/ 30 January 2021

KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago called on the University of Santo Tomas to reconsider the sanctions imposed on students who joined organizations not recognized by the school.

She issued the call following reports that two more senior high school students were served show-cause orders, just weeks after a Grade 12 student was expelled for joining Anakbayan.

The lawmaker urged the university to “extend compassion not repression.”

“We sincerely hope that the administration revisits and reviews its waivers and student handbooks which must aid and embody the promotion of human rights, academic freedom and empowerment inside campuses,” Elago said.

“We also urge the UST administration to heed the call of their students and alumni in extending compassion and not repression in these difficult times of a public health, climate and rights’ emergencies,” she added.

Early this month, Grade 12 student Datu Ampatuan Jr., head counselor of the UST-SHS Student Council, was dismissed from the university because of his affiliation with Anakbayan.

The university ordered that Ampatuan will not be readmitted to the university and will not be issued a Certificate of Good Moral Character.

It said that Ampatuan violated the school’s code of conduct, particularly the policy that “students shall join only organizations duly recognized by the university.”

The UST Student Handbook states that students are allowed to join or form student organizations “whose objectives uphold the vision and mission of the university.”

In December 2020, the school declared that Anakbayan was not among UST’s duly recognized organizations and discouraged students from joining the group.

This did not sit well with the student leaders who called on the school to uphold their democratic rights.

“The UST-SHS administration’s actions only show us how they insist on silencing their students and stopping the youth from carrying out their duties to fight for Filipinos’ democratic rights,” Ruth Dizon, counselor for Campaign and Advocacies of the UST-SHS-SC, said.

Dizon pointed out that UST must respect the students’ right to free expression and academic freedom.

“While it is understandable that we need to abide by the existing guidelines and policies as much as possible, it is to take note that the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines is and will remain the highest form of constitution by nature, and that’s why they must never take away the freedom that we exercise for our own integrity and for our social responsibilities by speaking out,” Dizon said.

Anakbayan UST-SHS said that it is normal for students to voice out their opinions and criticism because “we see things that are wrong in today’s society.”

“We chose to be vocal because we know if we stay silent, we would let tyranny grow. We are speaking out not because we are rebelling against the administration, but because we know that the youth will be the new era of professionals, the bastion for light for progression, and the voice of change,” it said in a statement.

The POST tried but failed to get a statement from the university.