by Krysten Mariann Boado and Nicole-Anne Lagrimas
Candidates for this year’s Student Council Elections (SCE) debated the assurance of campus press freedom in the university in the official Miting de Avance of the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) held on April 13.
Hopefuls vying for a term in the University Student Council (USC) faced off at the annual Hot Off the Grill where an audience member asked what the USC could do to strengthen campus press freedom in light of recent events assailing the freedom of campus journalists.
Incumbent USC councilor and vice chairperson hopeful Beata Carolino from the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP) answered the question first, saying, “Kailangan nating paigtingin ang laban natin tungo sa midyang malaya at mapagpalaya.”
She added, “Hindi natin yan magagawa kapag ka-alyado natin ang isang partido na kilala sa pag-rerepress ng mga campus press at ng mga journalists natin under the Aquino administration.”
UP Alyansa ng ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran’s (UP ALYANSA) vice chairperson bet Vince Liban, on the other hand, said, “Siyempre what we want is to seek accountability from the Liberal Party dahil doon sa naganap na insidente.”
“Of course we want to be pro-active about it. We want to uphold the press freedom act at yung karapatan ng ating mga independent media na makapagpahayag ng malaya at mapagpalaya,” he added.
Carolino rebutted Liban’s statement, correcting the ALYANSA candidate saying, “ Actually it is the Campus Journalism Act at hindi Press Freedom Act. Marami pong provisions dito sa CJA na nakakasagabal pa lalo sa campus press at nagcacause ng repression sa ating mga campus journalists.”
Their responses were in reference to reports of harassment of student journalists from UP student publications, including Tinig ng Plaridel and the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP Diliman (UJP-UP), by supporters of the Liberal Party during a forum of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) held at the Bahay ng Alumni on February 16. Liberal Party (LP) standard bearers Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo attended the event.
Student journalists reported being jeered by the crowd of LP supporters and not being allowed to enter the venue on account of their being “just activists” while reporters from the mainstream media were allowed to access to the public event.
The editors of Tinig ng Plaridel released a statement reporting the said harassment, further noting that the UP Police extended no assistance to the student journalists being jostled and “verbally abused” by supporters of the party.
KAISA-Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan councilor hopeful Dennis Betito, Jr. also brought up the essence of campus publications saying, ”Nagiging platform ang mga campus press na ito katulad ng Kule para i-disturb tayo kung ano ba talaga ang nangyayari sa society natin, kung ano ba ang mga social realities sa labas ng unibersidad na ito.”
This is in reference to a Facebook post made by incumbent councilor Allan Pangilinan of UP ALYANSA calling for the abolishment of the student publication fee for the Philippine Collegian and a more “objective” Kule, which garnered various reactions from those within and outside the university.
Cassie Deluria, councilor candidate from UP ALYANSA, said, “One of the pillars of UP ALYANSA is to respect the stances of everybody. What the stand of one member of our party doesn’t represent us as a whole.”
Meanwhile, College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) aspirants also discussed the recent manifestations of campus press repression in the university, particularly the NAPC incident after STAND-UP CMC asked rival party Interdependent Student-centered Activism (UP CMC ISA) regarding the concrete action ISA has done to address the issue.
UP CMC ISA bet for journalism representative, Felicia Recto, responded with UP CMC ISA’s consistent call against the repression of campus press freedom.
As for the NAPC incident, Recto said it was a government event, adding, “It happened beyond us. The best we can do is call against it.”
Meanwhile, STAND UP CMC journalism representative Mikko Ringia discussed The Campus Press Initiative, which is the party’s project to promote campus press freedom.
This was after UP CMC ISA asked STAND UP journalism representative candidates to explain the difference of their projects to that of existing UP journalism organizations.
The Campus Press Initiative aims to strengthen local college publications by providing workshops for those willing to be members of college papers.
Other debate questions from the audience ranged from the candidates’ positions on the UP Diliman Students’ Magna Carta and the General Education (GE) reform issue, to to the proposal of a P40 standard tuition.
Also raised in the hour-long open forum were matters concerning the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC), particularly the lack of voting power of the National College for Public Administration and Governance Student Council (NCPAG SC) during the most recent assembly and amendments on the Codified Rules for Student Regent Selection (CRSRS).
Present during the forum were UP ALYANSA standard bearers AJ Montesa, Vince Liban as well as STAND UP’s Bryle Leaño and Beata Carolino. They were accompanied by their slate mates, namely: for UP ALYANSA: Magnolia del Rosario, Cassie Deluria and Peter Olivar; and for STAND-UP: Arthur Diosana, Niki Esguerra, Ralph Lagrada, Shari Oliquino and Ben Te.
Yael Toribio and Dennis Betito, Jr., councilor hopefuls, represented KAISA-UP.
Incumbent NCPAG representative to the USC and independent councilor candidate RJ Belen was also present, as well as Patrick Sicat, also gunning for a councilor’s post.
Sicat, along with independent candidate for chairperson Raymond Rodis, arrived late to the event due to conflicts in their class schedules.
All candidates for both STAND UP CMC and UP CMC ISA were present for the debate.
Hot Off the Grill is organized annually by the UP Mass Communicators’ Organization. This year, it was held at the the CMC Auditorium and saw a full house of party and candidate supporters and spectators.