In commemoration of the People Power Revolution that ousted the Marcos dictatorship, the USG organized EDSA Commemoration Week 2018 last February 26 to 30. The initiative was a three-part event that consisted of Ghosts of Martial Law, Human Library: Gunita, and the EDSA Commemorative Museum. It was organized by the Office of the President (OPRES) in partnership with the Committee on National Issues and Concerns (CoNIC).
Remembering Martial Law
All three activities under the EDSA Commemoration Week were meant to tackle the Martial Law era, the People Power Revolution, and the importance of democracy. According to Matt Ang (III, AB-DSM), one of the two project heads of the event, the EDSA Commemoration Week was intended to “inform and educate the Lasallian community about the plunder, atrocities, and human rights violations committed during the Martial Law of the Marcos regime, and foster a sense of empathy within the Lasallian community towards the victims of the Martial Law era.”
Ghosts of Martial Law, the opening activity of the week, was an interactive form of learning about the life during the Martial Law period. The stations aimed to provide an avenue for the participants to learn about the stories of the era. On the other hand, The Human Library: Gunita was an opportunity for the Lasallian community to learn more about Martial Law and the People Power Revolution by listening to people who lived through it. Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a former soldier during the Marcos Era, was invited to share his personal experiences during the open forum. The EDSA Commemorative Museum concluded the week-long event by featuring interactive exhibits telling the stories of the period, as well as performances by the Harlequin Theatre Guild.
In the eyes of the public
A few days prior to the start of the event, EDSA Commemoration Week already elicited attention from the student body. The publicity materials posted by USG to promote Ghosts of Martial Law drew flak from students in the DLSU Community Forum Facebook group. A post by a member of the group criticized the USG for reducing the harms of Martial Law into something that resembled the popular game show Amazing Race. He also expressed disapproval at the inclusion of a cash prize, which he thought implied the need for a lucrative exchange to entice people to learn about the issue.
Some members agreed with the post, saying that the framing of the event and its publicization was problematic and insensitive, while others argued that the issue was simply a case of miscommunication regarding the issue of how to encourage students to know more about Martial Law.
The publicity materials were immediately taken down following the incident. The USG also issued a public apology and statement concerning the matter.
In the statement, the USG apologized for the manner in which the event was publicized. They also explained that students are at varying levels of understanding regarding Martial Law, People Power, and democracy, thus there is a need to be inclusive by creating events which would also cater to students who are more attuned to different methods of learning. Ang echoed these sentiments, saying that “the USG wanted to utilize the transformative learning methodology to reach [the] different learning styles of the students.”
Aside from making learning activities more inclusive, the USG believes that it is also important to “ensure that students are able to gain a holistic perspective, and, ultimately, decide to take the course of action that they feel is in line with their values and principles.”
The rest of the statement announced that the event would push through and addressed some apprehensions about the event, stating that the game will not in any way trivialize Martial Law and the atrocities committed during the period. It was also mentioned that a debriefing will be conducted after the event to process the activities and highlight stories from the Martial Law. The statement ended with the USG thanking the student body for its vigilance in calling attention to possible points of improvement for the student government.
On the approval process
Events proposed by USG, as with activities of all other student organizations in the University, must go through the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment (SLIFE).
According to SLIFE Director Sofronio Lingatong Jr., Ghosts of Martial Law went through the customary approval process that all student activities go through. Because the activity deals with commemorating the People Power anniversary and Martial Law, the University’s Committee on National Issues and Concerns (CoNIC) was also part of the approval process. Likewise, the Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA) was also consulted beforehand, as the issue was considered a social endeavor. Lingatong explained that the event was proposed in two levels–as a University-wide activity on the CoNic level, and as a student-initiated activity on the SLIFE level.
Although all three activities under the EDSA Commemoration Week were approved by both CoNIC and SLIFE, Lingatong said that the cash prize component of the Ghosts of Martial Law was not in the written proposal of the event and was therefore not approved by CoNIC. An emergency meeting attended by representatives of CoNIC, USG, and SLIFE was held after the incident in the Facebook group to discuss the necessary steps to be taken to remedy the situation.
Ang said that the USG plans to conduct more thorough examinations of their publicity materials before publishing them on their social media platforms. He acknowledged that common conventional promotional methods are not always the most effective for the different units of USG. The USG also took note of the correlation of their publicity materials and national issues, and how issues of national importance must be tackled differently. According to Ang, “while this may not be the expertise of the entirety of the USG as of the moment, it is through our commitment to bring more activities and initiatives in support of national and civic advocacies that we will be able to further develop our capacities in this field.”
On the part of SLIFE, Lingatong promised a closer monitoring of the proposals and implementations of student activities. “Of course we don’t want naman to dampen the spirit of the students when it comes to initiating activities, but we want to remind them to be consultative also and avoid mga rash decisions on coming up with ideas on how to make the activities more attractive to students,” he explained.
Apart from discussing the matter thoroughly with the USG, Lingatong said that the next course of action would be to remind the USG and other student organizations to consult with the right offices and to encourage them to bring up concerns or approach them for questions. Publicization lapses aside, he commended the USG for being humble in accepting their mistakes and rectifying their errors.