MANILA (UPDATE)- President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to stop funding the University of the Philippines (UP) following calls from students for an academic strike against the alleged negligence of the current administration in disaster response and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a public address aired late Tuesday, Duterte threatened to defund UP, and claimed that it is a recruitment ground for communist rebels.
"Sige. 'Yung mga eskuwelahan, UP? Fine. Maghinto kayo ng aral. I will stop the funding. Wala nang ginawa itong mga ano kundi magrecruit ng mga komunista diyan. Tapos nag-aaral kayo, gusto niyo bira birahin ang gobyerno. Masyado naman naka-swerte kayo. 'Wag talaga kayong matakot. Manakot, rather, because I will oblige you," he said.
(Sure. UP? Fine. Stop studying. I will stop the funding. You don't do anything except recruit communists. You study, and then you criticize the government. You are so lucky. Don't threaten me, because I will oblige you.)
He also told students of private universities to just stop studying and monitor how the government is handling disasters.
"You are taking the cudgels of the poor ahead of your time. That is not your worry. That is the worry of government. Kami sabi ko nagtatrabaho kami. Government workers kami. Anong silbi namin dito mag-upo lang kundi gumalaw para sa tao," Duterte said.
(You are taking the cudgels of the poor ahead of your time. That is not your worry. That is the worry of government. I told you we are working. We are government workers. What is our purpose if we do not help the people?)
"At yung ganoong mga threat, huwag kayong pumasok. I suggest to you, stop schooling, until mabakunahan ang lahat ng Filipino. You resume your duty and you wait for another typhoon and see if the help that we extend is enough to your satisfaction," he added.
(And those kinds of threats, don't go to school. I suggest to you, stop schooling until everyone gets immunized. You resume your duty and you wait for another typhoon and see if the help that we extend is enough to your satisfaction.)
Duterte was reacting to calls from several student groups for an academic freeze to give students enough time to recover from the string of typhoons which battered parts of the country.
However, it was students from the Ateneo de Manila University, not from UP, who started calls for an academic strike against the alleged incompetence of the Duterte administration.
Faculty members from UP only urged the UP administration for an immediate end to the semester, citing challenges in distance learning coupled with the effects of typhoons that recently hit the country.
But UP's Office of the Student Regent said in a statement later that the strike of UP students and faculty "is valid and reflective of the people’s longstanding demand for accountability from the state."
"It brings calls from across sectors on education, on medical & economic solutions, all geared towards ending tyranny. STOP THE ATTACKS. DEFEND UP!" it said in a tweet.
"Throughout the pandemic and calamity, our constituency have offered our minds and skills for public service for our kababayans. And we will continue to do so. We will not allow any threat against us.
"Pres. Duterte must step down. We say no more to neglect and suffering. No more!" it said.