MANILA, Philippines – Are elections at the University of the Philippines going down the road of traditional politics?
Viral posts of students from UP Diliman show that the month-long electoral campaign has resulted in black propaganda, a smear campaign, and mudslinging – actions students condemned as unbecoming of UP student leaders.
Three political parties ran for this year’s student elections in UP DIliman: Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights (STAND UP), KAISA-Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA), and UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (ALYANSA). In UP, political parties are usually identified through their colors: red, yellow, and blue, respectively.
However, as the campaign progressed, tactics related to the elections turned more “desperate,” students observed. They said that more relevant issues like the Socialized Tuition Scheme (STS), UP workers, and privatization of lands were overshadowed by the smear campaigns and mudslinging.
TOFI and the media
In the debate held at the College of Mass Communication, the issue on the tuition and other fees increase (TOFI) emerged.
Student journalist Ronn Bautista asked the ALYANSA standard-bearer why they are campaigning for a “progressive” tuition roll back when the party acknowledged the need for a tuition increase back in 2007.
“So sa UP, there are those who really can’t afford the cost of tuition and there are those who can afford, even higher cost than they’re currently paying. Dun sa pagpasa, although we concede na napapanahon na ang tuition increase, we recognize that there are certain issues that have to be resolved,” said Chesa Baltazar of ALYANSA during her interview with the Philippine Collegian in 2007. (In relation to TOFI, although we concede that the tuition increase is timely, we recognize that there are certain issues that have to be resolved.)
Responding to this, ALYANSA said, while they “conceded” to the timeliness of tuition increase, they are against the railroading of tuition fee increase.
However, according to the social media post of Bautista, the candidate also responded by criticizing him for “supposedly twisting their words to spread ‘misinformation’ to everyone in that forum.”
Bautista took offense at how ALYANSA responded to his question about the tuition increase. He added that he was just “simply doing what every Mass communication student learns from the first day of class: holding those in power accountable.”
In the past, ALYANSA has advocated for the review and reform of the previous tuition scheme in UP, the Socialized Tuition Fee Assistance Program (STFAP). In the recent Philippine Collegian’s video interview with ALYANSA chairperson candidate JP Nieves on STS, he said that while some of the reforms in the new program worked, it needs to be reviewed to further protect those in the lower brackets.
In another incident, a student uploaded – and deleted afterwards – a photo of an ikot jeepney offering free rides, supposedly for the victory of Raphael Pangalangan and Gemmo George Fernandez in the Oxford Moot Court held from March 24 to 27.
Raphael, who previously ran as ALYANSA councilor, is incidentally the brother of the STAND UP candidate for chairperson, Mico Pangalangan. According to an ALYANSA alumni, Raphael is no longer affiliated with the party.
In his original post, the student accused STAND UP of vote-buying on the following grounds: the text was in bold red, Pangalangan’s name was highlighted, and the timing of the free rides is malicious, given that the moot court debate was concluded in March.
STAND UP and ALYANSA said the accusations of vote-buying were black propaganda.
The elections hit rock bottom when the STAND UP candidate for vice chairperson Mench Tilendo was accused of robbing a fellow dormer of her underwear.
The accusation was posted by a certain Maria Leonen Garcia on Facebook. Netizens, however, noted that the account was just created during the recent campaign period.
According to Garcia, 5 missing pieces of underwear of a fellow dormer was discovered inside Tilendo’s closet.
(Editor’s note: We took down the name of the dormer upon her request)
STAND UP said the accusation is a black propaganda against Tilendo.
The account was suspended as of posting.
Before the campaign period concluded, a new set of campaign paraphernalia was distributed on campus. It shows a parody photo of ALYANSA chairperson candidate JP Nieves, depicted as a pig. A few hours after, photos of men supposedly distributing the flyers were uploaded online. The photos were since reported to the University Student Electoral Board.
ALYANSA supporters condemned the flyers, saying they were a personal attack on the candidate.
Opposing parties KAISA and STAND UP, however, denied being behind the incident, adding that both parties believe in clean elections, and implying they are only being framed for black propaganda purposes.
Supporters of the two political parties also added that the statement only aims to gain sympathy votes rather than to malign Nieves.
No one claimed responsibility for any of the black propaganda and mudslinging.
Responding to these campaign tactics, UP students called on political parties to veer away from these practices of traditional politics and instead go back to relevant campus issues such as the Socialized Tuition Scheme (STS), plight of UP workers, tuition hike, and privatization of UP assets.
Some students also connect the declining voter turnout in UP elections to practices like these.
In all of these incidents, UP students noted the losers are not any of the political parties, but the voters who will be electing them. – Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com