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The Philippine National Anthem of Silence

Tito Sotto is now about to strum the final note of our farewell to freedom, and we are all happily singing along. The country is singing the prelude to its silence but many seem to forget that this is not some karaoke that every drunk uncles enjoy, this is our homeland—our freedom—and sadly, we still remain on the sidelines.

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Ever since we started our education, we are taught to take Lupang Hinirang deep into our hearts, even if we cannot fully comprehend its message when we were just 6 years old.

Now that I am 19 and have finally understood the hymn of the Filipinos, I’m terrified—for the freedom we sing proudly of is slowly slipping away from our grasp.

On the morning of 18th of June, my Twitter feed was peppered by the disgusted reactions of my peers because Senate President Tito Sotto has sent a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer where he “requests” the publication to take down Tito Sotto denies whitewashing of Pepsi Paloma rape case, The rape of Pepsi Paloma, and Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?

“I believe there was malicious imputation of a crime against me….These kinds of unverified articles have been negatively affecting my reputation for the longest time,” Sotto said.  

The articles in-question allegedly point to Sotto as the one who whitewashed the crime committed by the three comedy giants, Vic Sotto, Joey De Leon, and Richie D Horsie. Yet even after the publication of the articles, he remained docile.

Everything changed when Tito Sotto claimed his post last 21st of May. Only a week after his appointment, he sent the controversial letter to Inquirer.

It seems that more power comes with more privilege; and responsibility is quickly erased from the equation.

“You mean if I say that the people who are maligning me were paid to do so, that is freedom of the press? No. Original fake news,” Sotto said, instigating that he did not trample on the freedom of the media and that he filed the amendment of Republic Act No. 53 in support of the journalists.

However, why, in his long tenure in serving as a legislator, did he still let the propagators of “fake news” roam around the grand Malacañang halls? Why didn’t the incumbent Senate President ask Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson to take down her post slandering the minor students of St. Scholastica who rallied against Marcos Burial? Why isn’t he condemning Presidential Speaker Harry Roque for invalidating the spread of fake news as mere “marketplace of ideas?” There’s already a list of fake news sites in the Philippines released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in case he wants to check.

Disinformation and abuse of power combined is the favorite song the government likes to sing, and they are forcing the Filipinos to join its chorus. With the President conducting the melody with its frequent tirades against the media, wherein he demonizes the essence of the press—to inform the people—he and his blind followers are about to lead us back into the darkness, into oppression.

You may ask, how come a person like Sotto, who can’t even write his own speech and know the title of his country’s own national anthem, can force us into silence?

Because it is us who gave them the power. We are the ones who put them in that seat. And we need to stop putting the blame on the system because we are also to blame for we are part of the system, we propagated this injustice to plague our ailing country down to its core.

Tito Sotto is now about to strum the final note of our farewell to freedom, and we are all happily singing along. The country is singing the prelude to its silence but many seem to forget that this is not some karaoke that every drunk uncles enjoy, this is our homeland—our freedom—and sadly, we still remain on the sidelines.

Our ancestors spilt blood so we can sing Lupang Hinirang in liberty. Select your next song wisely.

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Ang kabataan ay lalaban

Ito ang panahon upang basagin ang takot, maghimagsik at kumilos, sapagkat ang magbalikwas ay makatarungan sa harap ng isang berdugo at pasista tulad ni Duterte.

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Malinaw sa atin ngayon na pinaninindigan na ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang pagiging pasista.

Makapal man ang piring ng kanyang mga sunud-sunuran sa kanyang walang-awang pamamaslang at patuloy na pagpapahirap sa mga maralita, magsasaka at mga katutubo, gayundin sa kanyang panunupil sa mga kritiko at mga mamamahayag, ang kabataan ay hindi mananahimik.

Ngayong araw, daan-daang mga mag-aaral mula sa iba’t ibang mga paaralan at pamantasan ang muling magmamartsa at magtitipun-tipon sa Mendiola upang ipakita ang kanilang pagtuligsa sa pasista at berdugong si Duterte. Nakasisiguro ako na ang kanyang mga kampon sa social media ay muli na namang babatikusin ang mga lalahok sa pagkilos na mag-aral na lamang sa halip na magprotesta sa mga lansangan.

Kung maari ko po lamang ipaalala sa mga nakatatanda, hindi na bago ang pagkilos ng mga mag-aaral at kabataan sa loob man o labas ng bansa—nasa tradisyon na ng mga Pilipinong mag-aaral at kabataan na tumindig laban sa mga manlulupig, mula kina José Rizal, Andrés Bonifacio at iba pang mga bayani ng himagsikan, hanggang sa mga mag-aaral na nangahas na lumaban sa diktadurang Marcos noong Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto at maging ang apat na araw na pagkilos sa EDSA na nagpabagsak kay Marcos na siyang gugunitain natin ngayong Linggo.

Handa ang kabataang Pilipino, kasama ng malawak na hanay ng masa, na lumaban at magbuwis ng buhay para sa kalayaan at makatarungang pagbabago. Ipinapakita lamang nito na, sa kabila ng lahat ng mga natututunan ng mga kabataan sa loob ng kanilang mga silid-aralan, hindi sila nagpapakulong sa intelektwal na tore ng akademiya at bagkus ay handa silang tumugon sa lipunan gamit ang kanilang mga natutunan.

Subalit, sa panahong ito, matindi ang hamon sa kabataan, lalo na sa harap ng laganap na indibidwalismo at pagkakanya-kanya, na magmulat, mag-organisa at magpakilos.

Napakadaling magbulag-bulagan, magbingi-bingihan, at patuloy na manahimik; napakadali ring magkunwari na may nagagawa ang pag-“like” at “share” sa social media na baguhin ang mga konretong suliranin ng lipunang Pilipino. Bagamat dapat nating gamitin ang social media upang ipahayag ang ating pagtuligsa sa pamahalaan, wala itong saysay at magiging mga simpleng salita lamang kung hindi ito tatapatan ng konreto at kolektibong pagkilos—isang pagkilos na nagpapakita ng pakikiisa ng kabataan sa pakikibaka ng malawak na hanay ng masang api na wala sa burgis na espasyo ng social media.

Sa panahong tumitindi na ang mga pasistang pag-atake ng pamahalaan sa mga aktibista, mga kritiko, at sa mismong sandigan ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas, ito ang oras upang kumawala sa tanikala ng ating pananahimik. Ito ang panahon upang magsalita. Ito ang panahon upang basagin ang takot, maghimagsik at kumilos, sapagkat ang magbalikwas ay makatarungan sa harap ng isang berdugo at pasista tulad ni Duterte.

Ito ang panahon upang muling magtungo sa lansangan, kung saan ang kabataang naglilingkod sa sambayanan ay titindig at lalaban.

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TRAIN: A new wave of war against the poor

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law will gravely hurt the poor, and the administration was aware of it from the beginning.

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We are, once again, being strangled by the despots that lead the very country that they promised to secure and we are doomed enough to witness.

With the new tax reform law at hand, the lives of the Filipinos, especially the citizens in the middle class and the poor sectors, are terribly at stake as they will be asked to make further sacrifices and pay more taxes to fund a grandiose program of the government.

As we celebrated the new year, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, or Republic Act No. 10963, left its station and started moving on the rails—a big leap after living in the shadows and remnants of the outdated National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for 20 years.

A major component of the new law, and rather drastic change from NIRC, is reducing the personal income taxes of the citizens: An individual with a taxable income of 250,000 pesos or less is, from now on, exempted from income tax and those with a taxable income of above 250,000 pesos would be subject to the tax rate of 20 to 35 percent effective this year, and 15 to 35 percent effective on 2023.

Additionally, it abridges the estate tax, the donor’s tax and the Value Added Tax. But, in turn, it imposes higher excise taxes on automobiles, cigarettes, manufactured oils (petroleum products) and mineral products; on passive incomes, including interest income from dollar and other foreign currency deposits; and on documents (Documentary Stamp Taxes).

To top it all off, the new law also introduces new taxes levied on sweetened beverages, non-essential services (invasive cosmetic procedures), and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office winnings.

In short, while TRAIN cuts some taxes, it also increases the taxes on various products—particularly on basic commodities.

Will the new income taxes even matter, particularly to the poor who are mostly minimum wage earners to begin with, now that people have to pay a higher price on the commodities and the necessities of daily living?

It is with great insult that I find the administration has taken us for indolent fools allergic to heavy text and numbers.

It is, however, with much joy do I indulge myself into, knowing how careless and the real fool the current administration is in embarrassingly trying to cloak itself as “for the poor.” Among others, take the jeepney drivers for example: After slapping and exhausting them with plans of jeepney modernization, the government, again, mercilessly hits the drivers with a great hike in diesel.

If the dogs of President Duterte—and even he, himself—continue denying the obvious, they should do a better job at hiding the evidence.

Furthermore, TRAIN embodies the demise of employment in the country—an increase in fuel is basically the bearer of inflation and one who tips the first domino in line. In fact, several employers of companies are now at unease, noting that they have not included the sudden shift in their plans and marketing strategies. Prices of goods, even those untouched by the excise tax, have also been soaring since the implementation of TRAIN.

The new law has practically campaigned the crucial and decades-old problem of the country: Poverty. With all the unjust hikes, we might as well witness more people starving in the streets, and the police, with guns on their hands, taking “care” of them.

TRAIN will gravely hurt the poor, and the administration was aware of it from the beginning. So, the Department of Social Welfare and Development provides a program that will transfer 200 pesos per poor family per month for this year, and stokes to 300 pesos in 2019 and 2020.

But are these enough to aid each poor family that constitutes the majority of the country? More so, how sure are we that these politicians will not exploit the transfers, like what they are doing with the workers now, given that they cannot even present a detailed budget plan with TRAIN’s revenues and when they cannot even solve their own case of chronic corruption, especially in the Bureau of Customs?

As much as TRAIN will likely yield a positive look for the country, the ambitious program it supports still remains a big if, a question mark. Are we really willing to let the people suffer and receive the burden of hopes plastered on a project that is even uncertain to succeed?

This is no less than the administration’s campaign against drugs. The people, mainly the poor, are not funding the “Build, Build, Build” program with money but with blood.

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Opinion

‘Why are you so hateful?’

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Often after the publication of a scathing critique or an explosive exclusive on TomasinoWeb, several individuals would go on Twitter and comment on how the article is supposedly seething with hatred. Of course, the commentaries from Twitter are usually less eloquently worded — some simply say, “this article is full of hate” — but regardless of the lack of linguistic finesse, the message they are trying to communicate is clear: The people behind the official digital media organization of this University is propagating hate.

But first, let us define “hate.” According to the ever-trusty Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hate is “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.”

Looking back at my last year in the University, I have felt all three sources of hate: I have been afraid of not finishing my degree, of not accomplishing my thesis, of failing to submit crucial requirements, of failing TomasinoWeb, and of failing myself. I have been angry at incompetent groupmates, at heavy traffic and LRT disruptions, at jeepney drivers who insist that I have not paid, at friends, at my family, and at myself. Many times over the past year, I found myself hurt by the product of my shortcomings — all the failures haunted me at night and it made me angry, it made me afraid, and the cycle of hatred continued.

Even beyond the personal, I also felt fear, anger and a sense of injury.

I feared policies and systems in place which only served to repress people. I was angry at those too, and even furious at people who were capable of addressing these unrestrained exercises of power, but chose to turn a blind eye or worse, participate — all for their personal gain. I felt hurt and betrayed by these people, some of whom I believed and trusted in and eventually voted for. Moreover, I was hurt during times when I, TomasinoWeb, members of the campus press, ordinary students and ordinary citizens became targets of repression.

Perhaps, people were correct to tell me that I was hateful: I hated systems that oppress and repress people. I hated the people who continue to enable and perpetuate these systems. But is it wrong? Is it morally incorrect to feel repulsion towards injustice?

During our retreat at Caleruega in Batangas, we were told of a quote by anti-Nazi German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

When our block went to Pansol, Laguna for a swimming trip, I and The Varsitarian Editor-in-Chief Kathryn Baylon got to talk while we splashed around in the hot spring pool. At one point in our intoxicated babble, we told each other that we have developed a dislike for our job. It is far too demanding for hardly any recognition. We had to deal with staffers, complaints from readers and deadlines while dealing with papers and projects for our classes. We could have chosen the life of an ordinary Journalism student at the Faculty of Arts and Letters. We could have quit earlier and lived a quieter collegiate existence. It was just easier to not care about pressing issues in the University.

But as much as we disliked doing our job, we did it anyway. Both of us felt that we were morally obliged to our publications and to the students. We needed to tell stories — both good and bad — not because we were serving an agenda or we hated the subjects of our stories. Kathryn put it best, “Baka kasi mahal pa rin natin ito.”

I believe that there is no love which is not difficult, and loving this University is no different. It was hard to love an institution marred by controversies and I would have to admit that at one point, I found myself saying that I hated this institution — but UST taught me better. Early on, I learned that hate is not the opposite of love, but indifference. Apathy is the antithesis of compassion and not antipathy.

Turning a blind eye is easier than gluing both eyes and telling stories. But I cannot bear the heavy burden of indifference, especially if I love this institution so much that I want it to change for the better.

A mother does not hate her drug-addicted son if she turns him in to the police. Love is what moved her to choose losing constant contact with her son rather than allow his self-destructive lifestyle to continue. It is a difficult kind of love, but it is a noble one.

Xave Gregorio, Editor-in-Chief

At this point, I would like to thank my parents for loving me so much that they sent me to UST and spent a hefty sum of money to earn a degree of my own choice. Thank you for feeding, clothing and sheltering me, and for constantly guiding and affirming me, especially in times when I felt lost and worthless.

I am grateful for the love of Lorenzo Gantuangco that had kept me moving. These past two years would have been far more difficult without you.

I thank Roselle Habana, Michelle Del Agua, Armando Razon, Penny Cuenca, Marla Papas, Tovy Bordado and Anna Mogato for their various expressions of love. You are people I could always count on. Trust that you can always count on me too.

To the crazy kids of 4JRN1, I love all of you. I am proud of what we have achieved. I know that we can get to greater heights.

My fellow TomasinoWeb editors and Core officers, I admire the love that you have poured out for our organization to keep it running. For those who will remain and become the next set of editors and officers, I hope you exhibit the same love that we have shown. Make TomasinoWeb your partner (or third party, if you already have a partner.)

To my teachers from nursery up to my senior year in college, your love for educating students put me where I am now. Thank you for everything.

Finally, for my fellow Thomasian graduates, always be moved by love to speak out against injustice and to serve the people.

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