To know more about their platforms, stands on various social issues, and the presidential aspirants themselves, students and supporters gathered at the Arrupe Hall last Jan. 16, for the Presidential Debates.
Present were independent candidate John Kevin Espino, BUKLAT presidential bet Megue Zea Monteverde, and PIGLASAPAT standard bearer Khryzza Mae Pinzon.
Moderated by Trisha Dulanas of the Ateneo Debate Varsity, the questions in the debate revolved around various issues such as student involvement, social involvement, and other relevant topics.
On student involvement
When asked on how they would assure ample student involvement in decision-making of SAMAHAN, Espino emphasized the importance of reaching out to the students.
“Always na maging platform na the minutes of the meetings will be published after the meeting but, that is not a goal that we could achieve realistically. I guess the way that we could involve the students is by directly engaging them… and at the same time by asking our representatives in determining the needs of the students in the campus,” he said.
Meanwhile, Monteverde replied, explaining her platform Samahan ng mga Tinyo at Tinya.
“In a week, we will have a SAMAHAN meeting na sa grounds gaganapin. [..] it will be open to all so that lahat ng mga students would feel that they are involved,” she said.
Pinzon discussed #SCBWatch alongside other efforts regarding increasing transparency and student involvement in the SAMAHAN.
“We plan to expand the #SCBWatch. We would not just limit to live tweeting but as much as possible, ipaagi pud nato na sa Facebook live, or with technology that we have now. Open na man gud daan ang SAMAHAN meeting. It’s just that the hour is not convenient for the students to really attend the meeting. So we will reschedule it and make it convenient for everyone to witness,” she said.
Espino however responded, stating why SAMAHAN meetings cannot be also fully made public.
“It is really an opportunity to be able to attend the SAMAHAN meeting directly. And actually, magandang initiative to really hear what the officers are saying. But at the end of the day, there are issues and situations inside the SAMAHAN meetings that are delicate and could not be shared directly with the public. And at the same time, we have tried this already before, externalizing, telling people about these discussions,” he said.
Monteverde and Pinzon further responded, supporting their earlier replies.
“Of course, may mga confidential talaga na mga discussions sa SAMAHAN meeting pero sa Samahan ng mga Tinyo at mga Tinya… kayo mismo, Ateneans ang involved, hindi lamang siya sa internet or whatnot,” Monteverde replied.
“It also depends on the strong political will of the leader, whether or not, he/she can make SAMAHAN really transparent. So whatever the circumstance, if you really have the will to do it, then do it,” Pinzon added.
On the magna carta for students
When asked about the magna carta for students and how they will strengthen it, Pinzon stated her plans and guaranteed its faithful implementation when passed.
“If it will be passed this school year, you can guarantee that it will be faithfully implemented. And not just that, we should not limit ourselves inside Ateneo, we go beyond. We will be part of a bigger coalition for students’ rights… pushing not only for our rights but also that of students throughout the Philippines,” she said.
Espino expressed his plans for a two-fold action regarding this.
“Yes it has already been crafted in the SCB, but the realistic picture is ang plebiscite nito, next year pa and more than that, magna carta is a document between the administrators and the students. If the student govt itself is not able to mediate between the administration and the students, we will have a problem in pushing forth this magna carta,” he said.
“Also, ang magna carta, kulang ito. There should be a renewed interest in pushing for a new constitution. The current structure of the SCB is too big already for the old constitution that we have. So this is a two-fold action—magna carta, constitution, and then we can lobby that to the administration,” he added.
Monteverde also shared her response on the question raised.
“Kung mananlo, We will have a decisive samahan [..] kasi minsan, umaasa na lang tayo sa papel… marami naman tayong mga laws to protect us pero sa reality, hindi nagagamit ang mga laws to protect the marginalized. So aside from the magna carta, we will strengthen the student movement kasi sa sama-samang pagkilos, hindi tayo aasa sa papel lang. Aasa tayo sa lakas ng bawat isa sa atin,” she said.
On Tuition and Other Fees Increase (TOFI)
When asked if they are in favor of TOFI, the candidates expressed their opinions.
“Buklurang Atenista, strongly disagrees with the tuition fee increase because we believe that education is a right and not a privilege. […] we believe that we can truly attain quality education if education itself is not profit-oriented at kung naka-focus talaga siya for the betterment of the students. Gusto rin nating ipanawagan na i-address and mga redundant, exorbitant fees and dubious fees,” Monteverde said.
Pinzon replied, addressing the upcoming consultation regarding the proposed tuition fee increase for the next school year as well.
“In behalf, of PIGLASAPAT, we really say no to unjustified tuition fee increase. And in response to the current system na kailangan na lima lang ang representatives in behalf of the student body, I believe that ang consultation should be open to the public, because this is more than just representation. This is an issue ng bawat Atenista, so dapat bawat atenista hatagan ug pag-tagad, hatagan ug konsiderasyon. So no to unjustified tuition fee increase,[and there should be] public genuine consultation that is open to all,” she said.
On the other hand, Espino suggested an initiative to address the TOFI issue.
“When we talk about TOFI in the past, It has always been in a negative light. And we have forgotten the importance of TOFI in order to improve private institutions in the Philippines. So what we have to do about it is at the beginning of the school year, we should demand a public appropriations document from the administration, outlining the TOFI increase and by the end of the school year, we should request a liquidation report kung saan talaga napunta ang TOFI. This is a progressive, and growth-oriented initiative in order to address the problem of TOFI. It’s not good or bad, I am not explicitly against it, but if it is unjustified, then we can do something about it.”
On Gender Equality
With regards to their assessment on the progress on AdDU’s gender equality, Espino stressed on the importance of understanding.
“What is it that we’re lacking here is we have acceptance but we still lack in understanding. […] Understanding requires a fundamental going back to the roots of the problem, and so that through this we could externalize, through this, we would be able to create a stand as a support not only inside of the school but also outside of the school,” he said.
Pinzon also agreed to this.
“I believe that Ateneo de Davao University as community really made progress in terms of gender equalty. But I believe din, in behalf of PIGLASAPAT, na dili lang unta ta mag-limit sa atong university. We should go beyond the university and go into decision-making where big changes ang mahitabo didto,” she said.
Monteverde shared her hopes of several more improvements.
“We were very happy na nagkaroon na ng all-gender restrooms. Recently sa feu, nag-allow na sila na mag cross-dress. So maybe in the future we can advocate this na i-allow na rin ang ating LGBT friends na i-present ang kanilang sarili, and also na i-recognize ang kanilang organization. Tiny steps, and we can go there,” she said.
Mike Renzo Lao and Hanna Dadia, third year Accountancy students shared what they thought of the debate.
“For me, this year’s presidential debate was nothing but just giving opinions about certain issues that were thrown to them. Debate for me is about arguments. There should be one opposing the opinion of the other. It was not what I was expecting. With regards to their answers, there are candidates who gave answers that were unrelated to the question. Also, they were playing safe in answering. They are candidates to become samahan president yet they seemed afraid in answering opinionated questions,” Lao said.
“I never miss a presidential debate. Through this man gud we see how the candiates respond to the questions that might make us decide on who we shoukd vote for,” Dadia said.
“Gamay lang pud jud ang time for the debate kay activity period man pud gud. All in all, it’s the same as to previous years more or less. And as always, maghulat lang jud ta kinsa ang mag “walk the talk”,” she added.