October 16, 2021 (8:11 PM)

4 min read


School politics, in all its highs and (mostly) lows, is a microcosm of the local and national sphere. Unfortunately, instead of working to change what’s wrong in the system, those in positions of power end up becoming a part of the systemic problem, sometimes blindly supported by their partisan peers.

We need to be wary of how some student leaders use the echo chamber that is social media to resort to trial by publicity. Pandering to their cohort’s ever so online presence, it isn’t hard to gather noise across social media platforms and start a witch hunt.

The recent Facebook post of the SAMAHAN President himself is only one of the cases in which a student with the highest University leadership position used his power and sphere of influence to twist an issue out of context [READ: There are greater battles].

‘Black propaganda’ or not, the burden lies on Mr. Karlo Torreon to prove that the attacks against his father, who is running for public office, were indeed rooted in school politics. On October 13, Torreon, on his personal account, called out three members of his party’s rival AGILAS for expressing their disapproval of the former’s father, in the comments section of a local news outlet.

However, it should be noted that the comments were only some among many who expressed the same sentiment. If this was the case, should not the question be why netizens, including the AGILAS members, were reacting in such a way, instead of whether or not there was malice in their comments?

Entering into the humble job of being a public servant entails receiving criticisms. How a student leader reacts to those criticisms reveals their true intentions and the principles that they abide by. Amid baseless accusations and legitimate criticisms, more often than not they choose to zero-in and cry foul over the latter, sometimes even calling out others for the wrong reasons. Our SAMAHAN President’s tirade seems to resonate with that of fragile, onion-skinned politicians who treat all kinds of criticisms as ‘personal attacks’.

What counts as ‘valid’ criticism is an open moral question. While it can be argued that two-word comments such as “no way” are not ‘constructive’ and ‘rational’, is it not too much of a stretch to single out a few commenters and accuse them of doing it for ‘political clout’? 

A life of public service is thankless, and ideally, what drives one to serve comes from their values and genuine concern for the people. As part of the constituents of whom these student leaders serve, we want to elect those who sincerely listen to our concerns, who take valid criticisms as nothing personal, and who know how to use their power to unite rather than divide.

Unfortunately, AdDU’s political circus extends not only to popular student leaders but also their fellow party members. We have noted, for instance, the formation of cult-like movements when said supporters react over viral (and sometimes, petty) issues.

This is not to say that exercising one’s freedom of expression, in whatever form, is wrong. Expressing dissent and calling out those who must be held accountable are necessary, such as the recent incident mentioned. But to blindly call out and throw ad hominem attacks against one’s rivals solely on the basis of political affiliation and the ‘entertainment value’ of online ‘bardagulan’ is outright detestable, because they add nothing substantive to the conversation. Some, for example, just like to engage through troll-like behaviors and gain internet clout—not so different from the machineries used by ‘trapo’ politicians to maneuver opinions online.

Political parties will seem to have lost their true purpose if they continue to use their fellowship as nothing but an alliance to rival and senselessly attack others just to ‘win’ over admittedly petty, mostly irrelevant issues. In essence, political parties are established not only for shaping student leaders, but also to be vocal and assertive about sociopolitical issues beyond school politics. However, merely reducing their relevance to leadership forums and the SAMAHAN Central Board elections breeds a studentry that is mostly apolitical and neutral on issues that affect us as Filipino citizens.

The state of student politics in our University, no matter the partisan affiliation, should go back to the principles and values that they claim to uphold, if they wish to elevate the discourse. It is likewise alarming that those who are supposedly meant to be an example for students to follow end up falling into false dichotomies and allegations, caving in into spur-of-the-moment tirades. 

Unless we change how we approach politics within the University, we can’t move forward to change the repressive system that continues to govern our country—lest we end up becoming a part of the systemic problem ourselves.

End the silence of the gagged!

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