University of Santo Tomas

Valiant legions: UST students, alumni rally behind embattled TomasinoWeb

Patricia Kahanap

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Valiant legions: UST students, alumni rally behind embattled TomasinoWeb
Even students and officials from other universities have taken a stance on the campus press freedom issue

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of University of Santo Tomas (UST) students and alumni have expressed their support for TomasinoWeb, a student-run media organization, since it temporarily stopped its social media operations on Monday, February 19.

TomasinoWeb is prohibited from posting on their social media platforms after the resignation of its adviser Leo Laparan II, who is also a journalism instructor at the university and a desk editor at The Philippine Star.

Laparan’s resignation came after university officials forced the organization to take down a photo of several students wearing their “Type B” uniform entering a convenience store. The school uniform resembled the uniform of the store employees.

The image, according to the UST administration, invited “public ridicule.”

Several UST alumni have signed a petition calling out the university for its repressive policies, and urging all officials “involved in this blatant case of campus repression” to step down from their position.

“We, Thomasian alumni, believe that the gagging of the campus press through OSA (Office for Student Affairs) is just a symptom of a much more malignant disease in UST, one that has plagued the university since its establishment under colonial rule,” said the petition, which was first circulated on Wednesday, February 21.

As of this writing, the petition has 868 signatories, including former TomasinoWeb members who are now working for national media outlets. The petition can be accessed via

Meanwhile, officers of the university’s Central Student Council posted a statement through their personal accounts, describing TomasinoWeb’s case as part of “a continuous pattern of repression faced by student organizations and formations within the university.”

Other student organizations in UST also released statements, calling on the university to uphold campus press freedom.

The UST Journalism Society, the official student organization of journalism students, expressed its solidarity with Laparan and TomasinoWeb in their fight against censorship.

“That such a harmless photo became the source of vexation within certain quarters on campus speaks volumes about official culture in the university,” it said in a statement.

Student leaders from different programs in the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters, which houses the university’s journalism program, highlighted that the forced takedown of TomasinoWeb’s photo “is not an isolated case of censorship” by the UST administration.

Editors of several college-based student publications in UST also crafted a joint statement, showing support for the media organization. “This censorship of TomasinoWeb violates all the values we hold in the university,” they said.

“If the 3Cs – Competence, Commitment, and Compassion – are blatantly disregarded by the people who have instilled these values unto us, we will lose the essence of these values and what we hold ourselves to be.”

Thomasians are also taking their calls for campus press freedom and students’ rights outside social media. Several student-initiated events will be held in the UST campus, hoping to shed more light on TomasinoWeb’s situation.

Some student activists held a “one-minute silence” at the UST Grandstand as a form of symbolic action against UST’s censorship.

Others will also be joining a prayer vigil to be held in front of the university’s Arch of the Centuries “as a prayer for justice and democracy.”

However, the administration is reportedly exerting efforts to reduce the possibility of holding mobilizations inside the campus.

According to an update by The Flame, the official student publication of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters, multiple sources have disclosed that university officials raised the possibility of canceling an upcoming concert organized by their local student council “to preempt possible protests against the takedown of the 7-Eleven photo of TomasinoWeb.”

Beyond España

Even students and officials from other universities have taken a stance on the issue.

The student media office of De La Salle University (DLSU) sent an email to students, assuring them that “they have the right to explore different issues and perspectives with critical thinking and respect.”

DLSU’s statement had some UST students wishing that their own university would allow them to have the same freedom.

Other student publications and organizations from different universities across the country posted statements on their social media, joining TomasinoWeb’s call for a free student press.

The photo takedown revived discussions on the Campus Journalism Act and why it has to be amended due to flaws that could compromise campus press freedom.

In 2021, former Kabataan representative Sarah Elago renewed her push for House Bill No. 319 or the Campus Press Freedom bill, seeking to give better protection for campus journalists, but it was not passed into law.

The UST Office of the Secretary General told reporters that “collaborative efforts are being undertaken” to resolve the matter involving TomasinoWeb. –

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Patricia Kahanap

Patricia Kahanap is a digital communications specialist at Rappler.