A question to a vice-presidential candidate during the 2021 Central Student Council election debates last April 30 made its way through the UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) filter, and it read, “You have been red-tagged multiple times and posted publicly for shame you bring to the University. Why are you running now?”

That an ostensibly stupid but dangerous question like this was allowed space in public discourse is alarming; it does not in any way contribute to the overall advancement of the democratic exercise. The question was outright accusatory and obviously leading, and obviously promoted red-tagging for ends that were clearly anti-democratic.

Only recently, GMA reporter Tina Panganiban-Perez drew flak for asking Maginhawa Community Pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non if she had links with Maoist-led rebels. Panganiban-Perez should have known better, especially being a journalist for decades, that while a reporter’s first responsibility is to the truth, asking leading questions that further echo the country’s anti-insurgency task force’s mischievous but dangerous anti-red propaganda only does more harm than good.

The hosts of the UST debates deserve some slack (they’re not even journalism students!), but the Comelec should take this advice from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines about questions in public forums: “We should not be party or add credence to red-tagging campaigns that vilify human rights defenders…by linking them to the armed communist movement. We should be mindful of the risk our line of questioning would pose to our interview subject.”

Other student council candidates were right to call out Comelec—even after it had apologized—as the election-governing body did not even denounce (or even mention) the red-tagging it had done. It simply apologized for the “oversight in filtering out a controversial question” and made a vague promise to “take necessary actions to mitigate the damage it may have caused” and “inspect election and campaign-related events more closely to prevent occurrences that affect the safety and integrity of every candidate.”

The Comelec must have forgotten that it is mandated, under the UST Students’ Election Code 2011, to “stop any illegal election activity, or confiscate, tear down and stop any unlawful, libelous, misleading or false election propaganda.” (italics ours)

Toeing OSA’s party line

The Comelec also failed to protect the candidates from the Office for Student Affairs (OSA) marionettists, as seen after a candidate for P.R.O. was forced to change his Zoom background of a rally with a placard that said, “Karapatan sa edukasyon, ipaglaban,” to a UST background for no reason at all but blatant censorship.

OSA has the right to be mad if the candidate had used a pornographic or a violent Zoom background, but asking to take down a Zoom background that simply reflected the candidate’s political platform is downright meddling.

For self-introspection, the OSA should ask itself: What is wrong with a Zoom background with socio-political content? Does the Student Handbook say anything about using photos of rallies for Zoom backgrounds? Why is OSA meddling in the elections for student government which are supposedly free and independent?

How the Comelec had allowed the OSA to interfere in such a petty issue also reeks of intimidation of student leaders that is another failure of its mandated duty to “deputize…for the exclusive purpose of free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections.” The Comelec didn’t even react to OSA’s meddling that put its own independence under question. As far as we’re concerned, after failing to filter the red-tagging question, this would be strike two for the Comelec. 

Safe and fair elections and healthy political discourse should be allowed to thrive in UST. OSA should stop its petty censorship and anti-activist bogey, which may be the reason why there’s alleged political apathy among Thomasians in the past years. At the least the OSA, like the petty and very mean Senior High School administration of Erika Bolaños that removed an official from a supposedly independent student government and barring him from college enrollment because of his alleged leftist links, should stop being an embarrassment to the Thomasian community.

And the Comelec, the point man in ensuring that democracy thrives in UST, should stop being a marionette.


  1. Very well said. Democracy, truth and integrity in electoral processes start at home, in this case, one’s university.


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