THE UST Office of Student Affairs (OSA) drew flak online after asking a candidate for Central Student Council (CSC) public relations officer (PRO) to remove his Zoom background showing a rally, during the mandatory “Tagisan” debate.

Carl Jeric Mataga, one of the three PRO bets in this year’s student polls, used a photo of a rally with various placards, including one that said, “Karapatan sa edukasyon, ipaglaban (fight for the right to education),” for his Zoom background.

The Zoom background CSC PRO candidate Carl Jeric Mataga Mataga used during Tagisan 2021, which the UST Student Affairs asked him to take down. (Photo used with permission from Mataga)

Mataga said he was notified midway through the debates that the OSA had requested him to change his virtual background.

Mataga said the photo was taken in early 2020, when he was a photographer for TomasinoWeb,  an OSA-accredited digital media organization.

He initially changed his background to a University photo. He changed it again to a black background with white text that read: “There are students being left behind.”

“Hindi na nag-comment ‘yung OSA so I guess na nakikita nila ‘yung clamor ng students and they didn’t want any more of it or naging acceptable na,” he told the Varsitarian.

“Fortunately, they didn’t make an issue out of my pink headphones,” he added.

Mataga’s fellow CSC PRO candidates rallied behind him and hit UST-OSA’s “censorship.” 

Jerome Espinas said that aside from Mataga’s statements and answers during the debate, the Zoom background he used was an extension of his beliefs and stances. 

“Kung background pa lang umaalma na, paano pa kaya kung may boses at kilos na?” Espinas said in a tweet.

Gabriel de Lara said it was within the candidates’ rights to “express fully their beliefs, opinions and stands on the different issues being addressed as a student and most importantly as a Filipino.” 

“We express our dismay over what has transpired a while ago regarding the censorship of Mr. Mataga’s Zoom background. This act was a clear disregard and violation of his rights to express himself and his respective advocacies to the Thomasian community,” de Lara said. 

In a tweet, Mataga said pushing for education as a right was one of his advocacies.

“Education is a right, not a privilege. It shouldn’t be taken away from people who need it the most, especially during this pandemic,” he said. 

The Varsitarian sought the OSA for comment but it has yet to respond as of posting. with reports from John Ezekiel J. Hirro


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