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(UPDATED - 5:27 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines -- A freshman at the University of the Philippines Manila committed suicide Friday morning, allegedly after she was forced to take a leave of absence over her inability to pay her tuition.
On its Facebook account, the Manila Collegian, UP Manila’s student publication, said the 16-year-old Behavioral Science student killed herself. Initial information gathered by the Manila police showed that the student committed suicide by drinking silver nitrate Wednesday morning.
Mariz Zubiri, chairperson of the UP Manila student council, told Interaksyon.com on Friday that the student had been missing school for quite sometime and had filed for a leave of absence last Wednesday.
Aside from financial problems, authorities were also looking into other angles that might have caused the student to take her own life, according to Zubiri.
Zubiri said the student was unable to comply with the university's "no late payment" policy and was forced to take a leave from school.
The university implemented the "no late payment" policy last year requiring students to pay their tuition only up to two weeks after enrollment.
Those who were unable to pay on or before the deadline of November 23 last year were given an extension on a "case-to-case basis,” according to Zubiri. The student was reportedly granted an extension up to the second week of December. However, her family was still unable to produce the money to pay for
The student’s father appealed to the university to further extend the deadline for him to pay his daughter’s tuition but his request was denied by the school administration.
The student reportedly belonged to "Bracket D" (not Bracket B as earlier reported) of the U.P.’s Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and was paying P300 per unit or P900 per subject. She appealed to the university to lessen her school expenses by lowering her STFAP bracket .
In its report, the U.P. Collegian quoted professor Andrea Bautista Martinez of the Department of Behavioral Sciences as saying that the victim had applied for a student loan but had been turned down. So were her efforts to seek an extension of the deadline for her tuition payment.
Martinez also told the school organ that the victim frequented the Office of Student Services to seek counseling for her situation.
“Malaki talaga ang impact sa buhay niya ang LOA kasi pati pamilya niya naapektuhan. Since February, hindi na siya pumapasok. Lagi siyang nagte-text sa ’kin na hindi niya kinakaya ang problema (The LOA had a great impact on her because even her family was affected. She had not been attending class since February. She frequently texted to tell me she could no longer bear her problem),” Martinez told the Collegian.
The UP Manila Student Council scored the U.P. administration's implementation of the "no late payment" and forced leave of absence policies and called for their immediate revocation.
"In the student council, we have been very vocal about our stand. We say no to this repressive policy. UP is a public university and it's a slap on the face for us. In private universities you are allowed to pay your tuition fees late," Zubiri said.
She said UP implemented these new policies last year to solve an "internal problem" but said students should not sacrifice their education to a problem that should be solved internally.
Zubiri said the STFAP that categorizes students according to their family's income and capacity to pay is a mere "income-generating scheme" by the university.
She said that from 2007 to 2009, P500 million were collected by the entire U.P. system from STFAP but only P25 million were used as financial subsidies for students.
'Too precious to be endangered'
Youth organizations immediately called for a memorial for the student, with candle-lighting activities scheduled Friday afternoon at U.P. Manila, U.P. Diliman and U.P. Baguio.
Kabataan party-list’s Teddy Ridon, a lawyer and a U.P. Manila alumnus, blamed the "soaring tuition and other fees, commercialization of education and the overall bankruptcy of the government’s economic policies" for driving the student to her death.
"These policies are realities, now more than ever we must recognize them. The lives of the youth are too precious to be endangered by ensuring payments, deadlines, and their consequences. Commercialization is prioritizing profit over learning," he said.
Ridon said U.P. had made the STFAP “a justification to have high tuition rates for the majority of students when many of us are all too familiar with the plight of ordinary Filipino families.”