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Mocha Uson returns award amid backlash from students, alumni

Mocha Uson returned her government service award through a representative on Wednesday while several alumni returned their awards from the Alumni Association in protest.

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Photo courtesy of Henry Tenedero

Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson has returned the award given by the Alumni Association following backlash from students and alumni.

Uson returned the award through a representative earlier this morning and was received by the association’s  Chairman Emeritus Robert Sy and Board Adviser Jack Castañeda.

“This is indeed a great act of humility and magnanimity on the part of Asec. Mocha,” resigned Alumni Association President Henry Tenedero said.

Uson revealed in a statement on her Facebook page that she had informed Tenedero of her intentions to return the award.

“Lingid sa kaalaman ng lahat bago pa po lumabas ang statement nila ay sinabi ko na po sa President ng UST Alumni Association Inc. na si Sir Henry Tenedero na akin na pong isasauli ang award,” Uson said.

Uson returned the award after Tenedero’s resignation last night amid heavy criticisms by the Thomasian community on the association’s actions (READ: Alumni Association prex resigns, Uson’s award not revoked).

Despite the controversy, the Alumni Association stood with their decision and decided not to rescind the award given to Uson.

Uson also slammed Thomasians for blowing up the issue as well as for supposedly “bullying” Tenedero and the Alumni Association (READ: CSC decries alumni award for Mocha Uson).

“Hindi ko lamang ito isinapubliko dahil sobrang nao-OA na ako sa ilang Thomasians sa pagpapalaki ng issue na ito. Marami pa pong mas mahahalagang bagay ang dapat pinag-uusapan kesa dito,” she added (READ: Student activists urge admin to denounce Mocha Uson’s alumni award).

Uson received the Thomasian Alumni for Government Service award during the University’s Grand Alumni Homecoming last Sunday, Jan. 21, which was given to individuals “instrumental as [c]atalyst[s] of [t]ransformational [c]hange towards an empowering nation-building.”

The only criteria for the award, however, is for an individual to be a graduate of the University and is currently a government official.

Uson graduated with a degree in Medical Technology in 1998 and entered the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery the year after, before she eventually dropped out during her second year to pursue a full-time show business career.

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She has served as a board member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from January last year until her appointment as assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office in May.

Alumni return awards in protest

Along with Uson, 19 other government officials received the award, including Sen. Joel Villanueva and Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin.

Villanueva, who sponsors a senate bill which seeks to punish online misinformation, did not return his award but said that he was saddened and offended by the association’s decision to recognize Uson.

“It’s supposed to be a celebration, it’s supposed to be inspirational to our students in UST,” the senator said.

Villarin has returned the award in protest, saying in a statement: “I refuse to buy into their recent justification for awarding Mocha Uson that one only needed to be a graduate of our Alma Mater, and be part of government.”

“If that were true, then all Thomasian civil servants should have also been given such an award… Indeed, she has corrupted the values that Thomasians hold dear,” he continued.

Other alumni have likewise returned awards from the Alumni Association.

Former health secretary Carmencita Reodica, who was conferred the Outstanding Thomasian Alumni Award in 1997, returned her trophy “for it has lost its meaning and significance.”

In an open letter posted on his Facebook profile, New York-based novelist and poet Bino Realuyo returned his UST High School 75th Founding Anniversary Award, which he received in 2003.

“The recent Thomasian Alumni Award recognition of Mocha Uson, a known propagandist and “purveyor of fake news” at a time when Freedom of the Press is under attack in the Philippines is an insult to all UST Alumni who believe in upholding one of the pillars of strong democracies—VERITAS,” Realuyo stated.

by Heather Marian Amoroso

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Thomasian publications, media groups condemn attacks on press freedom

Student publications and media organizations of the University joined the calls to defend press freedom in the midst of the government’s ‘attacks’ on journalists and the media.

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Several publications and media organizations of the University lambasted the government’s “attacks on press freedom” in a statement on Thursday, following the ban of a Rappler reporter from Malacañang.

“We, student publications, writers and media organizations of the University of Santo Tomas, strongly manifest our unity with other media organizations in condemning the Duterte administration’s efforts to stifle press freedom in the country,” the statement titled “Uphold the truth! Defend press freedom!” read.

It added: “In these crucial times when our freedoms are being attacked and threatened, we, campus journalists, writers, and media practitioners, must stand and fight to defend our rights.”

Rappler reporter and Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) member Pia Ranada was prevented from entering the New Executive Building in Malacañang on Tuesday morning, Feb. 20. A day after, Ranada said she was informed by Malacañang that she could no longer enter the entire palace complex.

In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who ordered his officials to ban Ranada and Rappler from covering his events in the Malacañang.

Nonetheless, the MPC stated that Ranada would remain a member unless the Court of Appeals upholds the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling on Rappler’s registration.

Last month, the SEC revoked Rappler’s certificate of registration, sparking protests from various media groups, militant organizations, and politicians (READ: Media groups protest attacks on press freedom).

The groups, moreover, expressed concern over the President’s “repeated” disregard for the law.

“It is alarming that President Rodrigo Duterte himself—who has repeatedly shown contempt for human rights, rule of law, and checks and balances—is now going after the free press to silence and intimidate critics of his administration,” the document stated.

In his second State of the Nation Address, the President also attacked other major media outfits such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, accusing them of being biased in their reports about him. The statement also cited the blocking of the license renewal of the 54 radio stations of the Catholic Media Network, which is owned by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders declared the country the deadliest country in Asia for journalists, with a record of four journalists killed last year.

Other reported killings of journalists were also recorded by local media groups such as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in the first 16 months of the Duterte administration, including death threats from local officials and pro-administration bloggers.

The statement also condemned threats on campus publications, particularly the military surveillance and red-tagging of campus journalists in Bicol, and Mocha Uson’s tirades on Ateneo de Manila University’s Matanglawin after it lampooned Uson’s blog in 2016.

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Furthermore, the groups stated that they “will continue to serve the people and stand for freedom, democracy, and most importantly, veritas: The truth.”

The signatories of the statement include Amierielle Anne Bulan, editor-in-chief of The Varsitarian; Philip Jamilla, executive editor of TomasinoWeb; Noelle Aetana Malagkit, chief communications officer of the Tomasian Media Circle and Talents; Joshua Carl Palomera, president of the Thomasian Writers Guild; Mikkah Factor, editor-in-chief of The Flame; Mary Joy Abalos, editor-in-chief of La Stampa Tomasino; Ristel Mae Tagudando, editor-in-chief of The Purple Gazette; Patricia Lee Yanga, president of the UST Journalism Society; and Neal Andreu Tayco, president of the UST Literary Society.

University officials have not expressed their stand regarding the matter as of press time.—M. G. Parlade

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Journalists urge Thomasians to be more aware in battling fake news

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“The responsibility falls on you to be aware.”

This is what an editor from the Philippine Star (PhilStar) advised aspiring journalists during a forum last Monday, Feb. 19.

Matikas Santos, an online editor at PhilStar,  said that the best way to stop the proliferation of fake news is to be knowledgeable of what is fake and what is not.

“It goes down to a lack of personal knowledge. If hindi ka aware sa basic facts ng mga bagay-bagay, ng mga issue, you’re more likely to believe whatever anybody tells you,” said Santos.

He told students to be objective and not readily accept information given by anyone, even by authority.

“The first step to really fighting fake news is to really look at ourselves, and the way we perceive, the things we see on social media.”

Moreover, PhilStar reporter Jan Viktor Mateo said that journalists should be transparent on how they verify their sources in order to avoid the spread of misinformation.

“We should know which of these sources of information are credible enough for you to actually believe and for you to trust before sharing any information,” Mateo said.

“It’s not so difficult to verify information if you know how to look for it,” he added.

The forum titled, “How Press Works: The Real Story Behind Fake News”, was organized by The Flame, the official student publication of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters.—H.M. Amoroso

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UST expels 8 law students linked in Atio Castillo hazing

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The University expelled eight law students linked to Horacio “Atio” Castillo III’s death after being found guilty of violating the Code of Conduct and Discipline.

The Committee formed by UST Rector Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P.  last September,  issued its first resolution after administering hearings with representatives from the Legal Education Board. 

The panel, composed of six UST administrators and a representative from the Central Student Council, said it will continue the investigation until all students involved in Atio’s hazing are held administratively liable. However, the University has not named the expelled students.

“I understand that their names should be kept confidential but the University’s action has already reached national news.  I also hope that the result of their independent investigation was given to these students before they have arrived at such decision,” said UST Civil Law Student Council President Jonathan Santos in an online interview with TomasinoWeb. 

He added, “It’s just one part of due process. Many more things to consider before resorting to expulsion.”

The suspects in the hazing incident were immediately identified after UST coordinated with the Manila Police District and the National Bureau of Investigation last September.

The University had also released a statement yesterday after it had filed charges and submitted reports and documents to the Department of Justice.

“The University reiterates its commitment to ferret out the truth, determine liability, and impose the appropriate sanctions. In the Eucharistic Celebrations held at the UST Faculty of Civil Law, at the Santuario de San Antonio during the wake and at the UST Chapel during the day of mourning for the death of Horacio, UST has always been one with the Castillo family in the steadfast call for everyone to pray and work together to achieve justice for Horacio and for truth to prevail,” the statement read in defense to the allegations of being apathetic to the freshman law student’s death.

The 22-year-old Castillo died September of last year after undergoing initiation rites with Aegis Juris, a fraternity in the Faculty of Civil Law wherein the faculty’s dean Nilo Divina was one of its alumni. – W. Orlina

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