Hold OSA accountable for violating students’ democratic rights – youth lawmaker

Kabataan party-list representative Raoul Manuel delivers his privilege speech about student welfare before Congress on Wednesday, March 6. Screengrab from the House of Representative’s Youtube livestream.

THE UST Office for Student Affairs (OSA) administrators who ordered the takedown of campus media outlet TomasinoWeb’s 7-Eleven photo should be held accountable for “violating students’ democratic rights,” a party-list representative for the youth said. 

In his privilege speech before Congress, Kabataan party-list representative Raoul Manuel called OSA officials “repressive” for their “violation of basic rights to expression and academic freedom.”

Ang apila po natin sa mga administrador ng UST: hindi makakatulong sa krisis ng edukasyon ang lalong pagtapak sa kritikal na pag-iisip ng kabataan (We appeal to administrators of UST: further trampling upon the critical minds of the youth will not help the education crisis),” Manuel said at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 6.

“We also aim to hold accountable Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison, OSA director, and Maria Regina Arriero, assistant director of OSA of UST. Hindi na puwedeng mapalampas ang kanilang ginagawa (Their actions can no longer be condoned),” he added.

The congressman’s speech included his proposal of a house resolution to probe the “rampant violation of democratic rights in UST” and other institutions. 

Bringing such issues to light, he said, is not meant to attack UST but emphasize how its protocols “cripple the students’ freedom of expression.”

Manuel proposed his house resolution nearly a month after TomasinoWeb unpublished its photo of two information and computing sciences students wearing their type B uniform in front of a 7-Eleven store. 

The photo, which gained thousands of traction online, was taken down after some UST officials said the post had caused “public ridicule” towards the students, the college and the University, according to TomasinoWeb.

TomasinoWeb president Jan Carlo Zamora also said OSA warned him of a possible non-accreditation of the media outlet as a student organization.

RELATED: TomasinoWeb prexy says OSA officials threatened to ‘end’ campus media outlet

On Feb. 19, three days after the photo was deleted, journalism instructor Leo Laparan II resigned as adviser of TomasinoWeb due to what he called “censorship” from some University officials, resulting in the media outlet’s temporary halting of online operations.

The development prompted several students to mobilize outside the gates of the University, criticizing what they called a “repression” of press freedom. 

Among the protesters was activist group Panday Sining chairman Raven Kristine Racelis, a current unenrolled philosophy student who received a show cause notice from the OSA and the Student Welfare Development Committee for joining an organization not recognized by UST.

Caution tapes block the stairs in front of the 7-Eleven store in UST on Feb. 24. Photo by Justine Nicole Malonzo/THE FLAME

Last Feb. 24, yellow caution tapes blocked the stairs in front of the 7-Eleven store featured in the photo. Some University personnel said the stairs were under repair at the time, but some claim that it may have been related to the controversy.

“The recent events are just part of a long history of student suppression happening within UST and even in other schools and universities as well,” Manuel said.

“Instead of silencing TomasinoWeb and the Thomasians who stand with TomasinoWeb…I hope they would dialogue and listen to the students instead,” he added. F – Ma. Alyanna Selda and Trisha Tamio with reports from John Martin Revilla

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