A student-led protest was held at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on February 6, coinciding with the start of classes for the second semester of the academic year 2023-2024 and the 53rd anniversary of the Diliman Commune.

Students, faculty, and concerned sectors gathered at UP Diliman’s Palma and Quezon Halls to join the demonstration dubbed ‘First Day Fight,’ aimed at raising awareness about the challenges facing the country and the UP community.

These include issues surrounding the public utility vehicle modernization program, difficulties in securing units for courses, displacement of vendors on campus, and lack of designated spaces for student organizations.

“The rights of the people must be the priority of the state and the University over profit. Capital and commercial interests are rapidly encroaching, continuing to haunt the lives of many Filipinos. The national government’s drastic transformation of livelihood, public services, and spaces for the sake of profit disenfranchises the public from their own rights,” the UP Diliman University Student Council (USC) said in a statement.

“The University is not separate from the wider struggle of the masses. With the opening of the new semester, the UP Diliman community continues to face the same issues it must address,” the USC added.

Rise for Education Alliance member Ted Narciso expressed dismay over the continued persistence of years-long problems within the University.

“Salubong sa bagong semestre sa atin ngayon ang samot-saring problema na kinakaharap ng buong UP community… Hirap na hirap [táyong] kumuha ng subjects. Every sem na lang, ganito táyo. Kailangan pa nating magmakaawa para lang makakuha ng units. Ganiyan ang nararanasan nating mga estudyante kada bagong semestre,” Narciso said.

(Here we are, as we face a myriad of problems at the start of the new semester… We’re having a hard time enrolling in subjects. It’s like this every semester. We even need to beg just to get units. That’s the experience we students have every new semester.)

In an interview with DZUP, Samahang Manininda sa UP Campus President Narry Hernandez voiced concerns about the impact of recent administrative decisions on small vendors within the University.

“Ito rin ‘yung magiging dahilan ng unti-unting pagkawala ng kabuhayan ng mga maliliit na manininda sapagkat binibigyan ng pagkakataon ng administrasyon na makapasok ang malalaking negosyante dito sa loob ng Unibersidad, samantalang dapat maisaalang-alang ng administrasyon ‘yung mga serbisyong ibinibigay ng mga maliliit na manininda sa napakatagal nang panahon,” Hernandez told DZUP.

(This will also be the reason for the gradual loss of livelihood for small vendors because the administration is giving opportunities for big businesses to enter the university premises, when the administration should be considering the services which small vendors have been providing over a long period of time.)

UP Diliman Chancellor Edgardo Carlo Vistan II addressed protesters during the program at Quezon Hall, promising to engage in formal discussions on the issues raised.

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