CEBU CITY, Philippines — Students in Cebu City will soon have a guide outlining their rights and freedoms to be promoted, recognized and protected inside and outside campuses in the city.
This will happen if a proposed ordinance, providing a framework for the city government to recognize, promote, and protect these rights, will be passed by the City Council and made into law.
The proposed measure took another step in that direction after the City Council passed on second reading the proposed measure, which is called the Students’ Rights and Welfare (StRAW) Ordinance.
This was after the City Council held a public hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 1, discussing the proposed StRAW Ordinance where representatives from a students’ group, students, faculty members of universities in the city and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) were invited.
“The right to education is key to youth empowerment. However, this right is curtailed by repressive school policies…violating fundamental rights” said a portion of the proposed ordinance, which was sponsored by Cebu City Councilor Rey Gealon.
These repressive school policies mentioned in the proposed ordinance included deregulated fee increases, campus journalism censorship, and campus militarization, among others.
Unified document, access to school records
“As unified, codified document is concerned there is no national framework for students’ rights and welfare,” said John Ryan Jacot, a representative from the University of the Philippines Cebu’s Union of Progressive Students (UPS) about the proposed ordinance.
Ana Katrina Watin from the University of Cebu, on the other hand, said that school supported the proposed StRAW Ordinance but they requested minor clarifications especially on the access to school records and issuance of official certificates and on the wearing of school uniforms.
“As a member of the university we also take into recognition the rights of the university to come up with certain disciplinary procedures in entering the university,” said Watin.
Watin requested for an amendment of a certain section by letting guidance counselors to issue certifications in letting students wear their chosen attires.
Council Gealon then clarified that the StRAW Ordinance includes the rights and protection for the members of the LGBTQ+ community, incorporating the same sentiments given by Watin.
“Considering that this is the clamor of the members of LGBTQ+ community, and, of course, with those parameters, we’ll restrict abuse of these rights if the ordinance will be acted,” Gealon said.
As for the access to school records, Watin was referring to the part of the proposed ordinance where students shall have access to their own school records and be issued official certificates, copies of diplomas, transcript of records among others within 30 days from the filing of a written request.
Subsequently, Jonathan Saso, University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) representative, said that he attested or declared to be true the provisions made during the first hearing for the proposed ordinance, but he asked that the City Council should also look over the existing laws in the Constitution.
“We would also like to make an attestment (that) all of these given ordinances could give equal rights to all the students here in Cebu City, but we would like to clarify here that we need to balance also if dili ba (ud this is not) enough ang atoang mga (our) laws being passed [through] the republic acts,” Saso said.
On the other hand, Supervisor II Joey Rivamonte, CHED representative, also said that CHED would support the proposed ordinance.
“CHED is mandated to promote quality education take appropriate steps to ensure that education shall be accessible to all and to ensure academic freedom for the continuing intellectual growth,” he said. | Jessa Ngojo – CDN Digital Intern
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