By Kim Arveen Patria
Past disputes resurfaced yesterday as candidates fielded by parties STAND UP, ALYANSA and KAISA for next week’s university student council elections engaged in a debate sponsored by Solidaridad, the UP Diliman alliance of student publications.
The event entitled “Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak” (Crawl in Mud, in reference to a local televison soap opera), scheduled at 10 a.m. between Palma Hall and the Faculty Center, began around 11 a.m. after ALYANSA and KAISA arrived late. STAND up had arrived on time.
This prompted a sharp reprimand from STAND UP’s vice chairperson bet Fermina Carmen “Amme” Agudo during their slate’s introduction.
Jumpstarting the debate was a question asking the parties about their role in the student campaign against the Code of Student Conduct drafted last year and pursued by the university administration until recently.
After all parties claimed to have come up with position papers against the drafted code, Agudo said that while she is aware that all parties had a stand against the student code, not all had concrete accomplishments.
“Did they consult students in order to come up with a position paper or did they just draft their own statements and post those on bulletin boards?” she asked.
Kristine Kamille Kalingking, a KAISA bet for councilor, refuted this by saying they “recognized collective student action from students and not just the action of a particular party.”
“We are sorry if we did not see you in action. If you indeed did something, well, congratulations,” STAND UP, through councilor bet Gem Garcia, retorted.
Politicking in Ondoy relief efforts?
Incumbents also bickered over “Sagip Isko,” the relief operations organized by the USC for typhoon Ondoy victims after Agudo said that the efforts were disorganized by organizations who bypassed the command of the USC Environmental Concerns Committee.
Agudo was referring to the opening of another volunteer center at the Church of the Risen Lord when Vinzons Hall has been originally assigned as the drop-off point for relief goods.
KAISA called Agudo’s statement it foul. KAISA member and university councilor Jose Alinea is currently the Environmental Concerns committee head.
“It is improper decorum for them to put the blame on one committee of USC. They should have done what they could,” Kalingking said.
“Without the politicking and bypassing issue, Sagip Isko was a success in itself since people were willing to help,” said Tin Borja, a candidate for councilor from ALYANSA.
Kalingking agreed and said that all the efforts were “commendable.”
“So now all the organizations’ efforts are commendable?” Garcia remarked. She recalled how university councilor Brian Ong of KAISA allegedly posted “Damn you, STAND UP” on Twitter during the relief effort, saying that STAND UP politicized Sagip Isko.
KAISA, through Kalingking, said Ong’s personal opinion was not reflective of the party’s views and that they did not condone Ong’s statement. Garcia, however, earlier complained that Ong has not apologized for his Twitter post.
The discussion became more worked up when it came to the UP budget that has recently been approved to be P5.3 billion, a far cry from the proposed P18.24 billion.
Although all parties said they were against tuition and other fees increase (TOFI), STAND UP pounced on KAISA’s stand favoring the use of idle assets and ALYANSA’s campaign for a more comprehensive Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).
“Calling for greater state subsidy while striving for self-sufficiency is ironic,” STAND UP’s chairperson candidate Rainier Astin Sindayan said.
Chairperson candidate Mario Cerilles of ALYANSA maintained that they were also anti-TOFI and that they would rather look at the short-term solutions.
“We need STFAP,” he added.
At this point Agudo stood up and called for honesty. “There are student journalists in front of us and I’m sure they have good sources when they quoted you as saying that you were for tuition and other fees increase,” she said.
Marielle Bordado, a councilor candidate from KAISA, meanwhile, criticized STAND UP’s attacks on the two other parties.
“Just because other parties use other solutions, it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily wrong,” she said.
Even when moderators moved on to the next questions, the issue of ALYANSA’s pro-TOFI stand was repeatedly brought up, prompting Borja to answer an informal question by saying that they would prefer to be stuck in a room with STAND UP “if only to prove to them that they are not pro-TOFI.”
“Our statements were taken out of context. Magmahal nga lang ang fishball naa-agit na kami, eh yung TOFI pa kaya,” she added, receiving applause from the audience.
Garcia asserted, “If ALYANSA is indeed anti-TOFI, then let us count that as our victory. It only goes to show that we got to convince them too.”
ALYANSA did not directly respond to Garcia’s statement.
All the parties, however, agreed on the issues that the next set of student leaders would have to address student housing, lack food concessionaires, environmental problems and the organizations’ need for tambayans.
The debate ended with Agudo and Sindayan saying that student activism is their way of life. ALYANSA’s Cerilles, on the other hand, said they believe “change has to start from ourselves.” Villamil of KAISA invited the audience to vote for candidates who can work with others and who will “not provide services for the sake of providing services.”
The moderator, Jan Victor Mateo of Kalasag, the official student publication of the College of Arts and Letters, concluded the debate with an invitation for the students to vote on Wednesday.
Tinig ng Plaridel, a member of Solidaridad, was part of the event’s organizing committee.