Why UST students lost their chill with Mocha’s award
I grew up breathing Thomasian air.
My father, an alumnus of the UST himself (as with all my other relatives), took me to numerous games of UAAP when I was still a kid and showed me how passionate and warm the Thomasian Community is. The same can be said when I entered the university as, presently, a senior high school student: the people, the culture, and the sense of belongingness made me fall in love with the University.
As a debater, I take pride in knowing that I study in a university that, in 1999, won the World’s Debating Championship, the tournament dubbed as the Olympics of debate.
As an activist, legendary figures of UST’s yesteryears like Jose Rizal, Senator Jose Diokno, General Antonio Luna, former Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano, and Senator Benigno Aquino Sr – revered men who embodied Thomasian excellence – reinforced my being part of this tradition. In short, I’m a proud student of the University of Santo Tomas.
The UST Alumni Association Incorporated's (USTAAI) award to Ms Mocha Uson, as with all challenges faced by my university, violated every fiber of my dignity as a Thomasian.
St Thomas Aquinas once said: “He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.” This characteristic is what drives my sentiments on Ms Uson’s award.
I will be very frank: giving an award to Ms Uson was shameful and tasteless. She neither has the sensibilities of a supposed educated Thomasian nor the tact of a public servant. The public, together with my fellow Thomasians – students, alumni, and administrators alike – have every right to condemn this stunt of the USTAAI.
Many of us from the Thomasian Community lost our chill when the alumni group put Uson on a pedestal as role model for students.
Fellow Thomasian and kasama Akbayan Representative Tomasito Villarin was spot on in his statement when he returned his Thomasian in Government Service Award in protest: "It is shameful and unpleasant for someone to accept the award when one’s actions go against the core values of Thomasians, 'truth in charity' as well as public accountability and transparency in government.”
However, as critical citizens who are part of the national political conversation, the discussion is now beyond the faults of the USTAAI. The issue is symptomatic of a bigger national issue: the proliferation of government-run fake news meant to scam the public.
The outrage of students and the sectors of the Thomasian Community led to the resignation of USTAAI president Henry Tenedoro and later, a defeated Uson who surrendered the award. This episode, where students won against a manipulator of the public, served as a warning to other institutions to stop glorifying fake news peddlers.
It led netizens to look at BAYAN which gave President Duterte the Gawad Supremo award despite the thousands killed, the Gusi Peace Prize which gave PNP Chief Bato dela Rosa an ironic Peacebuilding award, and other bodies that have awarded the dictator and his supporters.
This outrage that erupted in UST needs to grow into a movement against fake news. This movement can flourish outside the walls of UST – in schools, workplaces, and communities nationwide. As we build our movement, we should be careful not to get distracted from our end goal: to defend truth and justice.
This is the strategy, in my opinion, of the current administration: to divide us and manipulate us through a platform overloaded with so many things to consume. We are distracted from our bigger battle against fake news. This movement will need the whole Thomasian Community to work, even the UST alumni association that should have learned its lessons now.
If we are to be effective defenders of democracy, we must stay vigilant and be able to sift through the tsunami of information, a task never too daunting for a Filipino. – Rappler.com
Pablo Joaquín Foronda Tanglao is a senior high school student of the University of Santo Tomas. He is an activist from Akbayan Youth, a multi-awarded debater, writer, an aspiring music producer, and a humanitarian – the youngest to have ever worked for United Nations Philippines. He is a national convener for the Students Rights and Welfare Coalition Philippines (STRAW PH).