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Persecution, not activism, besets student leaders

Since last year, several student activists have been red-tagged, and they were either in the student councils or were vying for the positions. 



Ian Patrick Laqui/TomasinoWeb

A student leader’s affiliation with a human rights organization resulted in his non-readmission in the next academic term, igniting suspicions of a university administration-led witch hunt among Thomasians. 

Since last year, several student activists have been red-tagged by the school administration, along with the right-wing organization “The Right Thomasian.” The red-tagged students were either in the student council or were vying for the positions. 

The hunt first plagued student activists at the University of Santo Tomas, but at present, even student leaders are no longer exempted. They are also primary targets. 

Witch hunt, defined as an attempt to find and punish a particular group of people who are blamed for something, often because of their opinions and not because they have done anything wrong.

Shoti Ampatuan made headlines in January after being persecuted for “joining unrecognized organizations.” The show-cause order released by the University barred him from enrolling in the next academic year. 

Ampatuan was also removed from his head council position in the Senior High School Student Council (SHS-SC) , and was denied his certificate of good moral character, which is an essential requirement for admission in some schools.

“I became worried about my safety, knowing that it became rampant [and] that even my former school and teachers knew about this,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

Ampatuan revealed that his mental health deteriorated due to threatening and intimidating social media comments, which overwhelmed him, having almost five months left to serve in the student council. 

I feel like may pagkukulang ako knowing na I still have four to five remaining months to prove myself, to prove that the council prepared a lot from the body and the constituents,” Ampatuan said.

‘I never felt safe’

Avery Alo, another SHS student and a presidential candidate in the SHS-SC elections, also faced charges from the SHS administration, and a parent accused him of recruiting students to join Anakbayan. 

Alo almost had the same fate as Amputan but was acquitted on Feb. 15 due to a “lack of sufficient evidence.” He “never felt safe” after the incident and receiving threats and intimidation through SMS. 

Nandoon pa rin po ‘yung threat of being sent a show cause letter or being red-tagged, and I think ‘yon po ang isa sa mga effects sa akin ng red-tagging, like I never felt safe anymore in our university,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“Honestly, I was scared na baka matulad po ‘yung nangyari kay Kuya Shoti na mangyari din sa akin, because alam naman po natin na tinanggal po siya sa council then ‘di po siya bibigyan ng good moral […] I feared for my stay in the university,” he said.

He expressed concern that UST is being used as a tool for the witch-hunting of progressive groups and called for the administration to change specific provisions to prevent further incidents.

I think po it’s high time po para baguhin ‘yung mga provisions na ‘yon kasi it does not do anything [good] to the students,” Alo said.

“It does not help them to improve upon themselves which is lagi nila pong sinasabi ng aming admin na tutulungan daw nila po kami na mas maging better students, which in that case, it only endangers students and it does not even help us in any way,” he added.

Unwarranted labelling

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Jeric Mataga, a second-year IICS student, was in the middle of his virtual miting de avance speech on April 30 when the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) ordered him to change his background showing a protest. 

“I’m literally going to talk about red-tagging here and they’re going to red-tag me because of my background,” Mataga said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

When asked about his thoughts on OSA’s alleged red-tagging, Mataga said the students deserve fairness and justice rather than unwanted labelling.

“There are many things much worse than student activism. Keep that in mind. The students deserve fairness and justice, not unwarranted scrutiny and red-tagging,” he added.

As a student activist himself, Mataga advocated for the formation of the student’s code to amplify students’ voices.

He has also been red-tagged The Right Thomasian, which is no stranger to committing such acts. It notoriously labeled student leaders, ordinary students, and even professors in the university.

Nagalit ako. Sa dami-daming pwedeng gawin sa buhay, mangrered-tag ka pa. ‘Di ka na nga nakatulong, nakakapahamak ka pa ng tao,” he said in an interview.

In facing the threats and labelling, Mataga “did not even flinch,” saying that he would probably stop doing his advocacies if he is scared.

Bakit ako matatakot? Kung sa simpleng troll page lang natakot ako e ‘di matagal na akong tumigil sa mga pinaglalaban kong advocacies,” he said.

Mataga “chose to ignore” the threats and red-tagging, saying that they should receive less attention. 

Dr. Mark Abenir, a Development Studies Faculty from the Ateneo de Manila University and former Professor from the UST Department of Sociology, warned that red-tagging the youth and student leaders is dangerous.

Kapag ang bata may napansin siya kung anong mali, sasabihin niya kung anong mali. Ganun din ang kabataan because of what they’ve learned in school [or] university [which] are the things that should be done ideally,” Abenir said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“Once we red-tag the youth, we tell them to shut up. We tell them to stop contributing to critical progress. We tell them to stop telling what is wrong in society. And if the youth stop telling us that, it will be a dark future,” he said.

Abenir strongly believes that institutions should be bastions of academic freedom.

“As institutions, we should be bastions of academic freedom kung saan ang tamang paniniwala natin ay pwede nating iexpress. Because nagnu-nurture ka ng future generations and you want [those] future generations to speak out,” he added.



Mga Tomasinong student-leader, dismayado sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.



Nanawagan ang mga Tomasinong student leader sa Unibersidad na bigyang-linaw at agarang abiso hinggil sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula para sa AY 2021 – 2022.

Noong ika-23 ng Hulyo, matatandaang ibinalik ng Unibersidad ang 50 porsyentong downpayment sa matrikula ng mga freshmen kasunod ng anunsyo na hindi ito magpapatupad ng tuition hike sa panibagong akademikong taon.

Nagpahiwatig ng pagkadismaya ang tagapagsalita ng Central Student Council (CSC) Central Board na si Nathan Agustin, Internal Vice-President ng Communication Arts Students Association (CASA) na si Jeia Jazul, at Internal Vice-President ng UST Journalism Society na si Sophia Castillo sa kakulangan ng komunikasyon at representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa mga inilalabas na patakaran ng Unibersidad.

“They should have consulted us through announcements man lang, even if hindi direkta agad sa councils, […] so that we may immediately say our views or if hindi na talaga mababago, makapag-prepare sana tayo, ‘di ba?” ani ni Agustin sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Binigyang-diin ni Agustin ang pagkakaroon ng maayos na konsultasyon sa pagitan ng Unibersidad at mga mag-aaral bago magpatupad ng mga polisiya para maiwasan ang paulit-ulit na batikos mula sa mga mag-aaral ukol rito.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang pagkakaroon ng representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa pagpapatupad ng iba’t ibang polisiya sa nakaraang State of Thomasian Address 2021 noong ika-24 ng Hulyo.

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Sa isang panayam, nagbigay ng karagdagang paliwanag si Jazul kung bakit mahalaga na bigyang-pansin ang mga hinaing ng mga mag-aaral sa mga ipinatutupad ng Unibersidad.

“Students are the main stakeholders of the University. The school should be listening to the concerns of its students, especially financial [matters]. Instead of increasing the fees, I would ask to please keep it at how much we’ve been paying before when consideration of the pandemic was still a concern,” aniya.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Agustin ang muling pagsingil ng mga dagdag na bayarin mula sa mga mag-aaral katulad ng energy, medical, at dental fees na hindi nagamit ng mga mag-aaral noong nakaraang termino.

“Although there are no tuition fee increases, tandaan natin, hiwalay ang other at miscellaneous fees. Wala ngang tuition fee increase, meron namang other fee increase, meron namang miscellaneous fee increase,” sabi ni Agustin.

Mas mababang downpayment, hindi pa rin sapat umano

Ayon kay Agustin, sa kanilang pagpupulong kasama ang Office of the Vice Rector for Finance (OVRF), sumang-ayon at binaba na ng Unibersidad ang downpayment mula sa 50 porsyento ng matrikula sa P15,000. 

Dagdag pa niya, sa kabila ng pagbaba ng downpayment, masyado pa rin itong mataas para sa ilang mga mag-aaral na nakararanas ng problemang pinansyal dahil sa mas pinahigpit na lockdown dulot ng lumalalang pandemya.

“Even if this amount may not be too much for some, it is too much for others, so there [are] students who may be discouraged to enroll, especially if they don’t know na may means pala para makapag-enroll sila by writing a letter to OVRF,” ani ni Agustin.

Para kay Jazul, hindi nakabubuti ang pagtaas ng mga bayarin sa kabila ng nagpapatuloy na pandemya dahil napipilitang tumigil sa pag-aaral ang mga apektadong mag-aaral.

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

READ  Birtwal na klase, hamon sa mga mag-aaral ng unang taon sa kolehiyo

Inihambing ni Castillo sa isang bitin na eksena sa pelikula ang kanyang pangamba na posibleng hindi siya makapagtapos ng kanyang huling taon sa Unibersidad dahil sa nasabing pagtaas ng bayarin.

“Natatakot ako kasi paano if, yes, naka-enroll ka this semester, pero what if [sa] next sem, tumaas ulit ang tuition or ang downpayment? Parang nasa peak ka ng pag-aaral sabay cut eh,” aniya.

Nitong Biyernes, pinalawig ng Unibersidad ang enrollment para sa unang termino ng panibagong akademikong taon hanggang Miyerkules, ika-25 ng Agosto.

Iniulat ng Department of Education na halos isang milyong mag-aaral ang hindi nakapag-enrol ngayong AY 2021-2022.


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Birtwal na klase, hamon sa mga mag-aaral ng unang taon sa kolehiyo

“It really feels isolating, especially as students working alone [sa activities o schoolworks]. So feel mo na if there’s actual learning ba talaga, may na-absorb ka bang relevant for your future work?” sabi ni Pellejo.



(Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

Noong ika-9 ng Marso 2020, sinuspinde ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Maynila ang klase sa lahat ng antas. Ito ang pinakahuling pagsuspinde ng klase sa face-to-face na setup.

Ang Batch 2024 ang unang pangkat ng mga mag-aaral na hindi pa nakararanas ng face-to-face setup dulot ng COVID-19. Mananatiling sa online gaganapin ang pagsisimula ng klase sa panibagong akademikong taon, na ikinalungkot ng ilang mga Tomasino.

“Hindi katulad kapag [n]asa school ka, you’re set kasi na magtrabaho sa school, hindi katulad sa bahay,” ani ni Angela Atejera, isang mag-aaral mula sa BS Medical Technology, sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Dagdag pa niya, iba pa rin ang pakiramdam kapag siya ay nasa loob ng paaralan dahil kasama niya ang kanyang kapwa mag-aaral na mayroon ding gawaing pampaaralan at maaari niyang pagtanungan kapag siya ay nalilito sa isang aralin.

Sa isa pang panayam, ang kawalan ng sapat na pisikal na interaksyon ang nagiging dahilan ng pagka “drain” o pagkaubos ng lakas ng mga mag-aaral.

“Totoo nga ‘yong sinasabi nila na nakakasira siya ng mental health kasi before diba we have our friends to vent out—[ka]pag example mababa nakuha sa quiz or may kahit anong problema—pero ngayon parang all we have is ourselves,” ani ni Rein Bernadette Del Rosario, isang mag-aaral mula sa AB Journalism.

“Iba pa rin talaga ‘yong feeling na nasa university talaga then you meet your classmates and professors personally,” dagdag pa nito.

Gaya ni Atejera, pangalawang taon na rin ni Del Rosario sa kolehiyo. 

Ayon kay Therese Pellejo, isang sikologo at dating propesor mula sa College of Science, malaki ang negatibong epekto ng pagkawala ng pisikal na interaksyon sa loob ng klase sapagkat nakakadagdag ito sa “anxiety” at “stress” ng mga mag-aaral.

“Ngayon na naging online, there’s that illusion that teachers have na students have more time, so we therefore should give more workload—which overwhelms the students,” sabi ni Pellejo.

Dagdag nito, dahil sa mga patong-patong na gawain at stress, maaaring magdulot ito sa mas kaunting impormasyon na matututunan ng mga mag-aaral. 

“It really feels isolating, especially as students working alone [sa activities o schoolworks]. So feel mo na if there’s actual learning ba talaga, may na-absorb ka bang relevant for your future work?” sabi ni Pellejo.

Pagsalubong ng isang freshman

Gaya ng Baccalaureate Mass, ginanap sa UST Minecraft ang taun-taong Thomasian Welcome Walk na tradisyon ng Unibersidad.

(TINGNAN: Naghahanda ang mga freshmen na tumawid sa Arch of the Centuries sa loob UST Minecraft ngayong Thomasian Welcome Walk.)

Ibinahagi ni Marie Bernadine Pascua, isang AB Legal Management freshman, ang lungkot at panghihinayang na hindi niya mararanasan ang mga tradisyon at pagdiriwang na isinasagawa tuwing idinaraos ang freshmen week nang face-to-face.

“Kahit na nagawan naman ng paraan upang mapagdiwang ang mga ito sa birtwal na pamamaraan, iba parin kasi ang pakiramdam at ang karanasan kung magaganap ito nang pisikal,” ani ni Pascua.

“Gayunpaman, eenjoy-in ko pa rin ito dahil sigurado akong lubos itong pinaghandaan ng iba’t ibang mga departamento at organisasyon sa UST,” dagdag pa nito.

Binigyang-diin din ni Pascua ang pagbibigay ng solusyon sa mga problemang naranasan niya noong Senior High School, tulad ng “communication at learning barrier,” para sa panibagong akademikong taon.

“Sa kadahilanang iba’t iba ang sitwasyon ng mga guro at mag-aaral sa ganitong panahon, ine-expect ko rin ang pagkakaroon ng konsiderasyon sa bawat isa ngayong may pandemya,” aniya.

Noong Biyernes, ika-30 ng Hulyo, inanunsyo ni Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque sa isang press briefing na isasailalim muli sa enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) ang Metro Manila mula ika-6 hanggang ika-20 ng Agosto. Dahil dito, ipinagpaliban muna sa ika-12 ng Agosto ang pagsisimula ng klase upang magbigay ng sapat na oras ng paghahanda sa bagong paghihigpit na ito.

Matatandaan din na noong Marso, binanggit ni Commission on Higher Education chair Prospero de Vera III na malabong maibabalik sa tradisyunal na face-to-face classes ang mga paaralan at ipagpapatuloy na ipatupad ang flexible learning. Kasama ng mga ulat mula kay Ian Patrick Laqui


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Community pantries address food insufficiency but gov’t must address food security—Simbahayan director

According to Froilan Alipao, there is a problem with society if people will continue to rely on community pantries for a long time. 



KINDNESS STATION—UST Simbahayan and the Santisimo Rosario Parish opens their community pantries in P. Noval and Dapitan streets on April 24. Photo grabbed from Santisimo Rosario Parish’s Facebook page.

While community pantries help address the food insufficiency in the Philippines, government officials must also look into more sustainable solutions to achieve food security, the director of UST Simbahayan said Saturday, April 24. 

According to Froilan Alipao, who is also a faculty member of the University’s sociology department, there is a problem with society if people will continue to rely on community pantries for a long time. 

“Community pantry is an immediate response because there is a need for food. Pero ang pangit naman kung habang panahon may community pantry ka. Ibig sabihin niyan, […] walang malaking tsansa ang mga tao na they can produce their own food or they can purchase their own food. Ibig sabihin, may issue with food security,” he told TomasinoWeb. 

The community pantries, according to Alipao, should also help empower citizens and encourage them to participate in governance.

“Yun bang mga pumila, ‘yung mga mahihirap, na-oorganize ba sila para tumayo rin sila sa sariling paa o ma-realize nila ‘yung dignity nila and rights sa society? Ma-oorganize ba ‘yung mga tao na later magiging active participants sila sa governance,” he said.

He also stressed that sustainable development should also include environmental stability that will cater to the “whole society, especially the marginalized and poor sectors.” 

Government vs. community pantries

Malacañang denied on April 19 that community pantries were established as a result of government incompetence, and told the public to stop politicking amid the pandemic.

“Itong mga community pantry nagpapakita na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan. […] Sa panahon ng surge na ito, kinakailangan po talaga sama-sama tayong mga Pilipino. Kung hindi tayo magtutulungan, sino pang magtutulungan?” Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing. 

But according to Alipao, the hunger and poverty experienced by Filipinos goes to show that the government is not doing its job.

“Nakikita mo ang gutom at kahirapan—at ‘yun ang totoo, hindi ‘yun myth. Ibig sabihin niyan, […] they are not really doing their role as a government—to protect and to promote the welfare of the people,” he said.

The Simbahayan director also urged the government and the private sector to come up with long-term solutions to the country’s problems.

Solidarity not socialism

The community pantry “movement,” according to Alipao, is a form of solidarity which helps those who have little to no food to eat.

“Food is a felt need ng karamihan na walang hanapbuhay, lockdown, saan ka kukuha?  So sabihin natin na religiously, kung titingnan mo, miracle. Pero sa sociological and social science term, solidarity—‘yung pakikiisa doon sa mga tao basically sa pagkain,” he shared.

He added that he calls this a “movement” because many people took the initiative to put up their own community pantries without expecting any funding.

“Pero with a starting point of community pantry at talagang maraming sumunod, nag-advocate, sumupport, doon sa community pantry, ‘yung iba nagtayo na, nagkaroon na siya ng isang movement. Movement siya kasi dumami ‘yung gumaya without any expecting resources from any specific group—it is really community mobilization,” he explained.

Although he agrees that the community pantries show a “semblance of socialism,” Alipao mentioned that he is more comfortable with the term “solidarity.”

“[T]here’s a semblance of socialism—‘yung you will share your resources and then you get what you need, kasi that’s one of the principles of socialism. But on a small scale, I think parang solidarity is a form of sharing,” he said 

So in that particular scenario, food for example, in a very particular period of time like this, we can show our solidarity,” he added.

Alipao added that it is up to society to put a label on the new phenomenon. He also lauded Filipinos for their willingness to help amid disasters, highlighting that it is the country’s “cultural asset.”

“May espirito ang Pilipino na kahit anong hirap, tumutulong—and that would be a good cultural asset. And I think the community pantry, why it became a phenomenon that people are supporting, is because of the cultural assets or cultural capital of the Filipino people,” he said.

UST’s Community Pantry

The UST Simbahayan and the Santisimo Rosario Parish opened their community pantries on April 25, which were placed in Gates 7 and 10 of the University in Dapitan and P. Noval streets.

These pantries, called “Kindness Stations,” are only operational every Sunday morning from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. 

However, Alipao said that on Mondays to Saturdays, UST also contributes to the community pantry in P. Noval street organized by the owner of Mang Toots, Toots Vergara.

Community pantries became popular in the country after small business owner Ana Patricia Non opened the Maginhawa Community Pantry on April 14, which is now located at 108 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village East in Quezon City.


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