Before the main topic, an introduction is in order.
For starters, the Voice-Manila (hereafter referred to as Voice) is the official school and student publication of the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila (TIP-M). Its office is located at the second floor of Building 3 of the Casal campus. Currently, the publication staff numbers to about twenty. The publication’s senior staff is comprised of the editorial board (Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor, Managing Editor) and the editorial staff (News Editor, Features and Literary Editor, Filipino Editor, Photography Editor and Circulations Manager, Chief Layout Artist). The position of Chief Layout Artist is vacant, as there is no eligible staff for promotion as I was writing this article. There are also two advisers, the English Adviser and Filipino Adviser.
The publication provides scholarships for its staff. There are two scholarships given: first is a 100% discount on tuition fees and the second is no fees except for Development Fee, Computer Fee, Industry Software Fee and ID. A staff only has to pass all of his enrolled subjects in order to avail of the scholarship, aside from performing well in the publication. The editorial board and editorial staff also receive monthly allowance.
The publication releases four regular issues, two in each semester, and a special issue which is commonly a literary folio. The Voice-Manila also holds a competitive examination annually in order to recruit new members.
Now for the main topic. This article will tackle why it seems impossible for the Voice to obtain its independence from the administration of TIP-M. This is a result of my three years of stay inside the publication, throughout which I was able to talk with various persons about the status of the publication, observe the students’ concern – or lack thereof – for the Voice, experience the censorship that the paper undergoes and the publication staff’s lack of fervor in pursuing autonomy, among others.
As a reminder, what follows is my opinion about the topic. I do not speak on behalf of the Voice. Also, I am no longer a member of the publication, as I have already graduated last March.
Now that the formalities have been settled, let’s get on with the topic, shall we?
According to past issues of the Voice, the publication was suspended in 1972 due to Martial Law. It was revived in October 1981 after a student referendum. Back then, the Voice was considered the publication of the student body. Come 1991, it suddenly became known as the school and student publication of TIP and continues to be so.
One of the reasons as to why the publication remains far from being independent is the students. They are resigned to the notion that the Voice is “pro-administration” and as such do not expect any hard-hitting or critical articles from it. This has also contributed to their indifference to the publication. They get the latest issue of the Voice, read and discuss a few articles in it, and wait for the next release. The students are content with being reactive for only a few weeks to the issues tackled by the publication.
I call those students “The Beautiful Ones,” mindful of nothing but their grades, happy inside their respective Ivory Tower. It is a shame that apathy has taken deep root within the students.
There are numerous times I had to explain to classmates and friends why the Voice cannot print articles critical of the school administration. As students, I believe it is their right to know the issues affecting them and the school. Sadly, the Voice can only play the part to a certain degree. To paraphrase a colleague and friend, “Malabong maging malaya ang dyaryo (Voice) dahil ayaw ng mga estudyante. Kailangang manggaling sa kanila ang pagkilos.”
Another reason is the Supreme Student Government (SSG). As the student council, it is their duty to represent the students in talks with the administration and serve as advocate of student rights. However, the council is plagued with indifferent student who mostly border on traditional student politics. Instead of being a true student council, the SSG often chooses to succumb to the school administration, fearful of retaliation if they do something that can be labeled as “activism.”
In the recent consultation regarding tuition and other fee increases (ToFI), the council was not able to play its part, questioning only the various fees collected by the school. They did not even ask the administration for any guarantees that the fees be used accordingly (concerning the 70-20-10 incremental fees set by CHED Memorandum Order No. 14, prior to its suspension). They also “agreed” to the increase in tuition and miscellaneous fees, although I was told that they did not sign any certificate of agreement. I have yet to confirm the report.
The SSG has the power to hold a student referendum. As such, they are vital to attaining the publication’s independence. However, as long as the officers elected into the council are cowardly student “leaders” (read: blind-eyed pro-administration dogs) with no concept of progress and change, the arena of student politics in TIP will remain as gibberish as it is.