By Joelle Theresa Ngo
We’re pretty sure you’ve already heard about the debate between two aspiring student leaders of the University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST CSC) that caused major controversy in the past few days.
In case you still haven’t heard about it yet, here’s the video that started it all:
Gabriela Sepulchre of the Lakas Tomasino Coalition and Renz Santiago of Lakas Diwa have instantly become internet sensations—unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. Both candidates were slammed for their answers that were said to be “insensitive” and “ignorant” toward the victims of human rights abuse during the Marcos regime.
But what do their fellow Thomasians and other students from different universities really think about this issue? We bet you’re wondering, too! Chalk interviewed some students (and a professor!) to ask about their opinions.
Katrina Guzman, a former UST Executive Coordinator to the Secretary of the CSC, says, “Their level of reasoning should be understood objectively—it's a fair take on how we should look at any situation. We should look at both the negative and the positive. We must be rational."
She adds, “It may not be the answer or stand that we expected, but awareness can be the first step. A 2- to 3-minute statement might not have been enough for them to craft their answers perfectly."
Another Thomasian also believes that the time pressure to answer the controversial question may have contributed to Sepulchre's and Santiago's answers.
“Personally, I think the problem lies with how the candidates recalled their knowledge of Martial Law, but we also have to consider the pressure that they were under during the interview. Yes, it's not a strong basis on why we should accept their answer, but it could be the reason why they answered that way," a UST Journalism graduate student says.
Other students from different universities also weighed in on the matter, including the dispute that arose between UST and UP students when the debate went viral.
A senior Industrial Engineering student from UP Diliman says, "One avenue would be to encourage discourse across schools, maybe through debates or other similar activities. I think the candidates based their answers from an idealistic perspective and there's nothing theoretically wrong with their statements. What's wrong is that they failed to put their statements in the right context, in a sense that they described Martial Law while discarding the implications from our history," he added.
Meanwhile, a third year Occupational Therapy student from UP Manila believes that it’s not right to call people who are not against Martial Law “ignorant.”
“I respect people and their opinions because it’s theirs. If I want to get my point across, I educate. Once you label someone in a hostile manner, you reinforce the wall that exists between you and the other person,” he says.
While many showed disdain toward UST and its administration and faculty members, questioning its educational system and how they teach Philippine history to their students, one of UST's respected professors, UST Journalism Coordinator Jeremaiah Opiniano shares this perspective: Education obtained from a certain institution cannot be the sole basis of a person's historical facts.
“These are interesting times. With today’s online noise, there’s a divergence of views and even a creation of new or a rewriting of history. No matter which school they came from, whether others are more or less vocal, the Internet itself influences whatever level of [historical] knowledge people have. What’s important to persistently imbibe are continuing education, sense of values, critical thinking, and social vigilance. In the end, as we respect people’s differing viewpoints, it helps that people are on their toes given today’s events that have tinges of things past,” he shares.
Speaking of continuing education, bashers should worry no more about the future of UST CSC. Sepulchre released a statement about the debate through her Facebook account, apologizing to the Martial Law victims and standing up for her mistake by promising to educate herself more about Martial Law.
The bigger lesson here is that despite our ideological differences, we should strive to be united as one nation. Only through doing so can we be able to achieve real change in our country.
Take it from this awesome UP Diliman CSC councilor named Kisha Beringuela. Instead of bashing the two candidates like everyone else, she reached out to them and offered to help by making them more aware of national issues.
We salute you, girl! Indeed, the Internet can use more Kisha Beringuelas who choose to be an instrument of guidance and reconciliation. May this serve as a lesson not just for the people involved, but also for everyone else: if we wish to educate ourselves and others, understanding and acceptance is key.
Editor's Note: Some students interviewed wish to remain anonymous for confidentiality purposes. Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
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