(Art by Rae Isobel N. Tyapon/The Varsitarian)

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article misquoted Marlon Villarin in his comments about movements aimed at ousting the president. His statement was erroneously presented in a way that suggested he was against “any movement that will seek to oust political leadership.” That is not the case, and necessary corrections were applied to this story on Dec. 3. We apologize for the mistake.

STUDENT council officers’ signature drive calling for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte drew mixed reactions from the UST faculty.

The signature campaign dubbed “Tomasino Strike Back” circulated online through Google Forms, which required the participant to fill up an information sheet before signing. More than 1,400 Thomasians signed the manifesto. 

Asst. Prof. Ulysses John Parado of the Institute of Religion said a duly elected government must be respected.

“It is not in our hands to [just simply] initiate the ouster. There may be a greater number who find the administration worthier than the past ones, in the conduct of the nation’s affairs, especially in these trying times,” Parado told the Varsitarian.

Parado claimed the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was better managed compared with other countries. 

He called on Thomasians to instead pray for divine guidance on government leaders. He also urged them to be constructive rather than cynical.

“Promote solidarity rather than alienation, and pray for better days than espouse a combative stance,” Parado said.

Marlon Villarin, a political science instructor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, said those who make moves aimed at ousting the president should also present “better and more credible leadership [or] alternatives.”

“I support activism especially in promoting responsible and accountable governance, but I [am] strongly against any movement that will seek to oust political leadership without [presenting] better and more credible leadership/alternatives,” he told the Varsitarian.

“Otherwise, we are just merely acting on what is politically beneficial to some at the expense of public interest,” he said.

Asst. Prof. Emelito Sarmago of the Faculty of Arts and Letters said President Duterte still deserved support and appreciation despite criticism that he was “sleeping on the job.”

“If they can’t stand by him (Duterte) being the president, they can just treat him as a senior citizen, trying to make ends meet in a [daunting] task,” Sarmago told the Varsitarian.

While the signature drive was a “good” exercise of freedom, Thomasians should “try to make the next advocacy a more significant one” and much closer to the concerns of the students, he said.

Another instructor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, who asked not to be named, said he did not support the initiative amid to the tense political climate and the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which put the names of the students on the manifesto at risk.

He told the Varsitarian that the students could be easily accused of violating the law and law enforcers could take action even without evidence.

Even missionaries and a prominent order of nuns were tagged as terrorists, he noted.

He said Duterte’s ouster was not a solution but students should continue to be productive and socially aware citizens to contribute to nation-building. He  also urged them to register for the next election.

‘Kasalanan ang pumikit’

Other educators commended the initiative.

“I’m glad that our students have taken interest in our nation’s politics. As a political science teacher, this is something that I’ve always wanted to see from our students,” Asst Prof. Dennis Coronacion, chairman of the Department of Political Science, told the Varsitarian.

Coronacion said the political participation of the students, especially those with a “well-thought” political stance, should be supported by the faculty.

He however urged students to also understand the ideas of those who opposed them.

Irvin Rondolo, an instructor from the College of Science, said he was shocked at first but later felt proud of the signature drive.

“I strongly believe that we are teaching them well, not just the basics of our lessons but more importantly, enhancing their critical thinking as well as upholding the core values of UST,” Rondolo told the Varsitarian.

Rondolo said this was the right time to be heard because “corruption, negligence, injustices and killings of innocent people are increasing drastically.”

Lagi nating aalalahanin ang katagang ‘kapag namulat ka sa katotohanan, kasalanan na ang pumikit’ … nasa ating mga kamay ang kasagutan sa pagbabagong sinisigaw at hinahangad natin,” said Rondolo.

Asst. Prof. Ser Allan Bodoraya of the Institute of Religion said he supported the students’ call and was hopeful that these activities would become venues for dialogue. 

“I think their continuous expression of disgust to injustices, negligence and incompetence of some political figures is a sign that there is hope,” Bodoraya told the Varsitarian.

“I just hope that this would not be seen [merely] as an anti-administration campaign but a challenge for the administration to be more accountable and proactive. I also hope that these [students] would not be red-tagged,” he added.

Tito Quiling, Jr., an instructor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, said the student council-led drive espoused a “decent cause.”

“As long as they do proper research, aim to practice discernment, think systematically, I see this as a decent cause—given the series of disturbing episodes in the last eight months, even noting the previous years,” he said.

“While being vocal about what you stand for is rousing, practicing discernment can also help assess one’s sentiments and objectives under the changing social and political weather,” he told the Varsitarian.

Quiling pointed out that in the past, collective action and calls for reforms through different channels had resulted in significant changes.


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