House reso seeks probe on TomasinoWeb censorship, ‘democratic rights violation at UST’

Kabataan Partylist representative Raoul Manuel files House Resolution No. 1633 at the Batasang Pambansa Complex on Monday, March 11. Photo by Justine Nicole Malonzo/THE FLAME

A RESOLUTION has been filed urging the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged censorship and threats made by the UST Office for Student Affairs (OSA) against campus media entity TomasinoWeb and other “democratic rights violation” at the University.

Kabataan Partylist representative Raoul Manuel filed House Resolution No. 1633 on Monday, March 11, nearly a month after OSA ordered TomasinoWeb to remove its photo of two information and computing sciences students in front of a 7-Eleven store in their type B uniform.

The directive prompted its former adviser Leo Laparan II to resign and decry “censorship” by some UST officials.

“When our students want to express themselves, whether through online or through various platforms, they immediately want to silence them and prevent their right to speak up, so it’s time that here in Congress, it can be addressed through an investigation aid of legislation,” Manuel said at a press briefing.

OSA warned TomasinoWeb president Jan Carlo Zamora of a possible non-reaccreditation of the campus media entity as a recognized student organization due to the 7-Eleven photo that it claimed had exposed UST to public ridicule.

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

The resolution also cited similar instances that were supposedly experienced by UST student councils and other organizations under OSA.

Among the issues was OSA’s issuance of a show-cause notice to student-activists joining non-UST organizations, a practice prohibited under the University handbook’s code of conduct.

“The students shall join or form only student organizations whose objectives uphold the vision and mission of the University. Students shall join only organizations duly recognized by the University,” the 2018 revised UST student handbook stated.

In an interview with The Flame, Manuel said the resolution seeks to improve UST’s policies by ensuring that students are given more leeway to express their academic and campus press freedom.

“Our rights as citizens, our rights to express, right to organize [and] right to protest—that is our right as people, as Filipinos, and we are not exempted from it when we enroll in universities and become part of their constituency,” he said.

The Flame reached out to OSA officials for comment but has yet to receive a response as of posting.

This was not the first time that TomasinoWeb stood up to OSA. In 2020, the student organization filed an appeal to OSA on the responsible use of social media policy after the office had insisted on only posting publication materials with their permission.

The memorandum released by OSA in August 2020 mandated all recognized student organizations to accomplish a “permission to post” form with the approval of their respective advisers, which required them to publish online content screened by the office.

But the media entity, which is under OSA, said the office’s ‘permission to post’ policy “does not fit with the nature and operations of TomasinoWeb,” citing time-sensitivity in the delivery of the outlet’s content.

In December last year, TomasinoWeb’s publication material expressing support to drivers and operators affected by the jeepney modernization program was flagged by OSA, saying that it may be misinterpreted as the University’s stand on the issue.

“What we want is this (resolution) to have an effect in terms of policies being implemented in UST and, of course, on how our national agencies would be more sensitive and proactive about upholding the rights of our students,” Manuel said.

ACT Teachers partylist representative France Castro and Gabriela Women’s party representative Arlene Brosas serve as co-authors of the resolution.

OSA Director Maria Cecilia Tio Cuison and Assistant Director Maria Regina Arriero would be summoned to Congress as resource persons if a committee hearing on the resolution pushes through. F – Bianca Ysabel Abrencillo and Cali Asajar with reports from Justine Nicole Malonzo


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