Is the Corona trial dividing Ateneo?

Voltaire Tupaz
Both online and offline, battle lines are being drawn between the critics and sympathizers of the Chief Justice

MANILA, Philippines – From Facebook to the streets, the battle lines over the Corona trial are being drawn in the Ateneo de Manila, alma mater of the embattled chief magistrate.

Even before non-Corona sympathizers could hold a noise barrage urging Chief Justice Renato Corona to disclose his dollar accounts, the university had to douse a debate over a Facebook post that announced the rally.

On Thursday, February 23, the official Facebook page of Ateneo posted an invite to the protest action dubbed “Bumusina nang magising si Corona” (Honk to enlighten Corona) to be held later that day along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City. 

The post reportedly generated a thread of “vehement objections” prompting the administrator of the account to delete it. But this did not sit well with those who liked and shared the invite, triggering an even more intense virtual tussle. 


DELETED. Invite to the noise barrage for transparency

Status deleted not once but twice

Mikael De Lara Co, an Ateneo alumnus who works with the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, happened to be one of those who shared the invite and engaged those who criticized it. In a Facebook note entitled, Ateneo posts invite to noise barrage, takes it down when things heat up, Co wrote: 

“I shared it on my own FB page, then went back to work. By mid-afternoon, I revisited the page, and saw it flooded with posts criticizing Ateneo for, well, putting up an invite to it. The call to silence and apathy appalled me, and I proceeded to engage the posters (at least one of them an obvious pro-Corona, pro-GMA troll). In the span of perhaps half an hour, the original invite was taken down. I then called out the page admin on their own wall.”

Apparently taking a swipe at the posts that remained on the Facebook timeline, Co added: “Admin, please do not alienate your students/alumni who actually care about the truth more than they do about UAAP baseball and (volleyball) scores.” 

Intense reactions

Ateneo posted a rejoinder on its wall explaining that the protest action was not an official university activity and did not represent the institution’s position on the trial. It clarified that the activity was organized by Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), the social apostolate arm of the Loyola House of Studies. 

“After evaluating the reactions to the post, some of which included valid vehement objections, we initially released another post that clarified that the activity was an SLB activity, not an Ateneo activity.”

However, the clarificatory post was also taken down after it elicited similar intense reactions. 

“You chose to bring it down, which can be interpreted [as] something worse [than] an ‘official stand.’ It can be interpreted as the castration of an institution; a stand for silence. Worst, I guess: a stand condoning the stifling of truth in the impeachment trial,” a dismayed Co replied. 

 

HONK FOR JUSTICE. Students and seminarians hold a noise barrage to urge the Chief Justice to open his foreign currency bank records. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz

Two Ateneos

Reacting to Co’s note, JC Casimiro, editor-in-chief of The Heights, the official literary and artistic publication of ADMU, commented on Co’s note: “Nakakahiya ang Ateneo. Nasaan ang paninindigan?” (Ateneo is embarrassing! Whatever happened to principles?)

But Facebook user PJ-Mariano Capistrano, an Ateneo alumna, reacted saying, “it’s always the so-called “two Ateneos” in tension — the Ateneo that is the old boy’s club versus the other Ateneo, which is comprised of everyone else who doesn’t buy into the old boy’s club.”

“You’re so young! I hope, before you graduate, you realize that Ateneo isn’t a monolith, and the institutional PR notwithstanding, there is quite a diversity of views (and to be honest, outside the Loyola Schools and Ateneo Law, there are so many inspiring people in Ateneo who walk the talk),” she added.

Speaking during the noise barrage, SLB associate director Bro. Mark Lopez admitted that the position taken by protesters was not the official stand of the university.

Voluntary

“We’re respectful of other voices that have reason in this debate. However we, as students of the Loyola School of Theology and the Loyola House of studies, as individuals who have come here of our own free will, we are very much supportive of the CEAP (Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines) call for this voluntary consent.”

On February 13, the 1,345-strong national association of colleges and universities which includes ADMU called for Corona’s “voluntary assent to open his foreign currency deposit” as it can help pave the way for judicial reforms.

The Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Philippine Savings Bank from releasing records of Corona’s alleged dollar accounts which the impeachment court subpoenaed. 

But Lopez insists “the process will no longer be credible if he is able to hide behind such laws.”

WRONG TIMING? Ateneo School of Law honors the Chief Justice.  Photo by Emil Sarmiento

Problematic timing

In contrast, the Ateneo campus in Rockwell was more cordial to the Chief Justice during the installation and unveiling of his painted portrait in time with the re-dedication of the Justitia auditorium on February 10. 

At ease in the company of his classmates, alumni, faculty and students of the Ateneo Law School, Corona lamented, in apparent reaction to the issuance of subpoenas for his bank accounts, “I can no longer count how many of my constitutional rights have been blatantly and grossly violated.”

During the noise barrage, Paolo Alfeche of Crusada of Christian Union for Socialist and Democratic Advancement, said that there’s no denying that Corona has constitutional rights. Crusada is a student political party in the Ateneo.

But Alfeche stressed “this whole impeachment trial is about trying to keep people in power accountable.”

Alfeche felt that honoring the Chief Justice while the impeachment trial is ongoing was inappropriate. 

“The timing was very problematic, but in the end he is an Atenean. And we have to accept that,” Alfeche added. – Rappler.com