LAWMAKERS from the Makabayan bloc have filed a resolution asking the House of Representatives to probe the censorship of UST online media organization TomasinoWeb and “other violations of students’ rights” in the University.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel on March 11 filed House Resolution 1633, which seeks to investigate the “repressive actions” by the UST Office for Student Affairs (OSA) and “hold accountable” its Director Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison and Assistant Director Maria Regina Arriero. 

The resolution was co-authored by Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro.

“The reported media censorship and violations of democratic rights of student councils, organizations and individuals inside the University of Santo Tomas demands urgent investigation and action as it compromises the life and security of students,” the resolution read. 

Apart from the OSA’s censorship of TomasinoWeb, the resolution noted the several instances where the Student Welfare and Development Committee (SWDC) issued show-cause notices to students for involvement in organizations unrecognized by the University. 

The UST Senior High School (SHS) SWDC summoned Grade 12 student Allen Ballesteros in September 2023 for supposedly joining an organization not recognized by UST and using the University seal in unauthorized activities. 

Ballesteros was chairperson of progressive group Anakbayan UST. 

Coinciding with the TomasinoWeb censorship controversy, the OSA in February issued a show-cause notice to Panday Sining UST chairperson Raven Racelis, who was a philosophy student at UST, for violating the same provisions of the UST Student Handbook.

“The UST administration has also weaponized the issuance of show cause orders to students in progressive organizations,” the resolution read. 

“It also appears that the rights to autonomy, the right to organize, and the right to press freedom are placed in jeopardy,” it continued.

Makabayan bloc lawmakers also underscored the “intimidation” and “gagging” of student leaders belonging to the UST Central Student Council and UST Artlets Student Council in House Resolution 1633. 

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Manuel said consultations were made with Thomasians who experienced repression from OSA and before filing the resolution. 

“We saw through our consultations not just with UST students but also with other stakeholders in other universities that this kind of thing is happening in our educational institutions, and it’s becoming a great concern among Filipino students and youth,” he said. 

Manuel added that the resolution was also aimed at influencing change in the policies of the University. 

“Hindi puwedeng sabihin na lang na ‘Bahala na ‘yung school dyan,’ ‘Sa isang school lang ‘yan problema,’ kasi nga we see a pattern across universities,” he  said.

Manuel was joined by Thomasian activists and a representative of TomasinoWeb during the filing at Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

After filing, the next step for the resolution is to pass first reading before it can be forwarded to the appropriate committee for hearing. 

Manuel earlier said that Tio Cuison and Arriero could be summoned to appear before the House probe as resource persons.

“We should impress the appropriate committees the urgency to discuss this matter. Kaya hindi nagtatapos sa pag-file ng resolution ang ating efforts, dapat patuloy tayo nangangalampag para umaksyon ang mga kinauukulan.” With reports from Mikhail S. Orozco


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