Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel (left) proposes a probe to investigate the TomasinoWeb censorship issue and hold UST Office for Student Affairs Director Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison (top right) and Asst. Director Maria Regina Arriero (bottom right) accountable in a privilege speech at the House of Representatives on March 6.

A CONGRESSMAN has vowed to file a resolution to investigate the TomasinoWeb censorship issue and hold the heads of the UST Office for Student Affairs (OSA) accountable for what he described as “the rampant violation of democratic rights.”

In a privilege speech at the House of Representatives on March 6, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel proposed a probe to investigate not only the censorship issue but also other instances of “democratic violations” in the University.

Manuel said OSA Director Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison and Asst. Director Maria Regina Arriero could be summoned to appear before the House probe as resource persons.

“Hindi po natin papalampasin ang insidenteng ito, pati ang iba pang lumilitaw na kaso ng paglabag sa democratic rights ng mga estudyante,” Manuel said at the Batasang Pambansa session hall. 

“Wala na tayo sa dark ages, wala na tayo sa era ng mga prayle noong Spanish colonization. Ang nangyayari ay paglabag sa batayang karapatan sa pamamahayag at pati na rin sa kalayaang pang-akademiko,” he added. 

The OSA has drawn flak after instructing the online student media organization to take down its photo of College of Information and Computing Sciences (CICS) students in their “Type B” uniforms entering a 7-Eleven store on campus.

In a statement on Feb. 16, TomasinoWeb said it was told the photo became a source of public ridicule because of the “supposed association of the CICS Type B uniform with the convenience store’s employee uniforms.” 

TomasinoWeb president Jan Zamora earlier told the Varsitarian that OSA officials had instructed the organization to “take down the post or change it to a different one, and […] issue a public apology.” 

Manuel deplored the threat made to TomasinoWeb that it could cease to exist if it did not comply with the OSA takedown order.

“Hindi na pwedeng mapalampas ang kanilang ginagawa, hindi na lang litrato ang pinolice, pati ang mga estudyanteng naki-simpatya sa TomasinoWeb ay pinolice,” he said.

Manuel pointed to the issuance of a show-cause letter to Raven Racelis, the chairperson of Panday Sining UST, on Feb. 19. 

The letter, issued by the OSA, alleged that Racelis had violated the UST Code of Conduct by being involved in an unrecognized organization.

Racelis was a philosophy student at the Faculty of Arts and Letters who did not enroll for the current term.

“When will this madness stop? Sa halip na show-cause order ang ipataw sa mga estudyante, what if ang mga repressive officials nila ipatawag natin sa kamara?” he said. 

A number of lawmakers, including Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas and South Cotabato Rep. Peter Miguel, a UST alumnus, expressed their support for the resolution.

In an earlier interview with the Varsitarian, Manuel said launching a probe on the OSA would be the start of a series of investigations into other schools cracking down on students’ rights and freedoms. 

“Ang goal natin una sa resolution is mag-initiate ng pag-investigate by the committee of the house sa nangyaring censorship within UST.  Second, for it to aid in legislation. Hopefully yung discussion with members of the house [is about] ano ‘yung mga repressive policies, not only in UST but in other schools din,” he said. 

Manuel said the resolution was not an attack on UST as an academic institution.

“Maraming mga well-performing faculty, personnel, at students. They care about each other, they care about this country, pero kini-cripple ng existing repressive culture and protocols ang malayang pag-iisip at malayang palitan ng mga ideya sa loob ng institution,” he said. 

Manuel said findings of the probe would be forwarded to the Commission on Higher Education, the institution capable of mediating between University officials and students.

The Kabataan Partylist lawmaker expects to file the resolution on Monday, March 11.


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