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#TWenty: TomasinoWeb’s year-end 2021 special

Our triumphs emanated not only from the work of others but also from our own. But in every gain, there is loss—and this year was exhausting in more ways than one.

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Artwork by Wendell Adrian Quijado/TomasinoWeb

6. COA finds more than the P67-billion worth of negligence

Photo by Joey Dalumpines

Amid the surge of cases in the country in August, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged  ‘deficiencies’  and the P67 billion worth of pandemic funds that were reported to be questionable and mishandled. 

Among the deficiencies mentioned by COA were the irregularities and the lack of documentation provided by the Department of Health (DOH) on the materials and equipment intended for the COVID-19 use. Moreover, it was also discovered that a lot of equipment and medicines allotted for the use of the Filipino citizens remained unaccounted for and unused. 

“This is not only on the non-accomplishments of targets, there are lives of the Filipino people that need to be saved in this time of state emergency,” COA said in response to the explanation of DOH on the unfinished foreign assisted projects in the year 2020.

COA also flagged the overpriced P74.43 million pesos worth of medical equipment and supplies, which composes the P69.94 million unutilized equipment due to lack of planning and the P4.49 million liquidated damages. 

As added by COA, one of the noticeable flaws of the service delivered by DOH during the pandemic was the delays in quality health service during the most challenging times. 

Aside from the blatant misprioritization of the DOH on the pandemic, according to the data gathered by COA, there are worth P214 million unqualified recipients of the COVID-19 allowance and an overpayment with a total of P6.49 million and P54.45 million on the periods not covering the Enhance Community Quarantine. 

“No funds were mishandled and all were alloted to DOH are all spent for the procurement of test kits, PPEs, payment of HCWs’ benefits, salaries among others,” explained by Health Secretary Duque as COA continued to question the alleged misuse of the pandemic funds. Cherizza Bautista 

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UST Journ profs express dismay over Marcos Jr.’s ‘biased’ remarks

“Mr. Marcos is running for the highest office in the land — he should expect to be vetted, examined, scrutinized, and challenged,” UST Journalism program coordinator Felipe Salvosa II said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

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Photo courtesy of Sherwin Vardeleon and GMA News and Public Affairs

UST Journalism professors expressed their dismay over the statements of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that accused journalist Jessica Soho of being “biased.”

The presidential candidate declined the interview hosted by Soho on Jan. 22 due to her alleged bias against the Marcoses. This was in contrast to his speech during the filing of certificates of candidacy last Oct. 6 where he said he never took down interviews. 

UST Journalism program coordinator Felipe Salvosa II said that Marcos Jr. has the wrong idea about journalists’ role in a democratic society and in covering elections. He emphasized that, by challenging his views and narratives about his family legacy, journalists are just doing their jobs.

“Mr. Marcos is running for the highest office in the land — he should expect to be vetted, examined, scrutinized, and challenged,” Salvosa said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“His attitude toward journalists is also a measure of his fitness for public office,” he added.

Philippine Star reporter and journalism ethics professor Alexis Romero also said that the statement of the late dictator’s son is expected. He also reminded journalists not to be hindered by performing their roles during the elections.

“Politicians everywhere will try to discredit independent reporting because they prefer content that is favorable to them…These kinds of statements should not deter journalists from performing their roles during elections, which include informing the public about the dispositions, strengths, and weaknesses of candidates,” he said.

After declining the invitation to face Soho, Marcos Jr. started going on an interview spree this week.

Last Monday, the presidential aspirant agreed to an interview moderated by lawyer Trixie Angeles, a vocal supporter of him and President Rodrigo Duterte. Marcos Jr. also agreed to be interviewed by DZRH in their “Bakit Ikaw?” segment on Jan. 25. 

Echoing the sentiments of his co-faculty, Philippine Star deskman and journalism principles professor Leo Laparan said that all candidates should not be afraid to be interviewed if they are not hiding anything.

“Kung wala kang itinatago, bakit ka matatakot na harapin at sagutin ang mga tanong na deserve ng publiko na malaman ang sagot?” he added.

In relation to transparency, Marcos Jr. said that he will not disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) if he wins this year’s national elections. 

“Depends on what the purposes are for making them public. If that purpose is going to be for political attack then why would we want to do that?” he said citing the impeachment of former Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona in an interview moderated by Angeles.

A few hours later, the late dictator’s namesake flip-flopped in an interview with OnePH, saying that he is “perfectly willing” to publicize his SALN.

“I’m perfectly willing to show my SALN. And in fact, the quotation that you made before was me talking about my own SALN,” he explained.

In the same interview, Marcos Jr. was asked regarding his definition of a biased person, to which he simply answered, “anti-Marcos.”

When asked to elaborate his reason, the presidential aspirant said, “I know… because of the treatment we received at her [Soho] hands.”

For Asst. Prof. Jeremaiah Opiniano, if candidates prefer to be interviewed by “friendlier journalists” just like what Marcos Jr. is doing, they are already “dabbling inside their echo chambers.”

Although not journalists, Marcos Jr. previously accepted interviews with actress Toni Gonzaga and talk-show host Boy Abunda. 

“Regardless of whatever is the way that electoral candidates handle journalistic interviews, we continue to persevere in seeing their thoughts on issues that matter—whether they agree to be interviewed or not,” Opiniano said in a written interview with TomasinoWeb.

“This approach is our way to project journalists as trustworthy actors. Journalists must continue to seek all sides of the story, and do the reporting carefully. Doing so means the journalist has done her/his job to the public, even to the ‘biased’ against the ‘biased.’” he added.

With the coming elections, the misinformation campaign to bolster the image of the Marcoses becomes more rampant in social media. False claims and conspiracies are utilized in the pro-Marcos propaganda in an attempt to revise history about the family’s atrocities.

As of writing, Marcos Jr. was included in the final ballot amidst four pending disqualification cases against him at the Commission on Elections.

Justine Xyrah Rennzel Garcia
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Ian Patrick Laqui
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You cannot separate activism from student leadership — Artlet student-leaders

Student-leaders primarily represent and protect the student body, regardless if the university stands with them or not.

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ust protest
Dainish Samantha Santos/TomasinoWeb

Thomasian student-leaders reacted to the Faculty of Arts and Letters’s Student Council’s (ABSC) presidential candidate’s statements against activism by claiming that activism and leadership go hand-in-hand.

In a series of interviews with TomasinoWeb, Speaker of the Central Student Council’s Central Board, Nathan Agustin, and former UST AB Board of Major’s Speaker, John Steven Usero, stated that student-leaders should not shy away from activism.

“We cannot really separate activism with our roles as student leaders because, as we see, students do not really hold power within the university,” Agustin said.

During the Miting de Avance for ABSC’s Special Elections held on August 31, presidential candidate Denzelle Jude Caro debated against student activism.

“Student activism is not the only way for us to go through because currently, we don’t have the protection of our university,” he said.

Usero contradicted the statement, insisting that student-leaders primarily represent and protect the student body, regardless of whether or not the university stands with them.

“[I]f it’s against doon sa karapatan ng tao maging malaya […], kailangan manindigan ng isang lider na hindi siya dapat magplay safe — kailangan ichallenge niya; at the same time, pag chinallenge mo isang bagay, kailangan maging rational ka,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

The University has previously sanctioned students for joining mass organizations and participating in activism.

“Every channel is blocked because of the pandemic; in your student activism, currently, you are individualistic rather than collective,” Caro said, comparing student activism during the Martial Law period to that of today.

After admitting to being unaware of ABSC’s history, he argued that in this time of pandemic, student activism is more individualistic than collective as students do not have the masses to fall back on given the health restrictions.

Agustin partially agreed with the security concern of practicing activism during the pandemic, but still believes that the claim does not stand well with denying student activism as a whole.

Usero further supported the statement by explaining that the essence of activism does not depend on whether or not it happens physically with the masses but rather on seeing the problems in society.

“Kapag sinabi mong activism, ibig-sabihin may mali sa status quo, […] [at] kailangan natin makibahagi sa mga tao […] hindi lang naman siya ‘Hoy pupunta ako sa labas, pupunta ako sa kalsada’ para masabi na nakikibahagi ako sa mga tao — kailangan natin pag-aralan ang lipunan […] [at] ang kultura ng mga problema,” he said.

Student activism is denoted as “the involvement of students in defending their interests and bringing about needed change that drastically affect their university life and society.”

Despite the backlash Caro’s notions received, both student-leaders called for discourse and open communication regarding these controversial issues.

“Imbis na i-condemn mo ang mga taong ‘yon, kailangan mong ieducate […] kasi biktima rin sila ng sistema, biktima sila sa lipunan,” Usero said.

The Special Elections for ABSC will be done online from September 13 to 18.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Lee Seril
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Nathalie Porras
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