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Some things are just beyond my control, says Tejada’s adviser in open letter

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MANILA, Philippines – There were many things she could have done as Kristel Tejada’s adviser but for Professor Andrea Martinez of the University of the Philippines Manila, some things were just beyond her control.

In an open letter to critics who have accused her of neglecting the freshman student’s financial problems and called her “pabayang (neglectful) teacher,” Martinez admitted that she was guilty of being unable to “act on Kristel’s dilemma.”

Saying that she was opposed to the university’s “repressive policies… from the very start” she pointed out that the letter was written not in an effort to clear her name but to “vindicate” Tejada.

Martinez said that Tejada, who took her life due to financial constraints which prevented her from continuing her studies, had been “a victim of a system that deprived her of her constitutional right to education.”

“All of us are guilty of her death by way of commission and by our deafening silence to the plight of impoverished sectors in our society… If the public is in pain because of her death, please give me and her family the benefit of the doubt that we are more in pain than you,” said Martinez.

With Martinez’s permission, INQUIRER.net is reposting her letter in full she wrote in her Facebook note.

“This is in response to critics, who fondly call me the ‘pabayang teacher’ of Kristel. I admit my guilt. But I will not apologize to anyone else except to Kristel and her family. I do not owe an explanation to anyone, I do not need to clear my name, but I owe it to my Department in the University to clarify some issues, and I owe it to Kristel’s memory to vindicate her name.

“I have not exonerated myself of any guilt, from the very start I admitted I had my fault. Yes, my ‘inability’ to act on Kristel’s dilemma of LOA may be one of the ‘multifactorial’ issues that contributed to her untimely demise, and I ask Kristel to forgive me for that. I will not absolve myself. I could not even forgive myself. But there are the ‘facts’ that are beyond my control:

“(1)   No, Kristel does not need a guarantor when applying for a loan in the University. UP has ‘simplified’ the process of loan application. Instead of having faculty/staff guarantors, the process just requires a signature and letter from parents. So as much as I want to be Kristel’s loan guarantor, she has no need for it;

“(2)   Yes, I could’ve loaned Kristel the amount that she needed. My colleagues in the Department were supportive of them—they were ready to help and pitch in the money needed—if we had known before deadline. But Kristel’s family has so much self-respect and dignity they would not want to ask for loan (except in the loan assistance provided by the University), so they instead pawned their property.

“When we learned that they have not settled their account, we told her Dad to talk to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and ask her to allow Kristel to enroll, and the Department will shoulder the cost. But the request fell on deaf ears. All of us have been made victims of the technicality of deadline. I am just a junior faculty, I do not have the clout and the power to influence the decisions of the powers-that-be. The Department has also been constrained by the mechanical application of repressive policies. We have opposed these policies from the very start, voiced out our strong opinion on this, that even in the Faculty Council meeting of the College held last November 2012, we assailed the policy as anti-student.

“(3)   Yes, I was one of Kristel’s confidante, even her Psychology professor, and it was a total blunder that I failed her (this, I admitted from the start). I may have been inept in helping her with her LOA problem, because the least that I did was listen to her woes, show compassion, to sympathize and cry with her. Yes, they are not enough. I do not intend to brag of the things I did for her (the media and the public do not know the extent of my involvement). I guess I was remiss on the idea that Kristel was concerned with the ‘present predicament,’ (i.e., the LOA) because I instead tried to help her to look forward, hope for the best and see the brighter side of life, inspiring her of stories of my former students who despite hardships have succeeded.

“Our approach to her problem was more of solution-focused, so Kristel and I searched for ways to prevent the LOA from happening again, looking for scholarships, placing mechanisms of addressing her financial worries, helping her look for a part-time job. People wonder what I tell her in the text messages we exchanged with each other? I’m sorry but I’m bound by my respect for confidentiality of our communications. But definitely, like any of her friends, I told her to stay strong. And yet, I failed her big time because I was not able to help her, but Kristel was still very appreciative with the many “thank you” notes and messages she sent to me. So, as I said, I do not owe my apology to anyone of you, except to Kristel.

“(4) No, I have not seen it coming. Were there signs that Kristel will end her life? While I was busy listening to her, I was blinded by the idea that Kristel was trying to stay positive despite setbacks. Before that fateful day of March 15, we have already scheduled our next lunch together to talk once again, so I did not have an inkling that she will make a drastic action. Unlike Physics which can predict the exactness of natural phenomena, Psychology can only predict the “likelihood” of human behavior. While Kristel was devastated over her LOA and financial problems, I could not say with complete estimation that she will act on her depression by taking her life.

“(5) Yes, I did advise Kristel to seek counseling. I told her I may not properly handle the counseling session with her because I was so involved in her issue I might be subjective and biased. But she said, she’s okay as long as she can talk to me and to her friends. Kristel is the kind of person who would assure you ‘she’s doing fine,’ that ‘kakayanin nya.’

“(6) Yes, Kristel is a Behavioral Sciences student. But she was just a freshman. She was only starting to take her major courses this second semester if only her enrollment has not been derailed. If her critics are thinking that any BehSci student/practitioners could easily navigate life because they are knowledgeable of handling personal issues, they are wrong. Like anybody else, we have our own tolerance level to stress. So, let’s not have a condenscending attitude towards what happened and condemn her for giving up. Let’s not assume the moral ascendancy that we are sooo good about navigating life’s difficult waters while she was not… Her memory deserves more than that.

“(7)  Yes, UP professors are among the best, I salute my colleagues on that. But if you are not my student, you don’t have any right to accuse me of mediocrity and ‘kapabayaan’. I reserve the right to judge me to my students and my students alone. People who do not know me do not have the right to assassinate my character. You may assume a “moral high ground” with your accusations, but look yourselves first in the mirror before you say anything against me. I am proud to teach in UP, I will forever be proud to be its alumna.
“Kristel is a victim of a system that deprived her of her constitutional right to education, of her right to dream and achieve her dreams. All of us are guilty of her death by way of commission and by our deafening silence to the plight of impoverished sectors in our society.

“Let us not exonerate ourselves of our guilt. If the public is in pain because of her death, please give me and her family the benefit of the doubt that we are more in pain than you. Because even if I was just a fragment in the short life that Kristel had, I am fortunate to have laughed with her, cried with her, exchanged stories with her, and dreamt with her. We owe her that respect. So if you cannot offer any consolation to her and her family, I plead for sobriety. ‘He, who has not sinned, cast the first stone.’”


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  • Paliwaweng

    …sana magtutuldok ito sa mga magpakunwari, mapanghatol at mga paham sa pagkatha ng mga ‘akalang walang batayan’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricio.saulo.maglunsod Romeo Godoy Maglunsod

    Hindi ninyo ako kasing gagaling pagdating sa akademya… pero hindi natin dapat sisihin ang UP mismo o ang kanyang mga guro sa pagkamatay ni Kristel, kaya siya namatay kasi TAKOT TAYONG TUMAYO upang labanan ang sistemang BULOK sa Gobyerno natin. Magmula sa nakakasukang PULITIKA na meron tayo. hanggang sa sistemang PILA PILA sa halos lahat transaksyon ng SANGAY NG PAMAHALAAN.

  • Ma. Doll Doll

    It seems that so much blame is heaped on UP as if it were the only university in the Philippines that could’ve provided education for Kristel. It is not. There are other universities, vocational schools and learning institutions (eg. TESDA). Just because Kristel and so many other students want to study in UP doesn’t mean that UP should accept the burden of accommodating everyone. Here’s a news flash for you: it can’t.

    Here’s a harsh reality that students who want to study in UP need to learn: you can’t always get what you want. But you can look to other places to get what you need. Kristel, just like other UPCAT takers and financially-challenged Iskos and Iskas, have so many other options other than taking one’s own life.

    Kristel’s death is a tragedy. No one wanted this to happen – not UP, not the administrators, not her parents, not her adviser… well, maybe not no one. Kristel wanted this for herself – the one person who could’ve truly prevented this from happening wanted this for herself. So let’s stop blaming everyone else who didn’t want this to happen and just respect the girl’s decision. Sure, let’s learn all that we can from her death but let’s put a stop to blaming people who are already mourning.

  • nitesoul

    we should leave the teacher alone. she did what she can do and she can only do so much. it’s upon us Filipinos… let us carefully select our leaders. leaders who will impose policies such as that with UP.

  • B3ntong

    Masasabi mo kung paano pinalaki ang anak ng magulang…. sa asal ng anak.

  • miatotl

    UP grad din ako, at naging working student nung college dahil hindi kaya ng mga magulang ko na pag-aralin ako. Naranasan ko din magutom at kung makakain man, parang isang latang sardinas ang kinailangan kong i-stretch sa buong araw.

    Hindi naman tama na UP ang sisihin sa lahat ng nangyari. Kung sisisihin natin ang UP, dapat sisihin din natin ang mga magulang nya dahil hindi nila nagawang mapag-aral ng maayos si Kristel. Dapat sisihin din natin ang gobyerno dahil hindi nila mabigyan ng maayos na budget ang UP. Kung sisihan at sisihan lang din naman, dapat hindi lang UP ang nasa spotlight.

    Sa tingin ko, nao-overlook ung iba pang issues na hinarap ni Kristel nung nabubuhay pa sya. UP student yan, I don’t want to generalize, pero innate na sa mga UP students ang maging madiskarte o resourceful. Nabasa ko sa isang newspaper, meron din silang family problems. Malay ba natin kung un ung mas prinoblema nya? Kase kung pera lang ang problems nya, sabi nga mga ibang posters, madami syang puedeng mapasukan na trabaho. Sayang na bata, pero desisyon nya na tapusin na ung buhay nya.

    Sa mga studyante na nagsa-struggle financially, tyaga lang at gawin nyo lahat para mapagsabay ang trabaho at pag-aaral. Sabi nga, it gets better.

    • alfred sanchez

      like!

    • Serom

      You are right to the point, miatotl! There are really many things any poor student can do to survive or to work out an ambition in life.

  • i_am_filipino

    A “no blame policy” should not be applied here. UP ADMIN BULLIED AND HUMILIATED HER BY INDIRECTLY TELLING HER, ” UP DON’T BELONG TO THE POOR LIKE YOU”. STUPID UP ADMIN. R E S I G N !!!!! OR YOUR GUILT CONSCIENCE WILL HAUNT YOU FOR LIFE. HER GHOST WILL VISIT EACH ONE OF YOU….

    • Ma. Doll Doll

      And your approach is to bully the UP admin? Guilt them so they take their own lives also? Then you’re no better than the way they acted. You’re probably even worse because you purposely want to hurt the feelings of the people you want to resign (eg. calling them “stupid”). If you really want any good to come out of this, propose a concrete solution that will actually improve the UP system. Shouting and name-calling won’t help.

  • chatlainegrace computercenter

    Panahon pa ni Haring Solomon, sinulat niya na sa Kawikaan 4:7, “Kunin mo ang karunungan gaano man ito kamahal. Oo sa lahat ng kukunin mo ay kunin mo ang pang-unawa. Ibig sabihin panahon pa ng mga Israelita ay magastos na ang pagpapaaral pero hindi sinabi na magpakamatay o sumuko. Ang kailangan magsumikap at magsakripisyo para makuha ang karununga. Meron kaming kapitbahay, mag-wo-work ng 6 mos. para makapag-ipon ng panggastos sa pag-aaral. Pag nakaipon na mag-eenroll ng 1 sem, after 1 sem tigil ulit para makaipon. Natagalan nga lang siya bago nakaatapos pero nung makagraduate nagkaroon ng magandang trabaho at sulit naman ang sakripisyo. dahil nagkaroon ng magandang trabaho pagkagraduate. Yung pinsan ng mother ko nagtrabahong boy para lang makatapos at nagkaroon ng magandang trabaho sa hotel. Sumasakay lang sa isyu ang mga milatanteng grupo at sinensationalize lang ng media. Ang dapat na isensationalize ay yung mga kwento ng maraming professionals ngayon na nag-working students noon para magsilbing inspirasyon sa mga kabataan ngayon.

  • Serom

    It’s survival of the fittest in UP and in any society actually. Kristel is just another mortality. We don’t have to look whom to blame here. It may be anybody; it may be the system; it may be the family; it may be Kristel herself.

  • david

    dami kasing nagmamarunong. akala mo wala silang bahid. akala mo sinong malinis. kapag nagsalita walang preno kahit di naman privy sa issue. makasalita lang. sila ang mga “payabang commentators.”



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