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Thomasians, progressive youth groups welcome Lakbayan delegates

The University will host a Lakbayan satellite camp at the Central Seminary Gym from Sept. 11 to 21.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Various groups of indigenous peoples and cultural minorities trooped to Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio last Thursday for the third year of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya.

Under the banner of Sandugo, the groups marched through the streets of Manila despite scattered rain showers to demand an end to the attacks on their communities and to lobby their right to self-determination

“Kami ay pagod, gutom, at pinipigilan sa aming pagpunta dito [sa Maynila],” said Windell Bolinget, leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regarding their struggle.

Several students and progressive youth groups welcomed and joined the protest of more than 3,000 members of national minorities as contingents marched from Blumentritt and Vito Cruz before converging at Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio.

Progressive groups from the University joined the mass mobilization at Mendiola and led the Thomasian community in welcoming delegates from CPA along España.

They were joined by the UST Yellow Jackets, the Central Student Council (CSC), UST SIMBAHAYAN, various University student organizations, and progressive student groups from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in front of the Arch of the Centuries, where they held a short program.

Bolinget expressed gratitude for students that welcomed their delegation.

“Kapag may sumasalubong tulad ninyo at may maalab na pag-welcome sa amin, nakakatulong ‘yun para matagumpay naming maisulong [ang] Lakbayan 2017 para sa makatarungang kapayapaan at sariling pagpasya ng pambansang minorya,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“We are happy at nagagalak na may kumikilos na kabataang estudyante sa loob ng University of Santo Tomas,” Bolinget added, “sana tuloy-tuloy ito.”

The Igorot delegation will be hosted by the University in a satellite camp at the Central Seminary Gym from Sept. 11 to 21, where programs and discussions will be held as part of the month-long caravan.

University of the Philippines (UP) — Diliman will continue to host the Lakbayan main camp.

CSC Public Relations Officer Francis Santos said that the satellite camp will be enlightening for the Thomasian community.

“Para sa akin, malaking tulong ito para sa ating [mga] Tomasino para mamulat [tayo sa] kung ano ba talaga ‘yung sinisigaw ng pambansang minorya at kung bakit kinakailangan pa nilang pumunta dito sa Maynila,” Santos stated in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

CSC Secretary Therese Gorospe delivered a solidarity message on behalf of the Council in an earlier program.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Jane Elago, who was present during the program, told TomasinoWeb that she was pleased with the welcome of the students.

“Nagagalak ang Kabataan [na] ang University of Santo Tomas ay nagbukas ng pintuan para salubungin ang pambansang minorya, partikular ang delegasyon ng Cordillera,” said Elago.

She added, “Malaking bagay na makita ng mga estudyante na meron tayong mga mamamayan na naglakbay pa nang malayo upang mapagtanggol [ang] kanilang isyu at kanilang panawagan for their right to self-determination and just peace.”

Nicolo Bongolan, Tanggulan Youth Network – UST convenor, also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

According to Bongolan, indigenous peoples and minority groups are often red-tagged and harassed by the military for demanding and fighting for their rights.

“[The peace talks are] already part of [the minorities’] struggle for just and lasting peace because, in the first place, all the things they ask for are clearly stated: Land, [fair] salary, work, education and rights,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

However, Bongolan acknowledged that the hope of resuming the talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF “is low right now,” given that Mindanao is currently under martial law.

Nonetheless, Bongolan stressed that the peace talks are a necessity to end poverty in the country, which he deems as “the main root of our nation’s woes.”

Since 2015, national minority groups have conducted and organized the Lakbayan to protest the spate of harassment, killings, red-tagging and intensified militarization in their communities.

Last May, Lumad communities fled to camp in the UP International Center following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 and its subsequent extension until Dec. 31.

The said communities are planning to continue camping in UP beyond the Lakbayan due to intensified military and paramilitary threat in their areas, and threats of bombing Lumad schools coming from the President himself.

They expect to return to their communities by the end of the year, when martial law is expected to be lifted.— A. Ortega, with reports from P. Jamilla and T.D. Aquino

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Aegis Juris fratman guilty of obstruction of justice in Atio’s death

(UPDATED) One of the principal suspects in the killing of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, John Paul Solano, has been convicted of obstruction of justice and acquitted of perjury by a Manila court.

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Photo by Julius Villavieja

(UPDATED June 18, 5:52 p.m.) One of the principal suspects in the killing of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, John Paul Solano, has been convicted of obstruction of justice and acquitted of perjury by a Manila court.

In a decision promulgated by Judge Carolina Esguerra of Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 14, Solano was sentenced to an indefinite penalty of a minimum of two years, four months and one day in prison and a maximum of four years, two months and one day.

Solano, a member of Aegis Juris Fraternity brought Castillo to Chinese General Hospital after the initiation rites of the fraternity in 2017 after he was called to revive Castillo.

He initially said in his report to the police that he found Castillo’s body in Tondo, and later admitted to having given an incorrect lead to the police.

The ruling of the court states that Solano “gave false and fabricated information to mislead the police or prevent them from apprehending those responsible for the death of Castillo.”

In addition, Solano failed to convince the court that he lied because of fear of being involved in the crime, as the ruling stated that his claim was “imminent” and “speculative.”

His perjury charges were cleared due to police missteps, and he cannot be sent to prison unless a final decision has been made since both obstruction of justice and perjury are bailable charges.

Hopeful at conviction, resentful for UST’s ‘silence’

In an interview, Castillo’s parents said that they are looking at filing more complaints of obstruction of justice against several Aegis Juris members included in the Facebook group chat which discussed his death. This includes Cavite’s 5th District Board Member-elect, lawyer Kevin Anarna.

Horacio Jr. and Carmina Castillo said that the conversations in the chat group prove the obstruction of justice and the attempt to cover up the death of their son.

“We are very happy [about] the conviction of the obstruction. This is the first step to a perfect conviction,” said Carmina Castillo.

“So clearly, it can be shown ‘yong cover-up na nangyari. Hopefully, we will file cases again doon sa mga kasama, ‘yong mga lawyers, ‘yong mga involved doon sa cover-up,” Horacio Castillo Jr. added.

Castillo’s father also slammed the University’s inaction. “Wala silang cooperation, nothing,” Horacio Jr said.

The couple further added that the University has been very “silent” in the case.

Meanwhile, the ten other fraternity brothers who are currently in jail are still on trial for violating the anti-hazing law.

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61-year-old columnist nabbed at Misamis Airport

(UPDATED) She was then set for release hours later on the night of the same day after the witness asserted that she was not the actual subject of the arrest warrants.

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(UPDATED June 9, 9:50 p.m.) Sixty-one-year-old columnist Margarita Valle was arrested today, June 9, 2019 at Laguindingan Airport, Misamis Oriental by virtue of warrants of arrest dated years ago.

The former SunStar Davao columnist and currently a Davao Today columnist was arrested by joint operatives by virtue of two warrants of arrest. She was then set for release hours later on the night of the same day after the witness asserted that she was not the actual subject of the arrest warrant.

Judge Bernadette S. Paredes-Encinareal of Regional Trial Court (RTC) 10th Judicial Region, Branch 36, Calamba, Misamis Occidental issued the arrest warrant for multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and Damage to Property with no bail recommended dated December 29, 2011.

The other arrest warrant for arson was issued by Judge Aniceto Galon Jr. of RTC 9th Judicial Region, Branch 20, Pagadian City with bail recommended fixed at P24,000.00 dated September 4, 2006.

Valle was in Cagayan de Oro (CDO) after she conducted a writing workshop for the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and was about to board the plane for Davao City when she was arrested.

Valle’s son Rius Valle, who is one of the organizers of Lakbayan and Lumad Bakwit School in UST said that her mother was illegally arrested for “unknown reason.”

“She was set to go home after attending a training-workshop in CDO and about to board a plane to Davao when the arrest happened,” said Rius Valle in his tweet on Twitter.

In his Facebook post, Rius Valle said that those warrants of arrest are obviously “trumped up charges.”

Rius Valle added that her mother already made a phone call to Sister Mila Gimeno of the Missionaries of Assumption and confirmed that she was brought to Camp Avilon, Pagadian City.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in their Facebook post that the reason for Valle’s arrest remains unclear, adding that Maj. Napoleon Carpio of CIDG-10 confirmed her arrest but is not under their custody since she was arrested by CIDG-9 operatives.

Moreover, College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemned Valle’s “illegal arrest” in their statement, saying that it proves the “regime’s continuous efforts to silence individuals who are bravely fighting for human rights and democracy amidst the worsening political climate in the country.”

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Putting awareness in actions: going green the Thomasian way

After inciting awareness on the status of our environment, Greener UST is now back on its second phase to solidify our environmental awareness into actions.

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Becoming environmentally conscious can be an arduous task for a single person working towards an ambitious goal. This challenging aspect of having an advocacy to promote was addressed by representatives of the Thomasian community last Monday and through their collaborative efforts, they forged a link together to put forth a long-term cause for the environment and for both the present and future Thomasians.

After inciting awareness on the status of the Philippine environment and receiving positive feedback during its first phase, Greener UST is back on its second phase and is now solidifying our environmental awareness into actions through The Green Congress: Project Pitching.

“Hinihintay talaga namin itong second phase for the project para ma-involve ‘yung mga students but we’re still implementing the movement sa mga projects and, so far, ‘yung biggest changes na nangyari is for this Agape and Paskuhan movement, ‘yung bagong committee, which is yung Waste Segregation Committee,” shared by UST Central Student Council (CSC) Auditor and Project Head of Greener UST, Adrian Lee Fernando, in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

Representatives from the Local Student Councils (LSC) and university-wide student organizations gathered last November 26 at the Tan Yan Kee (TYK) Auditorium to pitch for possible projects and environmental campaigns gearing towards a greener university life with long-term effect, “It’s one of the frustrations of Fr. Dexter,” Mr. Allan de Guzman, the Office Staff for Student Activities said, “…dapat hindi lang pang Paskuhan, dapat pang future.” Paskuhan, as one of the University’s biggest event, requires careful and detailed planning–starting from the overall decorations, logistics, pocket events, and of course, the much-awaited concert and firework display. However, the aftermath of the festivities is not as pleasant to the eyes compared to the glistening decor as overfilled trash bins improperly thrown wastes litter the University grounds and De Guzman was firm to remind the participants the need for environment-related agendas such as these, to not be short-lived hence, he also reiterated the importance of documentation in solidifying plans.

The usual seminars on environmental awareness and policies such as plastic-free, were expected by Fernando to be pitched during The Green Congress; however unexpected yet promising and innovative events fit for the Thomasian community were also convened and recommended, “[…] Hindi ko na-expect is yung environmental fair kasi sa tagal na ng stay ko sa UST, hindi pa tayo nagkakaroon ng gan’ong fair in support, sa mga projects”, he said.

Using Social media in promoting this environmental cause within the University was also the common denominator among the ideas of the participants, De Guzman and Fernando also encouraged this initiative because of its money-saving benefits as well as its maximizing effect inside the University. In the end, the plausible events were sifted from the pitched ideas of the LSCs and were then categorized into three: Policies, Strategies, and Projects await for the Thomasians.

Going environmental-friendly has been one of the goals of the University for almost ten years now when in 2008, a complete ban on the use of styrofoam made materials were implemented. Today, these renewed small plans of actions are becoming catalysts for change. Even with small steps, these efforts are becoming self-evident within the campus and Fernando was grateful that their continued efforts in achieving a greener University has been getting enthusiastic support from the students, faculty members, and even, people in the administration.

In reality, looking out for the environment is easier said than done but with the collective and synergistic efforts initiated by a group of individuals with a determined belief in the same cause, success is not far from the horizon. As Thomasians, we must always practice what we preach and put our awareness into actions in order to have progress. In putting forward an environmental cause, we must understand that the concept of praxis is very much needed in anticipating a greener and environmentally responsible University culture.

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