THE CENTRAL Student Council (CSC) has defended the University’s decision not to push through with a “senatorial forum” initiated by outsiders that had lobbied for the reproductive health (RH) law.

What was supposed to be a forum for senatorial candidates could have ended up advocating RH and endorsing pro-RH bets, said Central Student Council vice president Argee Gonzales, noting that UST had opposed the passage of Republic Act 10354 or “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.”

The decision was due to the “firm stand of the University,” Gonzales said.

“We understand that they really want to express their views on different issues, but at the end of the day, UST is UST. Nobody can just sway or change our stand, beliefs, and traditions,” Gonzales told the Varsitarian.

The forum, titled “Now Trending #Youthvote 2012: Senatorial Forum on Health, Population and Development,” was supposed to be held last Jan. 11 at the Medicine Auditorium.

Gonzales said UST was not informed of the plans until a few days before the event date and became apprehensive when it turned out that one of the organizers was the pro-RH group Forum for Family Planning and Development.

The decision stayed even if the student council proposed to change the topic to education. UST plans to hold senatorial forums closer to the May polls, Gonzales said.

“The University administration was supportive of our advocacy to educate the youth voters this coming elections, but [they] were just cautious of the things that are not in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Gonzales said.

The scandal and the growling glory

Anti-RH groups also called attention to the fact that pro-RH candidates like Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros would be asked to talk about health and population and development, he said.

The RH law was originally titled “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill.”

“The administration’s decision was done to avoid misimpressions that we support and endorse those candidates,” Gonzales added.

The forum, in partnership with media outfit TV5, the First Time Voters’ Network, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, and Smart Communications, was supposed to gather senatorial aspirants Richard Gordon, former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chief Grace Poe Llamanzares, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Lito David, and Hontiveros.

Hontiveros was quick to criticize UST. “It imperils the business of universities like UST—the education of our youth. It curtails the studentry’s exercise of their own conscience, the principle upon which many Filipinos, including those opposed to RH, anchored their stance on this issue,” she said in a statement.

But Gonzales said UST was just being “true and firm on its beliefs and morals.”

“We understand the rights of candidates. But they should also understand ours. UST is an institution, that no matter what happens, will always protect its name and image,” Gonzales said. Reden D. Madrid


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