me I should go to the other gate. I said “okay” and continued my sprint, but, after seeing that I was now running along the fence of the UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences, went back to clarify that we hadn’t misunderstood each other. We hadn’t indeed, and I ran again. Past the UP Manila fence I finally saw the Supreme Court building, presented my ID to the partly confused dude at the guardhouse—he looked like an intern to me—who waved me off without fussing.

At 255pm I was in one of the smaller courtrooms in the building (the ones where division hearings are held), panting and perspiring, my ass sweat staining the upholstered pews of the highest court in the country.

Gawd, I hate Manila.