Photo by Jemelle De Leon

With reports from Josh Avengoza and Kristel Limpot

Involved parties responded to allegations against Selina Lugtu, a KALikha candidate for the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) Representative to the University Student Council (USC), who was accused of politically-motivated conspiracy in her former organization.

This comes following the release of the formal letter “#ConsiderOurStory” released on Facebook on April 2, Tuesday. In it, 23 concerned members of the non-partisan, university-wide student organization UP Lingua Franca (UPLF) said Lugtu took part in politicking by assigning committee delegations based on political creed.

The letter detailed how Lugtu, in a personal group chat, also allegedly schemed to brand the non-partisan UPLF to freshmen as a KALikha-affiliated org, refused to promote the signing of “red-aligned” unity statements, and was allegedly indirectly involved in barring an unaffiliated but “red-leaning” member from running for an executive position in UPLF.

The alleged actions reportedly happened in the first semester of academic year 2017-2018, when Lugtu was Vice President for Recruitment. Investigations within UPLF took place following the reveal of the screenshots to the members. Lugtu, along with four other members of the Executive Committee, then resigned from their posts.

Lugtu’s resignation as Vice President for Recruitment came in a post by former Vice President for Finance Twinkle Buot in UPLF’s official Facebook group.

Buot’s post reads, “The members of Lingua Franca, who are and were also members of KALikha admit to the fault of having initially considered political stances of members in choosing potential committee members.”

The accused members, however, also noted that political motivation wasn’t the sole reason in committee delegations.

In the group chat, Lugtu and other KALikha-affiliated UPLF members allegedly discussed said committee delegations, as well as prevented CAL SC unity statements from being read within UPLF.

It also shows Lugtu refusing to tag her committee members so as to prevent an organization’s quorum, as well as her asking how to use her position as Department of English and Comparative Literature (DECL) Representative to make sure freshmen joined UPLF to avoid “red influence.” Tinig ng Plaridel was able to procure and verify copies of the said group chat.

‘This is her record’

Despite the one year gap between the issues, incumbent DECL Representative and #ConsiderOurStory signatory Divina Sobrepeña maintains the concerned members of UPLF brought the issue up because they felt it was relevant to the elections.

“This is important to bring to light, because it would’ve been okay if it were an internal thing that we could sort as an org and not have the entire CAL involved,” said Sobrepeña. “But the problem is, she’s running for CAL Rep,” she added.

Sobrepeña was previously affiliated with KALikha and was the Secretariat Vice President of UPLF during Lugtu’s previous UPLF Executive Committee tenure. She was the whistleblower for the alleged politicking she saw in the group chat.

Sobrepeña also mentioned the instance when she, affiliated with KALikha at the time, was allowed an extension to run for UPLF’s Executive Committee. However, according to her, the same concession was not extended to an unaffiliated but “red-leaning” student in filing a candidacy. Sobrepeña said this does not directly involve Lugtu, but that Lugtu was aware that KALikha-affiliated members of the COMELEC sought to stop the other candidate’s bid.

Sobrepeña also stated that these issues involving Lugtu crippled UPLF for the foreseeable future. The political division and mass Executive Committee resignation reportedly drove many members away, and UPLF has since struggled to maintain their organization’s structural integrity.

“This is part of her record. The fact that she was made to resign after these were brought to light, means she shouldn’t be made to run for a position higher than org level,” said Sobrepeña.

“If on the org level alone, she was capable of politicizing a non-partisan org, then what more to represent a student body? To represent a college on that level with that kind of thing on your record?”, she added.

‘Already resolved’

For Lugtu’s camp, her issue has long been resolved.

According to Lugtu’s personal campaign manager Amber Quiban, the issue of politicking cannot be solely blamed on the KALikha affiliated former Executive Committee members.

“It’s not a matter of whether certain political parties are planning something inside the organization or not. ‘Cause at the end of the day, LF is composed of members from various political formations,” said Quiban. She says that while the involved members admitted to planning to influence committee delegations, it would not have been definite.

She also maintains that the nature of the chat was purely to give KALikha members a safe space for KALikha UPLF members to air their grievances about the organization. “[The chat] just served as a space for them to talk about their personal feelings.” She mentions that it just so happened they were both KALikha and a ‘clique.’

Quiban also believes that the real issue here is Lugtu not being given due process.

According to Quiban, Lugtu was unceremoniously removed from UPLF as a whole. A day after the #ConsiderOurStory letter was published, Lugtu wrote on her personal Facebook account that she “would have wanted to prove [herself] again and help the organization rebuild its internals,” but wasn’t given the chance because she wasn’t invited to any succeeding group chats.

Quiban concurred, citing Lugtu’s leave of absence (LOA) from the school as a whole. “Sel filed a leave of absence kasi she had to take care of her mental health because she was having a breakdown during that time.”

UPLF’s constitution states that members who are inactive for two semesters in a row are automatically removed from the organization. But Quiban says that Lugtu’s leave of absence from school should not have counted towards her inactivity. Quiban also believes that UPLF did not exercise all means to reach out to her.

Along with this, Quiban finds #ConsiderOurStory to have many double-standards. She believes that the same calling out should have also been applied towards Sobrepeña, as well as Jianne Pierre Santos, who was able to run for CAL Chairperson. Both Sobrepeña and Santos were present in the group chat. Santos was not an ExeComm member like Lugtu, while Sobrepeña helped bring the issue to light.

“If the premise is we don’t want student-leaders like this, it should also apply to [Sobrepaña and Santos]” she said.“If they really had contentions about the group chat, they should have raised it earlier on and not just now,” Quiban added.

Real motivations

With the manifestation of the concerned members of UPLF, Quiban believes the move is a smear job.

“We think this is politically-motivated because if you check the profile of the people who are complaining against Sel, these are all members of STAND UP CAL and they are not unaffiliated,” said Quiban.

Only 7 of the 23 signatories to #ConsiderOurStory are members of STAND UP CAL.

“When we say ‘politicize,’ you have political benefits, and you should have political gain at the end of it. We can see [that] in UPLF’s case, there wasn’t any,” said Quiban. “[If UPLF were politicized,] UPLF should’ve gained more KALikha members. But they didn’t, and KALikha members even lessened.”

Despite Quiban’s belief, however, Sobrepeña maintains the move to call out Lugtu is not a political one, but a moral one.

In #ConsiderOurStory, the concerned members of UPLF wrote, “UP Lingua Franca does not stand to gain anything from this disclosure. There are no stakes left to lose, no immediate reparations to be had. UPLF has since been struggling to maintain its organizational integrity with the handful of members left committed to furthering its objectives.”

Sobrepeña maintains the group that wrote #ConsiderOurStory does not represent UPLF as a whole, as it is a non-partisan organization. She notes that UPLF has always had affiliated members, and has always fielded political candidates, whether from STAND UP or KALikha.

“It’s not an issue with members being politically affiliated. It only becomes an issue in this case because it messed with how the org is going to work,” said Sobrepeña.

“So, putting people in committees just because of their affiliation, for instance, or ignoring unity statements because they’re tagged as red, for the purposes of not adopting that statement and reaching quorum. It’s only in these instances that political affiliation matters.”

Sobrepeña says that the signatories were worried UPLF would be branded as “reds” following the release of #ConsiderOurStory. But she holds that the authors of #ConsiderOurStory merely want to inform voters about Lugtu’s track record.

“We’re hoping that these numbers are enough. 20 people are enough to verify and show credibility. That these many people support this statement. To give it that idea that these aren’t just wild accusations, but that people actually have their names here, and they signed this.”

Tinig ng Plaridel attempted, on multiple occasions, to directly reach out to Selina Lugtu for comments. We were redirected to Quiban, her campaign manager.

Some Filipino quotes were loosely translated into English.

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