Thursday, March 31, 2005

Grilling the Philippine Collegian

I have been resisting the temptation to join in the fray of those arguing for or against Juan Paolo E. Colet's recent win in the selection for the next Philippine Collegian Editor-in-Chief. I do not want it to be misinterpreted that I am posting on behalf of the University Student Council (USC) of Manila. I'm writing this on a personal basis, and perhaps in my own capacity as an alumnus of UP Diliman (BS MBB 2003).

On the side, let it be known that since I am an Upsilonian, and JP Colet is my brod, it would be easy to point a finger at me and instantly label me as being in cahoots with Mr. Colet. If anyone would like to name-call me or my fraternity on this issue of the Collegian, go ahead, do so. I won't mind because it's a free world.

For a backgrounder please read news articles from the Philippine Daily Inquirer such as the one that first brought the issue out into the national open (Collegian's new editor in hot seat) and the next report that clarified things from the perspective of the Board of Judges (Board of judges upholds new Collegian editor in chief's win). I have also requested JP for a copy of his winning editorial piece that I shall post here.

For the arguments thrown, please read through The Philippine Collegian thread of Peyups.

The comments in my mind are simple and straightforward. Allow me to enumerate:

1.) The student paper has been unfairly reduced to a pedestal by which ideologies are enshrined;

2.) It is apparent that the now-old adage that Filipinos never know how to accept a loss fair and square is at play;

3.) We are a government of laws and not of men (quote by RP Chief Justice Davide). The Collegian selection process is governed by a set of rules. Allegations of inconsistencies should be pursued at the proper legal forum; and

4.) The issue should not be muddled by conjuring horrifying images well before Mr. Colet is given the chance to take on the challenge of running the Collegian.

I remember well that once upon a time, those who ranted against the Collegian's bias towards a particular ideology bordering on the line keeping Stand-UP (the ultra-left student political party from Diliman) from the paper were replied to by a challenge: to take the editorial exams and run the paper. Furthermore, those in apparent defense of the incumbent Collegian's ideological bias stood firm in saying that the paper's independence allows them to keep their stand.

Apparently Mr. Colet has taken on that challenge himself. He took the examination, won (fair and square, depending on one's personal opinion - don't fire me on this because I would say so), and now has the potential to either do justice to the Collegian's critics or to shame them and thus vindicate the incumbent Collegian.

Why won't we reserve our nasty comments (most of which can be found at the Peyups thread) until the right time when there already is a questionable action of the Editor-in-Chief? If indeed there are irregularities in his appointment, then by all means please pursue the legal remedies.

Until then and aside from the yet unproven allegations of my fraternity's manipulation of the Collegian (please, don't give us too much omnipotence than what we realistically have or even do not have), what's all the fuss about?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Health and Creation

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then using God's great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. And Satan said, "You want chocolate with that?"

And Man said, "Yes!" and Woman said, "and as long as you're at it, add some sprinkles." And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

So God said, "Try my fresh green salad." And Satan presented Thousand-Island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, "I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them." And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it "Angel Food Cake," and said, "It is good." Satan then created chocolate cake and named it "Devil's Food."

God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald's and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then said, "You want fries with that?" And Man replied, "Yes! And super size them!"

And Satan said, "It is good." And Man went into cardiac arrest. God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. Then Satan created HMOs.

(Originally found at the blog Slang Caveat by Joacs. Reposted with permission.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More Feasible Alternatives to the UPCM Tuition Adjustment

After getting permission from the MSC Chair to broadcast to UPCM Class Egroups my previous blog post UPCM Tuition Adjustment: Process vs Content, a handful of fellow medical students replied at length with more suggestions on how to stave off a Tuition Adjustment and still help the College in the process. Here are their takes on the issue:

1) Cost-cutting and austerity measures. This suggestion was sent in by a med student coming from a business-oriented family. Let's call her Sasha*. Sasha's family happened to discuss the pending tuition increase in the College, and she told the administration's reason of increasing Maintenance, Operational, and Other Expenses (MOOE) as the basis for the proposed increase. Her businessman brother commented that in the private sector, deficits as large as thirty percent (30% ) can be managed by streamlining of operations and heightened efficiency. Furthermore according to Sasha's brother, such austerity measures need not necessarily result to inconvenience - small sacrifices such as turning on only half of the airconditioning units in a room can translate to savings.

Come to think of it, private companies don't always increase product prices just to survive. Addressing expenditures while maximizing profit is part of an executive's business acumen. If we are to think of the UPCM as a private company (which of course it can never be), the proposal to increase the product's price (product here being a UP Medical Education) is somewhat akin to the manager succumbing to the pressure of competition.

Of course the administration can lay claim to having done that already, but as to what level of austerity we do not yet know. Now the typical knee-jerk response of the Task Force members who're dead set on a tuition increase would be to make students physically "feel" austerity measures so as to put tangible pressure to insist on increasing tuition. This they could possibly do, even as they have calendared several lavish and posh gatherings and parties celebrating the College's centennial.

2) Start a Trust Fund for the College's Needs. This suggestion, wherein a large bank account would be opened and maintained with only the periodic interest being withdrawn on occassion for use, has apparently been started. We have what we call the UPCM Centennial Endowment Fund (CEF).

Dr. Menchit Padilla, Head of the Resource Development Office, shares the following:

If at least 60% of the alumni for the past 50 years will offer a gift of at least P25,000 (or US$500) or P1,000 a month (or US$18 a month) for 25 months, we will reach our goal of 100 Million pesos which will serve as principal whose interest will be utilized for improvements and projects, i.e. faculty development, infrastructure, and research.

By her elaboration, it is quite feasible. And the intentions are clear - the beneficiary shall be the College in the form of improvements and projects. Presumably, before we can start on improvements and projects, we need to plug any perceived deficits first. So why not make coverage of excess MOOE expenses part of the CEF's objectives and spare the students an increased burden?

Again a knee-jerk response of the administration would be to argue that current UPCM students are well-off. We beg to differ, sirs and madams; and besides, if your intention is to target these "well-off" students by a tuition increase, you're going to fail because a lot of them are covered by enrollment priveleges. This is of course not to put in bad light UPCM students who are children of the College's faculty. They do deserve their priveleges on account that their parents work unpaid. [Note: Then again some faculty like our good Physiology adviser Dr. Ricardo T. Quintos noted that these WOC (Without Compensation Faculty) should not be complaining because they are given priveleges to practice and subsequently get referrals and charge professional fees in PGH's pay wards. But that's another issue.]

In contemplating the above proposals specially the CEF, I'd like to quote once more Dr. Padilla's message on the UP Medical Alumni Society in America (UPMASA) website. She wrote an interesting paragraph that, if the Tuition Adjustment shall push through, will never again apply to the next 100 year's worth of UPCM graduates (note the highlighted part):
As Seb Kho said in the letter sent with his donation, “we were all blessed to have been given the chance to be recipients of the best medical education in our country, to train under the best and most dedicated faculty, and to take part in the rich tradition of the UPCM. We who are graduates of the UP College of Medicine are so lucky; we obtained our training at a small fraction of the cost in the States!"

Now is the time to give back to the college a little of what we have reaped out of the healing skills that our dear UPCM equipped us with.

[Emphasis supplied.]

What reason shall UPCM's future alumni have to "give back to the college", if they would have obtained their training at the cost of those in the States?

*Names have been changed as per their request for anonymity.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Good Neighbor's Initiative

This morning, I attended a meeting of community figures and local institution heads here in Ermita and Malate, Manila City. It was called by UP Manila Chancellor Marita Reyes.

The group that they have formed is called Good Neighbor's Initiative (GNI), and the member institutions include (in no particular order of importance) UP Manila, Department of Justice (DOJ), Western Police District Station 5 (WPD), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Supreme Court, Department of Social Welfare and Development - NCR (DSWD-NCR), Manila City Government, Ellinwood Malate Church, Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Philamlife, Philamcare, Manila Jaycees, Manila Doctors Hospital, Manila Science High School, St. Paul University Manila, Philippine Women's University, PCU Union High School, Robinson's Place Manila, Palm Plaza Hotel, PNB PGH Branch, Equitable-PCI Bank Robinson's Branch, Barangays 696 to 698 of Zone 76, and Barangay 669 of Zone 72.

I had to list all the above institutions and organizations to emphasize the importance of the formation, in that the GNI is an extensive network of government, non-government, educational, and people's institutions that has the potential to work on issues and concerns of the local community.

Perhaps this could be thought of as an Urban Community-Based Program.

I came in my capacity as the incoming Chairperson of the University Student Council Manila (USC Manila). Curiously, Dr. Roland S. Capito of the UP Manila Office of Alumni Affairs related to me that the GNI is a brainchild of the late former UP Manila Chancellor Dr. Alfredo T. Ramirez, after several incidents of theft, robbery, assault, and the like happened in the area. Dr. Capito intimated that what caused then Chancellor Ramirez to convene the GNI was an appeal from the USC Manila of the time to have the local community address issues of peace and order, because the victims were primarily students in the area.

While the invitation was addressed to outgoing USC Manila Chair Rizzalyn Ramirez, Prof. Doroteo Abaya (UPM Office of Student Affairs) personally requested that I attend, perhaps since it was already understood that the incoming USC Manila would benefit and contribute more to GNI than the outgoing whose term is about to end.

Meeting every last Monday of the month, the GNI seeks to coordinate its members in finding solutions to pressing problems and issues. Being voluntary in nature, meetings are usually hosted by UPM at its Board Room, but the group is blessed with occasional offers from member institutions to host gatherings.

Current items on the GNI's agenda include the following: illegal vending, illegal parking, wrongly-located establishments, donations of equipment to Public Safety Agencies such as the WPD and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)'s local fire station, symposia on criminal justice/security and safety for students, streetchildren, and health activities such as blood donation.

Another activity handled by the GNI is a quarterly Linis-Bayanihan, in which the members send delegates from their home institutions to participate in a cleaning drive. Here GNI members would be seen doing beautification and sanitation work in the immediate area.

Perhaps what is most important is the foresight that the group can have in planning contingency measures not only for petty crimes and incidents but also for disaster management. In today's meeting, the local fire chief relayed disaster analyses for the area. Problems that could occur in the future centered both on natural calamities and human atrocity.

Examples include earthquake and tsunami preparedness for the natural calamities (Manila Bay is less than a kilometer away, and a tsunami is a real threat if an earthquake would happen in the near off-shore areas), and the ever-present threat of terrorism for the human atrocity.

Lobbying and advocacy was also very much the theme of GNI, and on this aspect several changes could already be effected. After all, it is known that politicians listen more to organized groups with publicity potential compared to obscure individual petitioners. That's a sad fact of local dynamics here in the Philippines, but for the moment we have to make do with what we have but still look forward to an improved future.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Terri Schiavo's Easter Sunday

This is one for the books.

If the issue were a local concern at the Philippine General Hospital, it would reported in a BioEthics Symposium at the Science Hall to this tune:

The patient is T.S., a 41 y.o. female, American, married with sensorium in a persistent vegetative state. She has been in this condition 15 years prior after sustaining brain damage (specifics unknown) probably secondary to anoxia following momentary cardiac arrest due to a chemical imbalance. She has been nutritionally maintained on a feeding tube since then, with a poor prognosis as to total recovery.

Two years prior, her feeding tube was removed for six days but reinserted upon legal intervention. Nine days prior, legal orders necessitated the removal of her feeding tube, and she has not received any solid or liquid intake since then.

Then the discussants in the bioethics forum would proceed with answering questions to the tune of the following:

1) Assuming that the neurologic diagnosis of the patient's consciousness is accurate, should the patient have been maintained on a feeding tube since day 1 of her brain damage?

2) Was a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) option given to the family 15 years prior, and what was the family's informed choice?

3) Given that the legal guardian is Michael Schiavo, the patient's husband, who should the attending physician consult with regarding options as to the patient's medical condition - her husband or her parents (the Schindlers)? Take into account the circumstance that the patient has no living will.

4) Knowing that the patient will die of dehydration and malnutrition shortly after withdrawal of the feeding tube, is it ethical to do so?

The concepts of Beneficence, Non-maleficence, etc. will then come in. I'm not an expert on these things, but one thing I remember that is part of a physician's code of ethics is this concept:

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.

This one's for the lawyers too. Knowing that in the Philippines a rabid Medical Malpractice Bill is in the works, how would Philippine society in general (with special mention to the local media) treat this case if it happened within the archipelago?

Know also that a recent attempt by the patient's religious counselor to give her the Holy Eucharist (on account of today being Easter) was denied. Claims were then aired that the denial of this sacramental act was a violation of religious freedoms, it being known that Terri Schiavo is a Catholic.

Even our ailing Pope John Paul II has given his say on this, and it is safe to conclude that the Roman Catholic Church has thus adopted his pronouncement: even patients in the persistent vegetative state have the right to hydration and nutrition.

Too many questions, so little time to ponder.

Addendum (April 1, 2005):

Terri Schiavo passed away recently. She was allowed to receive a drop of consecrated wine (Blood of Christ) a few days before, but a host could not be given to her because her mouth has so dry.

Details: Terri Schiavo Dies but Feud Continues
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman who spent 15 years connected to a feeding tube in an epic legal and medical battle that went all the way to the White House and Congress, died Thursday, 13 days after the tube was removed. She was 41.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Classic Text (SMS) Forwards

I have this habit of not reading quotes or forwarded messages on my cellphone. Instead of simply deleting them however, I move them to their own folder for later perusal. Since I've got nothing much to do on this lazy Black Saturday afternoon, I decided to encode some of the messages that I found to be quite entertaining:

If I send you a message, you don't have to do the same. You can also send something else - pwedeng bigas, delata, sabon, damit, tsokoleyt, load, or cash, maiba lang. =)


Hello! Eto nanaman ako. Gulung-gulo ulit ang isip ko. May nais lang sana ako itanong sayo. Alam ko ikaw lang ang makakatulong. Ang BIRDS FLU ba ay past tense ng BIRDS FLY?


A condom is like the government: it stands up to inflation, halts production, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives us a sense of security while being screwed!


(In connection with the May 2004 RP Presidential Elections:)

Good news! Disqualified na si Eddie Gil. Comelec has discovered buhok niya hindi natural-born!


(Still on RP Elections:)

Please patronize all pirated VCDs and DVDs so the local movie industry will die. That way, we'll no longer have actors running for public office. Please pass on!


Makit chinese lang palati kidnap? Kasi pak pinoy 3 gives, pak bombay 5/6, pak amelikano cledit cald, pelo pak chinese sigulado C.O.D., wala pa issue lesibo!


Tanong: Ano ang tawag sa hipon na laging nadidisgrasya? Sagot: ACCIDENT PRAWN!


(Christmas time:)

Busy ka pa ba? Me chikka kasi ako eh. Ikaw pa lang itinext ko pero wag mo ifoforward ha. Guess who's one month on the way?

SANTA CLAUS! He's coming, one month from now. hohoho =)


Binigyan yung maid ng chalk na pamatay ipis. Sabi ng amo niya, ikiskis yung chalk sa pader para mawala yung ipis. Pagtingin ng amo sa pader may nakasulat: EPIS!!! MAMATAY KA NA!!!

Thanks to JR Chong, Neil Yabut, Rowee Vivo, and Tin Elises for the forwarded quotes/messages above. (I fixed the spelling and format for blog purposes.)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Holy Week and Jose Rizal

I just came home from a rather long procession with the carosa of the Santo Entierro, or dead Christ. It's a Good Friday after all, and Roman Catholic liturgical services on this solemn day are restricted to group prayers for lent and the afternoon Veneration of the Cross.

It's been a long time since I participated in full in such ceremonies, in part because of my prior moral issues with the former Parish priest. (No, it's nothing like the US altarboy scandals, mind you!) This year's lenten season is the first of our Parish under a new pastor, and the who's who socialite-churchgoers were frantically scrambling for roles to play in the liturgy.

The solemnity of the occasion aside, I could not resist but have a feel of the political tension surrounding the Parish figures acting out their "assignments" on this hot afternoon. The lay ministers were assembling very much like a band of brothers gone old, while the mother butlers in charge of physical arrangements were moving about fixing the altar. Lectors and commentators were rehearsing the Passion of Our Lord - today's Gospel reading - in a corner of the sacristy (backstage, if you will).

I decided to take on my fifteen-year role as a sacristan, or acolyte/altar boy. Hey, I wasn't alone - it wasn't only I who stood there six feet with stubble and all at 22 years of age. Two more "seniors" were with me - and both of them are older by 2-3 years.

The act of everyone going about with tension due to an eagerness to please the new pastor was really interesting to watch. Everyone wanted the ceremony to be snappy - us included - and that meant consulting the new Parish priest more than once or twice.

I glanced around - and noticed just who were clinging to the new pastor. There was the brother of a local politician together with his wife (who liked to dip her fingers in as many organizations as possible). There were the usual crowd of old, retired men who happened to be frustrated clergymen (they took masteral units in theology just a few years ago) that chose to mingle with the politician's brother. And don't forget the incumbent official - yes, our Congressman was there in full political garb (does he ever change from his purple attire?) shaking the hands of whoever would be along his path.

And I thought it was only in Jose Rizal's Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo eras that scenes like the above prevailed.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Biblical Dialogue

From the mailbox:


A new pastor was visiting the homes of his parishioners. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door. Therefore, he took out a card and wrote "Revelation 3:20" on the back of it and stuck it in the door.

When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message: "Genesis 3:10." Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter.

Revelation 3:20 begins "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

Genesis 3:10 reads, "I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

UP President Roman on Financial Resources

In the spare time that lenten break affords an exam-weary student, I decided to browse through materials concerning the administration of the University of the Philippines. This is admittedly motivated by my desire to further root on solid ground our arguments against a Tuition Adjustment in the UP College of Medicine, as is the majority opinion of the UPCM's students.

Still reeling from a verbal scourging that I received from certain faculty members in yesterday's Task Force on TFA meeting at the UPCM, I proceeded to write essays like the post earlier to this one that speaks of my sentiments on the matter at hand. What I did not elaborate much on is the very much visible and felt insinuation of the Task Force that I should not have written UP President Emerlinda Roman about the activities of the Task Force, reportedly because "it is not yet final and it's pending the Dean's review".

Why exactly did I write the UP President and subsequently cause her written inquiry sent to the UPCM asking for an explanation from the Task Force? I did so because I believe in the right of every UP constituent to responsibly engage the central administration in matters affecting a large group within the University. Furthermore, I wrote President Roman herself because I distinctly remember her good reputation for listening to all sectors.

On recent review of postings on the UP website, President Roman's speech Imagining UP's next 100 years tells a lot on her outlook on University management and partly satisfies my own self-questioning on why I did choose to write the UP President regarding Tuition Adjustment. Allow me to quote portions of her piece discussing Financial Resources:

On Financial Resources
We are all aware that in the Philippines, education’s share in the national budget has been getting smaller. Moreover, higher education’s share of the total education budget has also decreased. We can expect this situation to worsen rather than to improve in the future.

UP’s income has been more or less stable, but it is of course insufficient to sustain even existing programs. Government policies promise nothing substantial in terms of financial support in the future, though we fully intend to continue lobbying aggressively each time DBM puts out a budget call.

We do have other options. One is to do nothing and to simply rely on government funding. This would mean downscaling our operations, which would translate into admitting fewer students and reducing allocations for faculty development and the upgrading of facilities. In short, accepting as inevitable the University’s progressive deterioration and decline. This can hardly be considered a real option.

The other option is to look elsewhere for funding which leads me to the University’s centennial celebration.

The Centennial Celebration
The UP Centennial Celebration is potentially a unique rallying point for the whole academic community, including the alumni. Here is an opportunity to pay tribute to what may well be the institution that has had the most definitive effect on our lives.

We will set up a UP Centennial Com-mission to oversee preparations for the grand homecoming in 2008. In line with this, we will embark on an aggressive campaign to raise funds to enable us to move closer to the “world-class” university of our dreams.

(Emphases with green font color supplied.)

I interpret the highlighted parts to be consistent with Resolution 0405-003 of our outgoing UP Medicine Student Council, which in particular opposes any Tuition or other Fee Adjustment but does not stop short of an empty protest. The council openly suggested three things, part of which supports President Roman's inclinations to "continue lobbying aggressively" to the Government for more subsidy and to "look elsewhere for funding".

Curiously, her vision for the University's financial resources does not include adjusting tuition or other fees charged from students. Instead, she proposes a concrete action plan: to have an "aggressive campaign to raise funds". Again, increasing a student's matriculation is not mentioned, even in context.

Why then is the UPCM Task Force on Tuition Adjustment adamant on pursuing increases in student matriculation? Why can't they just heed the call of the University's highest official to actively pursue other options?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

UPCM Tuition Adjustment: Process vs Content


The UP College of Medicine (UPCM) is in dire need of funding. To date, its facilities are maintained by philanthropists in the persons of grateful alumni and friends. Without their financial support, a lot of our rooms would be severely dilapidated by now. Add to this situation the fear that Maintenance, Operation, and Other Expenses (MOOE) are increasing, with the corresponding funding dwindling allegedly because of a Department of Budget and Management (DBM) pronouncement that calls for the reduction to zero of MOOE for the University of the Philippines.

The above picture is being painted by the UPCM administration in its hopes of increasing Tuition and other Fees charged from students. This Tuition Fee (sic) Adjustment (TFA), as it is fondly called, is now a concept being contemplated by a Task force committee on Cost of UP Medical Education and Tuition Fee Adjustment, or simply put - Task Force TFA. There are several concepts that bother me, however, on the manner by which the proposal is being handled and furthered by the Task Force.

In a recent meeting, faculty members of the Task Force were rather persistent on "moving forward" and discussing options by which a TFA may be implemented in the UPCM. To date, our total matriculation at the said institution amounts to PHP 11,529.50 per semester. The Task Force members presented four Options for Tuition Adjustment:

1) Increase matriculation to P12,500 per semester for the 1st year (8% increase) and then build in a 5% increase per year thereafter. When the presenter was asked for how long will the 5% annual increase prevail, his one-word reply was this: "forever". As to why it shall be eternally increasing, he rationalized by saying that so long as there is inflation (which is yearly), there should always be an increase in tuition;

2) In addition to number 1, library and laboratory fees are to be raised;

3) Increase matriculation to P25,000 per semester for the 1st year (117% increase, figure based on the devaluation of the Philippine peso from 1992 to 2005) and then build in a 5% increase per year thereafter. Duration of this 5% annual increase? Forever also; or

4) Increase matriculation to "market rates", which averages from P60,000-80,000 per semester based on private medical school fees (420-594% increase).


As a representative of the UP Medicine Student Council (MSC), I strongly protested to the continuation of the discussion, because I was quite surprised that our Resolution #0405-003 that is formally opposing the TFA has apparently been set aside. Had they heeded it, then presumably the meeting would not explore "Options for Tuition Adjustment".

This maneuver of mine earned the ire of not just one doctor-administrator. Several of them were already raising their voices at me, putting the blame on me for not attending two prior meetings that they had wherein our resolution was allegedly discussed. I admit to my absences, because these meetings were called at the height of our examination periods. Nevertheless, I have yet to see the minutes of these meetings, because whatever their treatment of our resolution was, the agenda's advancement into options for tuition adjustment says a lot.

At that point in time I was continually thinking: Personally, I was in favor of a minimal increase in tuition and/or other fees. Yes, I do understand the precarious situation that the UPCM is in. However, as a student leader it fell upon me to carry the majority opinion of my constituents that has been ascertained via a referendum - and that is opposition to any TFA. Hence, my posturing.

The UPCM administration, in my opinion, sees me as the embodiment of opposition to the TFA. They are quite accurate in their observation, but what they are missing is the reason behind my advocacy.


That being the case, there were questions left unanswered or vaguely responded to. Important questions were thrown onto the floor and not sufficiently caught; queries such as the following are definitely in need of replies before any TFA should be pursued:

-Is the basis for the administration's hardcore thrust into a TFA process meritorious enough? What are the documents to prove such?

Again, the content being pushed - which is the UPCM's dire need of funds - is not being objected to. But the instruments used to symbolize such a need, like the alleged DBM pronouncement of MOOE fund reduction, are questionable! For this particular DBM reason, the General Appropriations Act of 2005 actually entails a P57 Million increase for the University's MOOE funding, contrary to the UPCM's.

Neither can the UPCM administration's claims of subtotal disbursement by the DBM hold water. Former UP President Francisco Nemenzo, in his valedictory address "A Fond Farewell to a Beloved University", asserts otherwise: "Thanks to incumbent Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin and her predecessor, Secretary Benjamin Diokno, DBM has been releasing 98 to 100 percent of the annual UP budget. That is far more than what we were getting before."

-Can the student body of UPCM - present and future - absorb such increases with ease and without adversely affecting their daily lives?

This is controversial.

There is one Task Force member who in her conviction raised her voice to the incoming MSC Chair, ranting something like "Why do students keep on opposing a TFA? Why do you not want to help the College? Kayo na lamang ang sektor na hindi nagbibigay." Add to that their evaluation that the majority of UPCM students are rich kids, sons and daughters of millionaires with extra cash to burn.

Yes, the current demographics of the UPCM student body may indicate that a lot can afford a TFA (but even this is questionable). But has the administration ever considered the lineage of these students? A lot of them have enrollment privileges, by virtue of their father or mother who works as a faculty member of the UPCM. A TFA may not affect them (or get the desired effect of getting more from their wallets) because they are shielded by a UP employee's benefits regarding his/her child's enrollment. Even with that in mind, let us not discount the fact that not all UPCM faculty and their families are well-off.

And what about the future? The financial capacity of UPCM's student body is not constant and can radically change, unless the UPCM Admissions Committee will make it an institutional policy to admit only those who can afford the TFA. Being a State Institution of Higher Learning, it is inherent upon UP to provide accessible education to the average Filipino.

In the UPCM's case, the mission-vision "Community-Oriented Medical Education directed towards the underserved" should be reposted in the hearts and minds of those wanting a TFA. How can we train more doctors-to-be who shall return to serve in Philippine communities, when we shall be giving them more reason through a TFA to abandon a life of self-sacrifice and service in favor of a high-paying private practice to recover money spent during one's stay in the UPCM?

-Is the Task Force practicing democratic consultation and transparency in its handling of the TFA matter?

This is arguable, both for and against. But in the case of the students, I believe it is more towards the against.

Even as the MSC waited for two weeks to consult its constituents and subsequently resolve towards a position, the Task Force Chair is not slow at discrediting the process by which MSC Resolution #0405-003 opposing any tuition or other fee increases was arrived at. We have in our files handwritten notes with student opinions from the UPCM Classes of 2011, 2010, and 2008. The Classes of 2009 and 2007 responded only partially, while the Clerks and Interns (2006 and 2005) could not be immediately consulted due to their hospital duties.

The majority feedback that we received is that of opposition to the TFI/TFA. We stand by the voice of the students of UPCM. The Task Force, however, is insistent on listening to individuals who are pro-TFA during Task Force meetings, giving them ample time to justify a tuition increase. However, when it is the turn of student public officials who are opposed (such as myself), certain faculty Task Force members will point at me indiscriminately and require me to cut my piece and "get to the point in one to two sentences".

Ordinarily such blatant biases would be insignificant, but it is known that the UPCM administration will definitely use the minutes of the Task Force meetings (and the individual student voices who are pro-TFA) to substantiate claims towards democratic consultation. Hence, I openly declared that a majority of the UPCM students are against a TFA, and opposition has been manifested as early as the level of the Task Force.

-Will increases in matriculation of UPCM students automatically return to the UPCM, or will these funds just be used elsewhere in the UP System?

Perhaps this is the most revealing question of all. Granted for the sake of argument that a TFA is implemented, will the additional funds extracted from student wallets indeed return - 100% - to the UPCM for the College's fiscal concerns?

The glaring answer of the administrative staff Task Force member: It cannot be guaranteed 100% that increases in tuition will go back to the UPCM. Tuition, once collected, is forwarded to the University System for appropriation to all seven Constituent Units - UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños, UP Baguio, UP Visayas, UP Mindanao, and UP Open University. A med student's tuition can in theory be used to construct a bathroom in UP Mindanao, depending on the prioritization of the University System.

The same administrative staff Task Force member elaborated that "there are no guarantees in this world", that even if the UPCM would increase its tuition to P50,000 per semester, the funds may still be channeled elsewhere and henceforth the poor College will still remain like that - poor.


Contrary to misconception, we students are not resigning ourselves to senseless protests and stubborn opposition. What boggles us is the UPCM administration's cynical loss of faith and hope in other remedies that were proposed by the UPCM students themselves:

a) lobbying for a higher State Subsidy using hard evidence and proper channeling;

b) enactment of a New UP Charter that will allow the University to productively utilize its idle assets not for profit but for added income to finance academic needs; and

c) exploration of the value of a Return of Service (ROS) agreement for UPCM graduates, to assure the government that increased funding for the institution would be worth every centavo returned by manner of health services for the Filipino people.

What bothers me now is a statement I heard also from the same Task Force meeting I attended - that the Task Force need not answer questions by the students; that it can proceed to complete its task to fix the groundwork for a TFA even in the light of strong opposition from the students. Let us see what shall happen in the next few months - or even weeks (they can't give a fixed timetable).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Thank You

This is delayed, but as the cliche expression goes, it's better late than never.

First, I would like to thank all those who voted in UP Manila last 4 March 2005, allowing the incoming University Student Council an established mandate (55% of the total student population voted). Together we have disproven claims that the Health Sciences Campus is apathetic.

Second, I'm grateful for all who believe in my candidacy; it is by your trust and confidence through your vote that I draw my strength to move the UP Manila student body forward. My apologies go out to those whom I was not able to campaign (room-to-room) to during the Election Period. I accept the implied challenge that I should deliver moreso to your areas of the student body.

Third, I appreciate very much the perseverance, sacrifice, and dedication that my partymates in the Iskolar Student Alliance manifested. In spite of all the challenges and political maneuvering that we encountered, the party's resilience and flexibility carried us all. May you always be there to remind us elected officials of the promises we made, the duties we listed in our platforms.

And most importantly, I thank God for his graces, goodness and mercy. Thy will be done, through the collective voice of your people.

In all honesty, I am not used to politics (the handshaking and all that), which is why I squirm at the thought of publishing lengthy thank you letters and speeches, etc. I prefer that the student body patiently be at my side as we go through the year ahead, and then judge me and my council at the end of the term. Only then, after I have proven myself worthy of my election, shall I lengthily say thank you.