Group calls on Congress to pass pro-student bills

KABATAAN Partylist called on the House leadership today to pass pro-student bills, including the Anti-‘No Permit, No Exam’ Bill and the Students Rights Bill, both of which are “gathering dust in the chambers of Congress.”

“As the world celebrates the International Students Day – a day wherein the international community validates and acknowledges the importance of student power in fomenting change – we call on Congress to pass bills that will uplift and advance the democratic rights of students in the Philippines,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.

House Bill No. 4791 or the Anti-‘No Permit, No Exam’ Bill was passed by the Lower House on third and final reading last August 3, 2011, over a year ago. HB 4791 penalizes the “imposition of a ‘No Permit, No Exam’ policy or any such policy that prohibits students of post-secondary and higher education from taking their midterm or final examinations due to unpaid tuition and other school fees.”

“When the Anti-‘No Permit, No Exam’ Bill was passed in the Lower House over a year ago, many students rejoiced, as it signalled the end of unjust policies that affect thousands of students during examination months,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, the principal author of HB 4791, which is a consolidated version of various bills addressing the same issue.

Congress records reveal that the Senate received the approved House version of HB 4791 last August 10, 2011. “However, until now, Senate has yet to act on the bill. And we fear that the session might adjourn without the passage of this bill,” Palatino said.

Meanwhile, House Bill No. 4842 or the “Students Rights” Bill filed by Kabataan Partylist in July 2011 has remained pending in the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture for over a year now.

HB 4842 lays down the fundamental rights of students, including the right to quality education, right to organize, right to participate in policy-making, and other democratic rights that students all over the Philippines have been clamoring for decades.

“There is no better way to commemorate the International Students Day than for the national government to certify these bills as urgent and for the Congress leadership to commit to pass these laws before the session adjourns,” Palatino said.

A history of militant action

The youth solon also called on students to remember the storied past of student formations in the country and “live up” to the tradition of militancy and collective action of their predecessors.

“The International Students Day is a testament of the potent power of students to foment genuine change in society. We should remember that if students did not assert for their democratic rights in the past, we will not be able to enjoy these fundamental rights today,” Palatino said.

First celebrated worldwide in 1941, the International Students Day marks the commemoration of the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi takeover of the University of Prague, which led to the execution and incarceration of thousands of student leaders, and the occupation of the then Czechoslovakia.

“The assertion and advancement of democratic rights is a history marred by blood, sweat and tears. More than being thankful for what the student movement has done for us, the youth of today should live up to this history of militancy, and continue playing an active role in shaping the world’s future,” Palatino said.

“Students all over the world are once again up in arms to assert their rights. From London to Chile to the Philippines, students are again out in the streets to fight off the growing joblessness, the decreasing state subsidy for education, and the ballooning cost of education,” Palatino explained.

“What does being a student really mean? Does it simply entail going to classes and finishing requirements on time? No. To be a student is to actively seek learning from the contradictions inherent in society, and use these lessons to intensify the struggle towards building a nation, a world free from the shackles of poverty and inequality,” the youth solon said.

“At the end of the day, each of one of us can remain as students throughout our lives if we continue being relevant and collectively face the challenges of our times with renewed fervor and passion,” Palatino added.

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