BOTONG ISKO: Hot Off 2017 sparks debate on frat politics, student representation

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Dale Calanog

This year’s Student Council Elections (SCE) continues to blaze as University Student Council (USC) aspirants and College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) candidates squared off in Hot Off the Grill 2017 at the CMC Auditorium, Tuesday.

Addressing questions thrown by their would-be constituents, USC bets from KAISA – Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA) and Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) as well as independent councilor runners Paolo Sevilla and Carlos Cabaero gave insights on the issues such as free education, the Socialized Tuition System (STS) and student consultations with the Board of Regents, among others.

The issue of fraternity politics did not also escape public eye as KAISA standard-bearers Leandro Anton Castro and Jose Rafael Toribio, who are both members of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity, were asked on how they would face and lead the student body, when their fraternity glorifies one of its brothers, former President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.

“I don’t glorify Ferdinand Marcos; however, in our fraternity, we recognized him as our history,” Castro clarified.

STAND UP chairperson aspirant Ben Te argued against this, saying that the golden era of Martial Law is but an illusion.

“Hindi maliit na bagay ‘yung nangyari noong Batas Militar,” Te said. He added that in essence, Martial Law stepped on the rights of the Filipinos.

Te added that there should be no hesitation in condemning a dictator, especially for UP students,  who, in history opposed Martial Law and the Marcos regime.

“Siya [Marcos] po sa huli’t huli ay isang diktador. Kapag kinondena po natin ang isang diktador, kinukundena natin ito nang buong-buo, the chaiperson candidate said.  

Toribio further explained that while Upsilon recognizes Marcos as part of their fraternity’s history, its members do not discredit the atrocities he has committed during his administration.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has tallied 70,000 illegally arrested individuals, 34,000 torture victims as well as 3,240 slain through summary executions during the Martial Law period. The same organization also recorded 1,000 victims of enforced disappearances during the said era.

Besides countless human rights violations, the Marcos regime also brought about massive inequality, with 42 percent of the Filipino population living below the poverty line by 1980, according to data from the World Bank.

“After all, as part of the fraternity, our loyalty is with the country,” the KAISA vice chairperson hopeful said.

Marcos was not the only Upsilonian brought up during the forum as both Castro and Toribio were asked to assess their fraternity brother, former UP President Alfredo Pascual, and his six-year term as the university’s top official.

“As a brod lahat ng ating analysis in line with what is better for the students and the people,” Toribio said.

“We are clear in condemning what happen during his administration,” he added, saying that KAISA continues the call to hold Pascual accountable.

Meanwhile, his running mate, Castro, said he was able to register his dissent towards Pascual whenever he and the former UP president would run into each other.

STAND UP councilor Almira Abril spoke against this, however, saying KAISA has been missing in action when it comes to calling out Pascual.

“Dito makikita natin na ang KAISA ata, hobby nila na maging missing in action sa mga pagkilos ng mga estudyante na nagpapanawagan ng pagcall-out sa isang presidente na walang ibang ginawa kundi pahirapan ang sa estudyante,” Abril said.

The discussion among CMCSC bets was just as heated.

Assessment of the present CMCSC as well as issues of each CMC department dominated the forum, with the hopefuls addressing questions both from the audience and their fellow candidates.

With CMCSC broadcast communication representatives hailing from UP CMC Interdependent Student-centered Activism (UP CMC ISA) for the past two years, this year’s broadcast communication bets Chino Mendiola and Arlan Jondonero were asked  to determine their party’s stand on laboratory fees.

“Nailatag nila [past broadcast communication representatives] lahat ng concerns sa kanilang pakikipag-usap sa administration,” Jondonero said.

Mendiola also brought up the Rise for Education Alliance (R4E), saying that most broadcast communication constituents do not agree with the walkouts proposed by the said alliance.

R4E is an alliance of student councils and publications, youth organizations, members of the academe, parents, and the out-of-school youth from different colleges, universities, and communities, who are fighting for accessible education for all.

Its local chapter in CMC has organized different forms of protest, from free haircuts against budget cuts to dance protests for free education and human rights, aside from the regular call for walkout against lab fees and other school fees and the Socialized Tuition System (STS).

“Naniniwala po kami na bilang isang political party, fino-forward ng R4E na highest point ang mobilization,” the broadcast communication representative bet answered. “Naniniwala kami na negative ang naibibigay na message sa mga walkout.”

This was countered by opposing candidate Nickolo Domingo of STAND UP CMC, who said the R4E Alliance does not require its members to participate in the walkouts.

“Lahat tayo naniniwala sa Rise for Education Alliance, na lahat ng kaya nating iambag para sa pagpapabasura ng laboratory fees at upang maisulong ang ating karapatan sa edukasyon, ay ating gagawin, pag-walkout man ‘yan o hindi o kung ano pang mga porma na nakikita natin,” he said.

The issue of student representation was also highlighted during the debate.

With STAND UP CMC lobbying against the students’ Magna Carta, UP CMC ISA USC representative runner Mary Nicole Fabian questioned STAND UP CMC’s ability to represent the students as their party is against the document that garnered 94 percent of favorable votes from 7,000 students from last year’s referendum.

STAND UP CMC chairperson aspirant Mikko Ringia quickly countered Fabian’s point.

“Hindi kailangan ng Magna Carta dahil jinu-justify niya ang commercialization ng edukasyon,” Ringia said.

Meanwhile, UP CMC ISA, which has been for the passage of the Magna Carta since its drafting, was asked by a member of the audience on whether they would change their stand on the issue, should students be against it in a referendum.

“Makikinig tayo sa mga estudyante,” said UP CMC ISA chairperson bet Arjay Torno. He added that they will always side with the students.

Voting for SCE begins tomorrow, 8 a.m. Students are required to bring their UP ID or Form 5 in order to cast their vote.

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