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Peace Forum on Iraq challenges Thomasians to take action

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IN response to the current turmoil in the Middle East, a forum was launched by UST Simbahayan Community Development Office (UST Simbahayan), in cooperation with the UST Center for Campus Ministry (UST-CCM), titled “A Peace Forum on Understanding the Plight of Christians in Iraq,” held on September 4 at the Tanghalang Teresita Quirino, Benavides Bldg, UST Graduate School.

     The speakers were Mr. Rasti Delizo, spokesman of SANLAKAS party-list, and Fr. Emilio Platti, O.P., professor emeritus at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), and writer of the book called “Islam, Friend or Foe?,” which relates Islam to Christianity and modernity.

     Delizo, who grew up in Iran, witnessed the conflict in West Asia. He discussed the current state of Iraq, going back to its recent history of wars under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. He traced the roots of the Islamic struggle back to the occupation of Zionist Israelis in the Palestinian homeland and to US foreign policy.

     “I’m not against US and Israel. I’m against state policies that aggravate military aggression,” he said.

     Platti discussed the plight of Christians, wherein they are able to live together in harmony with people of different faiths. He also emphasized the difference between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, with Sunni being the affiliation of the terrorist group Islamic State (IS), which is radically bent on discriminating non-Islamists.

     He also strongly condemned the radical measures done by IS, calling their ideology as violent, exclusive, and extremist. “Humans have no right to set way of life, only God,” Platti said. “It’s so extreme that it’s no longer Islam anymore. This is my conviction,” he firmly stated.

     Delizo challenged UST students to be involved and do the seemingly impossible. “When I was a student in San Beda, they said ‘You cannot oust Marcos!’… ‘Erap is too popular,’” he said.

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     And taking action needs to be done sooner than later. “ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) or BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) might be knocking at your chapel’s door, of course we don’t want that,” Delizo stresses. “Genuine change with peaceful agenda brings all common good for all humanity.”

     Reactors to the lecturers were Charlene Versoza, UST Pax Romana President; Dr. Lillian Sison, Prof. Evelyn Songco, Assistant to the Rector for Student Affairs, UST Office for Student Affairs, and Fr. Hermel Palma, O. P., Regent, Institute of Information and Computer Studies. They unanimously share the speakers’ disdain on religious terrorism.

     Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D. D., Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) though physically absent, expressed his oneness with the spirit of the forum through a video message, saying the Christian response should firstly be in prayer, then in examination of self.

     He also expressed his stand on the issue, saying that the situation in Iraq is far from the will of God since religion is being used to promote hatred, “The pursuit of peace is the pursuit of the will of God,” he stated.

     Richard Pazcoguin, assistant director of UST-CCM and moderator of the forum’s discussion, announced the “Tulong Tomasino para sa Iraq” fund drive which serves as an avenue for Thomasian involvement. Donations will be collected on September 8, 2014, during the 5:15np.m., “Mass of the Solidarity with the Persecuted Christians in Iraq” at the Santisimo Rosario Church (UST Chapel), which also celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (By J.G.T)

Photo by Juan Miguel Santos

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‘Democratic spaces shrink amid COVID-19 pandemic’—PhilRights exec

Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) executive director expressed concern over reduction of civic and democratic spaces in the country as an effect of the “worsening spate” of extra-judicial killings amid COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Photo grabbed from the official Facebook page of UST Simbahayan

Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) executive director expressed concern over reduction of civic and democratic spaces in the country as an effect of the “worsening spate” of extra-judicial killings amid COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Transparency and accountability are not government priorities. A culture of impunity continues to be perpetuated by the government,” PhilRights Executive Director Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan said. 

Simbulan, who is also the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of UP Manila, emphasized that passing the Anti-Terror Law of 2020 and lowering the age of criminal liability are “anti-people policies” propagated by the government’s legal apparatus. 

“Part of the efforts of the government to discourage protest actions, political actions intended to call the attention of the government to policies and programs that are anti-people is the framing of civic participation as a destabilizing force,” she said.

Duterte’s core principle of governance

Simbulan condemned the blatant red-tagging of democrative defenders and government critics that recently claimed the lives of Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez, further highlighting the 2019 Global Peace Index which placed the Philippines as the second least peaceful country in the Asia-Pacific. 

She noted that the government playbook normalizes violence as there are efforts being undertaken by the administration to “make people accept violence” as part of their daily lives.

“President Duterte’s core principle of governance is violence, and even the international community has not failed to recognize this,” Simbulan said. 

However, Simbulan said that there are “glimmers of hope” in different forms of resistance such as continued mobilizations, documentations, and lobbying of petitions in Congress and Supreme Court. 

The webinar titled, “Francisco de Vitoria Linggo ng Karapatang Pantao” was spearheaded by the UST – Simbahayan Community Development Program as a part of the annual human rights activities series every September.

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CSC welcomes interim officers

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) announced on Sunday, Sept. 13, the new set of interim officers in Central Board for the academic year (AY) 2020-2021.

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Photo courtesy of Hector Armando Sarion, Carl Christian Lumberio, and Montgomery Alexander Tan

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) announced on Sunday, Sept. 13, the new set of interim officers in the Central Board for the academic year (AY) 2020-2021.

CSC acknowledged three new faces in provisionally handling the position of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Secretary-General.

On May 21, The University’s Commision on Elections postponed both local and central student council elections for the AY 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their resolution declared all non-graduating incumbent officers as interim officers until elections are rescheduled. 

Hector Armando Sarion from the College of Education Student Council was elected as the Interim Speaker, Carl Christian Lumberio from the College of Commerce and Business Administration Student Council as the Interim Deputy Speaker, and Montgomery Alexander Tan from the Accountancy Student Council as the Secretary-General.

In an interview with TomasinoWeb, Sarion said that one of the challenges he expects during his term as the Interim Speaker is the gap that online classes create for the Thomasian students.

“[I]t’s not just a matter of internet connectivity, but also the inclusivity and accommodation of the diverse learners in our university. It’s the main call that we leave no student left behind,” Sarion said.

Sarion also said that the new CSC will continue the projects concerning the University’s Student Code.

“[W]e would always do our very best on having updates from the officials and progress back from the past academic year wherein we had meetings concerning the students’ code,” Sarion stated.

In addressing the challenges of online classes, Lumberio said that the approach must be “get and about,” in which the officials would engage with the student body and take the time to assess issues and problems.

“The key lies in making a more conscious effort to be present, that there is someone who will be pertinacious in standing firm in upholding and protecting the rights and welfare of the whole Thomasian Community,” Lumberio told TomasinoWeb.

For Tan, prompt assistance to every student is one of his leadership agendas.

“One of my plans for our term is the ‘Students’ Help Desk.’ Based on my observation, a lot of students are having a hard time reaching the different UST offices for their urgent concerns,” Tan said.

According to Tan, he wants the students to feel his leadership despite the pandemic.

“It has always been my motto that ‘actions speak louder than words.’ I will not promise empty words but rather bring about results that will eventually benefit the whole community,” Tan said. “Therefore, I want the studentry to feel my leadership through my actions and results.”

Sarion, Lomberio, and Tan succeeded Lady Freyja Gascon, Lorenzo Gabriel Banayo, and Sean Matthew Sison respectively.

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Student organizations slam Pemberton pardon

Three University student organizations expressed their dissent over President Duterte’s Sept. 7 decision granting U.S Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton absolute pardon. 

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Carmina Beatriz Dizon/TomasinoWeb

Three University student organizations expressed their dissent over President Duterte’s Sept. 7 decision granting U.S Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton absolute pardon. 

“We strongly condemn the absolute pardon granted by the president as it is a clear depiction of the selective justice in the Philippines, which has little to no regard for human rights,” UST Hiraya’s Sept. 9 statement read. 

UST Hirayaさんの投稿 2020年9月9日水曜日

On Oct. 11, 2014 Jennifer Laude was found dead naked on the floor of a comfort room in Celzone Lodge. Her autopsy report indicated that she died due to “asphyxia by drowning.” 

Pemberton served less than six years in prison after being convicted of homicide in December 2015. He was originally sentenced to six to 12 years in prison which was reduced to 10 years in 2016. 

“Pemberton must be jailed in New Bilibid Prison to serve his rightful sentence,” League of Filipino Students (LFS) – UST said on Twitter.

Pemberton’s release was ordered by Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde. She ruled that the American serviceman has served his maximum jail term with good conduct and time allowance credits. 

“No amount of good conduct will be enough to redeem Pemberton’s gruesome murder of Laude six years ago, and this act of cowardice by the administration screams injustice not only to the Laude family, but also to the LGBTQ+ community,” TomasinoWeb’s statement read. 

Both LFS – UST and TomasinoWeb echoed that Pemberton’s release is a “disregard towards basic human rights.”

A call for safe spaces

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According to Hiraya, Pemberton’s absolute pardon is a “repulsive manifestation” of the country’s disregard for human human and transgender rights. 

“[S]etting a murderer free would only reinforce the systemic discrimination and violence pervasive in our country,” Hiraya said. 

Hiraya highlighted the need for a strengthened law that will protect Filipinos from crimes and violence based on gender convictions. 

They also stressed that this is the “high time to champion” safe spaces for all through legislative and judiciary measures.

The government confirmed yesterday, Sept.11, that Pemberton was already undergoing the process of deportation to the United States. Jose Ama Rosario 

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