THE 2004 elections have afforded the University the chance to launch what is perhaps its most engaged campaign yet to influence Philippine democracy. It is an engagement that has been intense and sustained. Through the Voter Education Initiative, UST has educated the Thomasian community and the public on enlightened voting. Through its extraordinary statement, “New Hope, New Politics,” released during Easter and published as a full-page advertisement in several national newspapers and tabloids, the University provided the electorate certain guideposts on which candidates to choose. The latter’s impact on forming a critical mass couldn’t be gainsaid. The statement rejected certain candidates that pandered to the Filipino electorate’s showbiz-crazy politics and their fondness for entertainment and escapism. The import of the message, particularly on the presidential race, was not lost on many people.

What do all of these initiatives imply? They imply that all this talk about Thomasian apathy is hogwash, misinformed and ultimately biased. They reveal that the Thomasian community, with some prodding from an enlightened university leadership, can come together without the divisiveness that characterizes the political sallies of other campuses, in order to provide a well-discerned, unified and effective contribution to the democratic enterprise.

The UST initiatives have met wide acclaim. The Easter statement, for example, was quoted by leading opinion-makers in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star.

In the last three years, people have seen a growing political engagement by UST. The Pontifical University was the first and perhaps the only higher education institution to make a unified and formal call on President Joseph Estrada to resign due to corruption charges in 2000. The next year, it joined the masses at the Edsa Shrine to launch what would then become the Edsa People Power II revolution. The rest was history.

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In March that year, when Engineering student Mark Chua was killed after exposing anomalies in the Reserved Officers Training Corps in an expose which this paper made, UST led the University Belt Consortium in drafting and issuing the statement, “Excising the Cancer,” the extraordinary statement that called for the abolition of the compulsory nature of the ROTC. The rest again was history: the National Service Training Act was passed into law, shortening the ROTC program and making it non-compulsory, and offering other options to the college student seeking to fulfill the national service training requirement, such as literacy training and community development.

What all of this means is that if the University can get its act together, it can generate change and influence things for the better. The Pontifical University already has its history, legacy and prestige as strong potentials to implement change. The only other factors needed are political will, unity and intelligence. The electoral initiatives of UST this year are all of that: forceful, united and intelligent.

All of us members of the Thomasian community should sustain and consolidate all of these political initiatives to change the nation and the world for the better. If there’s such a thing as a UST vote, this is it: a political vote, yes, but not exactly partisan, a vote that is well-thought-out and not simplistic, a vote that is enlightened, effective and ultimately liberating.

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