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‘Woke’ USTe

Finally, after months, if not years, of the student council system failing, if not outright betraying, its constituents, the students have woken up from an ignorant slumber—and most of them woke up angry.



The rejection of all candidates for Central Student Council (CSC) president, vice president, treasurer and auditor was expected, considering that a majority of students had been disdainful toward the council after major flubs this academic year.

Moreover, the abstention of thousands of Thomasians in the CSC elections is also a rejection of the status quo and the systems and institutions that create and enable it. The distrust of the students toward the institution of the CSC had reached tipping point, much like the distrust of 16 million Filipinos toward government institutions which led to the election of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Akin to Duterte’s victory, Thomasians have chosen relatively new faces to fill in only two of six posts of the CSC. Independent bets Therese Gorospe and Francis Santos were the only victors in the electoral race, and they will be taking office as secretary and public relations officer, respectively.

Thomasians on Twitter celebrated at what they say is a proof of the “wokeness” of UST students. Students have come to realize the fundamental flaws of most of the CSC candidates, of Thomasian political parties and of the systems of the student government, and have given all of those mentioned an omnibus rejection. Finally, after months, if not years, of the student council system failing, if not outright betraying, its constituents, the students have woke up from an ignorant slumber – and most of them woke up angry.

This is a momentary victory for the ordinary Thomasian, who simply seeks a proper student leadership which will truly serves the interests of students. These students have been speaking out for so long, and this massive abstention is what traditional Thomasian student politicians and their parties get for having been deaf to these clamors.

But students’ wokeness must not stop here. A special election is likely to happen, but those elections would no longer involve the entire student body. The process lies solely in the hands of the CSC Central Board, composed of local student council presidents. They, and other local student council officers are also the only people who may be candidates in the special elections. If students do not maintain their wokeness, the major political parties that they have rejected might make a sly comeback, ultimately betraying the voice of the students.

Meanwhile, patrons of traditional student politics are already complaining of inconvenient processes caused by the mass abstention. No one could deny that the path to change—to challenging the status quo—would be inconvenient, more so to those in power. And their complaining already show that their interests ultimately do not lie with sympathizing and joining the student body in their clamor for change; rather, their interests lie in preserving and perpetuating their power and influence in the status quo.

In the current scheme of things, it is evident that these so-called student leaders are not eager to hear the clamors of students. Thomasians must then come together and repeatedly block all attempts of these old and dysfunctional powers from making a comeback, until they can rethink and radically change their way of governing.




To repress the press is to oppress the people

Philippine media, once considered to be among the freest in Asia, is now under attack from an increasingly fascist regime. The case against Rappler is one of these attacks.



Animation by Justine Reyes/TomasinoWeb.

It is already more than apparent that the Philippines is rapidly nosediving towards a fascist dictatorship; and, like any dictatorship, the free press is public enemy number one.

In a move straight out of the playbook of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, President Rodrigo Duterte seems to be keeping his word on his threats against online news site Rappler: Yesterday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s registration for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities—a move which could effectively end Rappler’s operations.

This is a blatant attack on press freedom; but for Duterte’s staunch loyalists, the SEC ruling against Rappler seems like a glorious victory after months of war with the so-called “biased” and “yellow” media.

Notwithstanding the repeated harassment and disinformation of online trolls and pro-administration bloggers (some of whom now occupy government posts), Duterte has long openly targeted Rappler and other major media outlets that have been critical in their reportage of his brutal crackdown on illegal drugs in a glaring effort to silence the press: The president himself blasted the online news site along with broadcasting giant ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer during his second State of the Nation Address last July.

Philippine media, once considered to be among the freest in Asia, is now under attack from an increasingly fascist regime; what used to be mere but nonetheless alarming microagressions against the media—such as cursing at journalists, catcalling of female reporters, and claiming without proof that journalists were being killed for being corrupt—have now escalated to all-out attacks on the press.

Duterte and his supporters are arguing for constitutionality in Rappler’s case, but for an administration that thrives on the violation of multiple constitutional safeguards on checks and balances and human rights, they are not fooling anyone: It is obvious enough that ordering Rappler’s closure is a politically motivated move meant to send a chilling effect to the media and his critics, in a way similar to how Marcos cemented his dictatorship 47 years ago.

Philippine journalism faces even greater threats and challenges in its line of duty of serving the truth and the people.

It is a preview of what is in store for Philippine media in an all-out fascist regime: Media outlets will be forced to apply for accreditation from the government; identified critical outlets will be slapped with overblown and questionable charges and will be forced to close down, putting journalists and media practitioners out of work, behind bars—or worse, dead—if they do not bend to the whims of the regime.

The numbers do not lie: The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism have recorded the killings of six journalists in the first 16 months of Duterte’s term, along with eight attempted murders and death threats, and six major cases of threats from local officials and pro-administration bloggers.

In their year-end report, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders declared the Philippines the “deadliest country” in Asia for journalists after recording four journalist killings in 2017.

Even the campus press is not safe from the state’s fascist attacks: The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) have denounced last October the military and police surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and red-tagging of several member publications in Bicol, and several other campus journalists and activists, due to their affiliation with CEGP.

Perhaps, to accurately and faithfully quote the English novelist George Orwell, “Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being.”

As dissent grows among the public with every fascist attack, the government’s attempts to close Rappler is not just an attack on Rappler nor is it just an attack on the press: It is an attack on democracy, it is an attack on the right of free expression of every citizen, it is an attack on the people and the growing resistance against Duterte’s fascist regime, even if his paid army of online trolls try tell otherwise.

In this age of fake news and trolls where critics and the press are defamed as invariably biased or partisan, Philippine journalism faces even greater threats and challenges in its line of duty of serving the truth and the people.

In these trying times where the press becomes the watchdog of an increasingly fascist dictatorship, we will not be silenced. Every effort to repress the press is to oppress the people, and we will continue to resist every effort to suppress the freedom we have long fought for with both ink and blood.

The free press has proven time and time again that its power does not waver under a dictatorship; if anything, its voice only grows louder and more critical in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses to stand up to tyrants and depose them from power: We will not be afraid to do the same.

TomasinoWeb stands with Rappler, with every Filipino journalist, and with the struggle for a genuine free press—one that serves no political or commercial interest but only the truth and the people.

Rappler’s fight is our fight: We will hold the line.



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Resist Duterte’s terrorism

With his threats to crack down on activists, the return of police in drug operations, and the further extension of martial law in Mindanao, it is now more than clear that Duterte is setting the stage for a fascist dictatorship.



Cartoon by Jessica Lopez/TomasinoWeb

Dissent and resistance are vital signs of a living democracy — but for President Rodrigo Duterte and his lapdogs, dissent is destabilization; resistance is terrorism.

It is now more than clear that Duterte is setting the stage for a fascist dictatorship: He had openly admitted to being fascist last month — all in the midst of bringing back the police in the killing fields of drug operations, extending martial law in Mindanao for another year, and even threatening to criminalize organized dissent by arresting activists for supposedly conspiring with so-called terrorists.

It is ironic, to say the least: If anything, Duterte’s mass murder of the poor in his brutal anti-drug campaign, his threats to bomb the schools and communities of indigenous peoples, and his suggestions of declaring a “revolutionary” government in order to quell justified rebellion against his tyrannical regime had left the people terrorized more than those he eagerly maligned and vilified as enemies of the state.

Duterte must have forgotten to admit that he is also the country’s leading terrorist — and, in fully unveiling the rotting core his fascist regime, his terror attacks on the people have only intensified.

Despite the success of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in conducting 2,161 anti-drug operations almost without blood and violence, Duterte is hellbent on satisfying his maniacal bloodlust by taking the operations from PDEA and giving it back to the police.

Lest it be forgotten, brutal police operations took the lives of youth like Kian Loyd Delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz, among other victims and “collateral damages” of summary executions.

At the start of his term, Duterte promised to end illegal drug trade in the country within his first six months in office— or else, he said he would resign.

Already long overdue on his false promise of change, Duterte is yet to step down and is now frantically clinging to his bloody throne, now that the popularity he once enjoyed is diminishing.

Rightfully expecting strong backlash, Duterte is now taking desperate measures to silence dissent — and his schemes are blatantly transparent.

Duterte must have forgotten to admit that he is also the country’s leading terrorist — and, in fully unveiling the rotting core his fascist regime, his terror attacks on the people have only intensified.

One must look no further than his continuing undermining of checks and balances: The impeachment proceedings of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno continue along with threats to impeach Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, his tirades on the Commission on Human Rights, and his online troll army’s discrediting of the media.

Even taking cues from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte had also resorted to declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist organizations” — effectively reducing the long-standing communist insurgency in the country to mere terrorism — in a bid to legalize his crackdown on detractors and activists, including militant youth and student formations, by the way of trumped-up charges, illegal arrests, and spurious accusations of conspiracy and terrorism.

Just as his crackdown on illegal drugs saw the deaths of thousands of alleged drug users and pushers based on mere suspicion, Duterte is now emboldening state forces and his vigilante loyalists to arrest — or worse, kill —dissenters by conveniently labeling them as “rebels” and “terrorists.”

The declaration is already reaping fatal results: The past week saw the killings of clergymen such as activist-priest Marcelito Paez, who was gunned down by still-unidentified assailants in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last Dec. 4, right after facilitating the release of a peasant leader arrested by the army’s 56th infantry battalion for allegedly being a member of the NPA.

Paez’s death followed that of pastor Lovelito Quiñones, who was killed by forces of the police regional mobile group in an encounter in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro last Dec. 3, with the army’s 203rd brigade claiming that Quiñones was an NPA guerrilla.

The wheels even seem to have started turning long before: Merely a week after formally terminating the peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA, student-activists from the University of the Philippines and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines were killed in an encounter with the police and the Air Force 730th combat group in Nasugbu, Batangas last Nov. 28, where the military had been conducting aerial bombings and arrests of peasant leaders tagged as NPA members for the past months.

Unsurprisingly, the military insisted that all 15 casualties in the Nasugbu encounter — including the student-activists — were full-time NPA guerrillas.

School-based formations — and even campus publications — which were already reporting the harassment, intimidation, and red-tagging of their leaders and members by police and suspected military agents for the past months are now receiving anonymous death threats and targeted harassment in the midst of the crackdown on activist groups.

A member of the UST chapter of militant student group League of Filipino Students, for example, received death threats via phone call last Dec. 4; the same number also sent threats to a member of poetry collective KM64.

The madman Duterte, however, does not seem to be satisfied with his bloodbath and totalitarian reign of terror.

Like a true Marcos fanboy, Duterte is now using the excuse of “communist terrorism” to make his rubber stamp Congress approve his bid to further extend martial law in Mindanao for another year and strengthen counterinsurgency operations in the region.

Lumad communities — which had been the usual targets of aerial bombings and military harassment for actively defending their ancestral domains from the land-grabbing of mining companies and transnational corporations — have decried the further extension of martial law as an avenue for the military to tag them as rebels and forcibly drive them out of their lands.

The same day as Quiñones’s death, Karapatan reported that a composite team of the army’s 27th and 33rd infantry battalions and the Marines killed eight Lumad farmers in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, among other Lumad killings linked to counterinsurgency operations.

Lumad families in the area have reclaimed 300 hectares of their domains from the land-grabbing of David M. Consunji Inc.; the military immediately branded them as members of the NPA.

Checkpoints of the 75th infantry battalion have also continued to block the entry of food and relief goods being sent to Lumad families displaced by counterinsurgency operations in evacuation centers in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The military continues to deny the food blockade despite numerous reports from local media, non-government organizations and civil society groups.

Even more alarming, however, is that fact that the first extension of martial law in Mindanao is not even over and yet Duterte’s lapdogs in Congress are now pushing to put the entire country under martial law.

Coupled with his previous suggestions of declaring a “revolutionary” government, it does not seem far-fetched that the self-declared fascist will push through in declaring a nationwide martial law to finally seize and consolidate his power in a one-man rule.

Rightfully expecting strong backlash, Duterte is now taking desperate measures to silence dissent — and his schemes are blatantly transparent.

The country faces darker days ahead; the killings, violence, and the culture of impunity will only continue to worsen as the state paves the way for a fascist dictatorship — and no one is safe.

But if Duterte thinks the people’s struggle will be cowed by threats of arrests, abductions, torture — and even death — he is utterly mistaken: As if he had never read a history book, state oppression and violence only emboldens resistance, and their numbers are growing by the day.

The youth holds power in these trying times, and they must continue to stand and resist the imminent threat of another dictatorship and join the people’s struggle in their fight for genuine change — a change that will never come from the bloody fists of a self-declared fascist.

History has proven time and time again that the people’s struggle can topple down dictators — and Duterte and his reign of terror are not exceptions.



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Of Pharisees and Pontius Pilates

The University of Santo Tomas cannot use the hypocrisy and opportunism of its critics. It is very much guilty of the same faults.



The statement of the University of Santo Tomas addressing the media’s supposed “inaccurate portrayal” of the University in the fatal hazing case of Horacio Castillo III is a very rare case.

If anything, UST making a second statement regarding the issue is a blot, an anomaly in the long history of silence on pressing issues by which the University has gained a dismaying reputation even among its students.

However, when UST is not silent, it pulls out its fingers — and like any good public relations strategist, it will point its fingers at anyone but itself.

Following public outrage on the University’s supposed apathy and indifference in handling Castillo’s case, it seems that the administration just had to find a scapegoat for its shortcomings.

Alas, it has managed to turn the tables upside-down by spotlighting the hypocrisy of its critics — particularly lawmakers like Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian and Grace Poe — while insisting that it is doing its best efforts to exact justice.

The University’s tirades on the inconsistencies and opportunism of its critics are warranted; after all, the murder of Castillo is still a byproduct of the culture of impunity perpetuated and directly supported by some of these critics while they simultaneously claim to fight for Castillo’s justice.

However, students — and even professors, alumni, and stakeholders — of the University must not take this narrative prima facie: This is merely the surface, and it derails attention from the real issues at hand.

Castillo died in the hands of the Aegis Juris Fraternity, which, despite its anomalous track record, was denied accreditation by the University only this year, when the fraternity already claimed the life of a student.

Members of the Aegis Juris Fraternity hold powerful positions inside and outside the University. It is a formidable foe — and with the University actively playing the blame game, it becomes hard to buy the narrative that UST is making concrete efforts to hold the fraternity and its members accountable for Castillo’s death.

The University of Santo Tomas cannot use the hypocrisy and opportunism of its critics. It is very much guilty of the same faults.

While some of these senators directly support the administration’s drug war, UST has also refused to make a stand against the issue until it was very convenient for them to do so.

And even when the University did finally make a stand, it only came in the form of a statement, and — as expected — without any corresponding efforts to actively mobilize the student body.

The University’s actions in response to Castillo’s death are also heavily marked with opportunism.

In the statement released last Oct. 20, UST claims to have suspended classes for a Day of Mourning of Prayer — coincidentally declared on the same day as the National Day of Protest.

Even this supposed “day of mourning” is questionable.

Why declare it on the same day as nationwide mass protests, particularly for the commemoration of the declaration of martial law, and not during regular school days when members of the Thomasian community are present?

How can the University properly mourn as a community when there are no classes, especially when it was very much clear that it was declared in anticipation of a different cause?

UST cannot claim moral ascendancy over its critics — and as Castillo’s case proves, the University itself has failed to suppress and eradicate the culture of violence and impunity that thrives within its own walls.

Thus, the student body must remain vigilant. They must continue to protest this gross injustice and be steadfast in demanding accountability from the University which should be protecting its students.

The call for justice is not just a statement, nor can justice be achieved by playing blame games.

UST must take responsibility for the blood spilled in its hands.

The University of Santo Tomas must be held accountable for the death of Horacio Castillo III.



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