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‘Gain our trust:’ Students urge MSU to suspend in-person classes amid safety concerns

MANILA, Philippines — Weeks before the public utility vehicle (PUV) consolidation deadline, transport group PISTON will hold another transport strike on December 14 to 15.

The protest aims to oppose the December 31 deadline for PUV consolidation, which the group argues will strip jeepney drivers and operators of their livelihoods.

The group urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to entirely scrap the PUV modernization program, which mandates jeepney operators to transition to modern units priced at P2.8 million each.

RELATED: Piston slams June 30 jeepney phaseout order, says minibuses worth P2.8-M burying operators in debt

“Ito ba ang pamasko sa atin ng DOTr (Department of Transportation) at LTFRB? Ang pagkawala ng kabuhayan ng libo-libong tsuper at operator? Mahiya naman sila. Andami nilang pamilyang gugutumin pagpasok ng bagong taon,” Piston National President Mody Floranda said in a statement.

(Is this the DOTr and LTFRB’s idea of a Christmas gift? Stripping thousands of drivers and operators of their livelihoods? They should be ashamed. Their actions will lead to hunger for many families as the new year approaches.)

Before the December 31 deadline, traditional jeepneys and UV Express drivers and operators must merge into cooperatives or corporations. Those who don’t comply will be instructed to cease operations as mandated by the PUV modernization program.

“Ano ba ang pumipigil kay Guadiz (LTFRB chief Teofilo Guadiz III)? Isang memorandum circular lang nila, mababasura na ang deadline. Kung gusto nila, kami na ang mag-draft par a pipirmahan na lang niya,” Floranda said.

(What’s holding Guadiz back? Just one memorandum circular from them, and the deadline will be nullified. If they want, we’ll even draft it ourselves for him to just sign.)

On November 20, Guadiz said that drivers and operators don’t necessarily need the consolidation process to be finalized by December 31. A simple filing should suffice to be recognized as consolidated.

“By the mere filing, puwede ka na ma-consider as consolida ted (By the mere filing, you can be considered consolidated),” Guadiz said in a press briefing.

MANILA, Philippines — Student leaders at the Mindanao State University have called on school officials to temporarily allow classes to be held remotely after the university ordered a resumption of face-to-face classes starting Monday, more than a week since a deadly bombing incident took place on campus.

The student council of MSU’s m ain campus in Marawi City said in a statement last week that it “objects” to the university’s decision to resume in-person learning until December 22 due to fears for students’ safety.

“We express our official disma y regarding the recent release of the memo announcing the resumption of classes, despite the earnest efforts of the Supreme Student Government in presenting data from the survey that reflected the concerns and preferences of the student community,” the student council said.

Philstar.com has reached out to MSU for comment and will update this story with their response.

MSU released a memorandum over the weekend announcing that face-to-face classes will resume in coordination with local authorities and security forces.

Signed by MSU President Basari D. Mapupuno, the memorandum said that returning to in-person classes would “ensure the continuity and stability of the academic and professional pursuit of the student body.”

“While acknowledging the anxiety and distress the incident has caused among our constituents, the university assures its community of comprehensive measures being undertaken to create a safe and conducive environment for learning and working,” Mapupuno stated in the memorandum.

Student leaders from MSU’s Supreme Student Government earlier called on their school officials “to transition classes, examinations, and final requirements into an online setup” to ensure the safety of its academic community.

The December 3 bombing incident at the Dimaporo gymnasium — which took the lives of four people and injured 50 others —  “is not the first time students have lost their lives on our premises,” the student council said.

“It is imperative that we take swift and decisive action to create an environment where everyone can study, work, and thrive without fear,” the student council added.

Other student organizations have initiated similar petitions addressed to the MSU administration and released statements on Facebook urging the same temporary shift to an online setup.

Members of MSU’s debate varsity organization said that the school must “gain our trust and confidence with a strong sense of accountability of the present and future situation in the campus.”

“You want us back? First, prove that you have the capacity to protect your people,” the MSU debate organization said in a statement last week, stressing that the university does not have a robust emergency response team and a “weak safety and security system.”

Local college student councils in MSU — such as those from the College of Public Affairs, College of Engineering, College of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the College of Education — have also urged their respective administrations to support a temporary return to online classes.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines announced on December 8 that they have arrested one suspect behind the bombing, particularly a person they believe had placed the improvised explosive device at the gymnasium.

The Bangsamoro regional police last week deployed a company-size contingent to secure the MSU campus. — with reports by John Unson

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