Campus publications face admin repression amid free education

Several college publications suffer under budget restrictions and censorship threat following the implementation of the Republic Act №10931, known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Free Education policy, other school-related fees, like the student publication fee, are granted free. But some college publications confront a possible defunding.

“There is uncertainty to many student publications in state universities and colleges whether they will get state funding under the Free Education policy,” said Jon Callueng, the national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

Funding issues

Screenshot from the official website of Business Torch, the official publication of the College of Business Administration, Polytechnic University of the Philippines — Sta. Mesa

Delayed issues release and withheld funds to college publications from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines was reported to the Guild.

In a dialogue with PUP President Emmanuel de Guzman to clarify the situation of the college publications under the Free Education policy, the College of Engineering student paper The Engineering Spectrum was informed of getting no fund allocation, despite its inclusion in the assessment of fees for this semester and an outstanding P400,000 fund.

The Communicator, the student publication of the College of Communication, has not been releasing publication issues since 2016 due to withheld funds. In their statement of account, they still have a P460,000 fund.

The student publication of PUP Sto. Tomas branch The Searcher had to reduce their issues production due to lack of funds since the implementation of the Free Education policy last school year 2017–2018. As of May 2018, they only have P537 fund left.

For this school year 2018, the Business Torch, the student paper of the College of Business Administration, still has not released an issue due to “delaying tactics” of different administration offices to their publication, according to the editorial board.

Since February, the publication has sent its procurement request and Project Procurement Management Plan (PPMP), but it was only two months into persistent follow-ups that the Procurement Office informed them of a needed market survey and their request been included in the April Supplementary Annual Procurement Plan.

Upon submission of a market survey, the publication was told that their budget is not feasible, and it has to file another supplier request and project plan. And yet, these were denied of approval from the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Services.

The Business Torch alleged it was in hot water from the PUP administration after exposing the “inequitable utilization” of the fiduciary fund collected from the students last 2017 based on a Commission on Audit (COA) report. It also released an infographic on the salaries and allowances of the high university officials. Since then, the publication was being pressured into surrendering their office and equipment to the university administration.

Censorship threat

Himati, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines — Mindanao, decried of a possible budget restriction and censorship threat to their publication after being informed by the Office of Student Affairs that they will be under government control.

In an official statement, Himati claimed that the publication will be under government policy, a form of possible censorship if found to be involved in so-called “anti-government activities.”

“Isa sa mahigpit na ipinapatupad ay ang pagbabawal na gamitin ang badyet ng gobyerno para sa mga “anti-gobyernong” o anumang kritikal sa gobyerno na mga aktibidades,” the statement read.

The Guild later released a support statement calling for all student publications to stand with Himati and their fight for editorial independence.

“It seems that the government boast of a free education and yet, subjects the students to government control, an attack to their rightful practice of editorial independence,” Callueng said.

Since the time of Marcos dictatorship, the Guild and its member publications withstood the blatant attacks to press freedom in the pursuit to deliver fearless news about the true state of the society. Now more than ever, the challenge for campus journalists is to maintain the valiant tradition of upholding the might of the pen to fight against tyranny.

Amid the heightened attempts to gag the free campus press, the Guild and its member publications will join with the various sectors this coming September 21 on the occasion of commemorating the dark years of Marcos’ Martial law.

The oldest, broadest, and only-existing intercollegiate alliance of student publications in the Asia-Pacific | Est. 1931 #DefendPressFreedom #EndStateFascism

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