Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: November 17, 2020 08:00 AM GMT
Ateneo de Manila University students stage an anti-government protest outside their campus on Nov. 16. They are threatening to go on strike in protest against what the say is government incompetence in handling recent natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Undergraduates at a top Catholic university in the Philippines have called on students to go on strike in protest against the government’s “incompetence” in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and recent disasters.
The student body at Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University called for an “academic strike,” starting Nov. 18, to show solidarity with victims of typhoons Vamco, Goni and Molave, which ravaged the country in recent weeks.
The storms left 80 dead, hundreds injured and thousands homeless, severely damaging the agriculture and business sectors.
Ateneo de Manila students called the government’s typhoon response and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic “criminally neglectful” and demanded that it act now or step down.
“We cannot simply sit idly and do our modules, ignoring the fact that the Philippine nation is a shambles. The national government must act now or step down from their positions. No compromises,” they said in a statement.
Nearly 600 students signed the statement saying they could not continue their studies while the government’s incompetence sees many people suffer.
“We can no longer stomach the ever-rising number of deaths due to the state’s blatant incompetence. We cannot prioritize our schoolwork when our countrymen are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of those in power,” the students said.
They also said that instead of running classes, the university should concentrate its efforts on helping the “vulnerable” and its students who were affected by the storms.
“We also strike in solidarity with our fellow students who are victims of calamities and of Covid-19, who cannot be expected to catch up with their studies within three to five working days,” they added.
Many students of the university live in dormitories and apartments in Manila’s Marikina City, which was severely flooded during Typhoon Vamco last week.
The flooding was the worst to hit the capital in years, with water even submerging rooftops.
“No student should be left behind ... We acknowledge the [Ateneo] university’s efforts … but it is not enough to simply proceed with academic affairs as normal,” the students said.
They vowed to withhold the submission of any academic work until their demands were met.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, however, warned the students they would not graduate if they refused to comply with the academic requirements of the university.
“Of course, you will fail. No matter what reason you have for the strike, if you do not fulfill your academic requirements, you will lose your future and you will not graduate from Ateneo,” he said.