Campus Features


Datu Zaldy “Shoti” Ampatuan fears that his future may lie in nothingness after the University of Santo Tomas dismissed him for allegedly violating the school’s code of conduct.

/ 26 January 2021

Datu Zaldy “Shoti” Ampatuan is just a Grade 12 senior high school student, but he is now facing a threat against his freedom of speech. The young student was barred from enrolling in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for joining an unrecognized school organization and allegedly violating the institution’s code of conduct. 

Ampatuan joined Anakbayan UST, a progressive mass organization of Filipino youth who advocate national independence and democracy, claiming to work “as a solution to the nation’s problems.”

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Ampatuan shared that a show-cause order from the school was handed to him last December 4, 2020 after he announced his Anakbayan membership.

“It was truly heartbreaking and I felt as if the future which lies ahead of me is now uncertain, I felt really hopeless. And right now, I’m really trying my best to recover…it has been agonizing,” Ampatuan said in distress.

Anakbayan UST  is not included in the list of organizations that UST recognizes. In the student handbook, organizations that reflect the University’s mission and vision are the only ones permitted to run and recruit students.

For UST-SHS Student Council Ruth Dizon, the University’s move is a blatant obstruction against the 1987 Constitution which grants Filipino people the right to free speech. 

“While it is understandable na 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,” she said. 

Several netizens have also slammed the school for its actions. In one post, a social media user demanded the school not to “harass” students who want to “speak up.” 

“If UST is actually sincere about signing this joint statement then they should  stop being the first ones to harass their students who choose to speak up. Otherwise it’s just for show,” the post said referring to a joint statement UST signed to prevent red-tagging.

Meanwhile, one netizen pointed out that the dismissal of Ampatuan could start conversations regarding repressive school culture. 

Sana simula na ito ng usapin sa pagbabaklas sa lahat ng anti-student, anti-faculty, at repressive policies/culture ng mga paaralan,” the post said. 

In a statement, Anakbayan UST condemned the dismissal of Ampatuan. 

“Being vocal about our society’s issues and being a member of a political organization should not be treated as a violation of the university’s code of conduct. This is not the first time that the UST administration tried to silence progressives,” the statement read.

“We call on the Thomasian community to join in defending and upholding our democratic rights. Let us struggle for achieving education that is both accessible and liberating,” the group said.

As of this writing, UST has issued two more show-cause orders against its students. Sought for comments, the school has yet to give an official statement nor a reaction to the online clamor.