Saturday, February 05, 2005

UP Budget Deliberations in the Senate

On a Friday night after a long week of examinations and information-packed lectures, I thought it upon myself to visit the Senate Session Hall. Throughout the week, our council (UP Medicine Student Council) has been in close coordination with the offices of Majority Leader Sen. Kiko Pangilinan and Education Committee Chair Sen. Juan Flavier, constantly asking when the UP Budget would be taken on the floor.

Originally, it was scheduled for Tuesday. Then it was moved to Thursday. And due to the length of debate concerning other Government agencies, it was postponed again to Friday (yesterday). I was about to give up on nagging our Senate contacts about the issue, and was already resigned to never-ending study for the next salvo of exams coming our way.

At around 9:50-10:00 pm, Sen. Kiko's staff member texted, saying that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), together with SUCs like UP, was next on the agenda.

(I chanced upon incoming UP President Emerlinda Roman at the venue. She was together with a lot of UP administrators and CHED people coaching Sen. Manny Villar on how to answer regarding budget queries from the other Senators.)

I would have gone home earlier, if not for the heavy traffic along SLEX that delayed my Dad and Mom. Maybe it was providential, because 10 minutes into the debate on UP's budget, the three of us were already on our way from my place in Manila to the Senate in Pasay City.

We were naturally late, but I still got a glimpse of how the process of budget deliberation was. Earlier in the week, new Student Regent Ken Ramos exhorted students to rally/mobilize on the streets to call on the Senate to stop the UP budget. I was expecting to meet him and other fellow UP students at the Senate right at the moment of UP budget deliberations. They were not there during the entire duration of my stay.

Senator Manny Villar was in the rearmost podium, and behind him were clustered administrators from the CHED and SUCs, UP admin included. I only recognized incoming UP President Emerlinda Roman, UPM Chancellor Marita VT Reyes, and PGH Director Dr. Carmelo Alfiler. Senators Mar Roxas and Nene Pimentel were asking questions about enrollment, which the UP administrators were eagerly answering through the voice of Sen. Villar.

Tuning in on the discussion was no longer my concern, as they were wrapping up. They finished with jubilation (clapping by the CHED and UP admi), and were quickly ushered out of the session hall because there was another Government agency waiting to have its budget approved.

I asked Drs. Roman and Reyes about the postulated P357M budget cut for the University. Chancellor Reyes informed me that earlier in the discussion, Senator Pia Cayetano interpellated and called upon the other Senators (specially UP alumni) to support an increase in the UP Budget allocation.

Although no changes in the figures were effected, the UP administration was moderately optimistic that once the 2005 National Budget reaches the level of the Bicameral Conference Committee, the solons just might heed the call - on the floor - for an increase in the UP Budget.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.