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Issues of red-tagging, ‘toxicity’ of USG politics arise in election debate

The DLSU Commission on Elections, in partnership with the La Salle Debate Society, the Judiciary Department, and Ang Pahayagang Plaridel, held the Make-Up Elections 2021 Debate last January 22. Hosted on Archers Network’s official Facebook page, the debate saw candidates from Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) go head-to-head on national and University issues. 

Countering red-tagging

In light of the termination of the 1989 accord between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense, Vice President for External Affairs candidates  Earlrich Ibon (Santugon) and Cate Malig (Tapat) tackled the protection of freedom of speech in the University.

Malig said she is pushing for a “think tank” that would help craft progressive policies, while Ibon expounded that his proposal will have a “proactive” student involvement, which will not only cover red-tagging but also voter’s education. Both, however, are planning to raise awareness about red-tagging and ensure that students are protected.

When asked whether she was amenable to trade student safety in exchange for exercising free speech, Malig argued that it would be a disservice to students if the USG only chose one. “These student activists…they will always speak for the betterment of our country, and the least that the USG can do is to stand with them and fight alongside them,” she said.

Meanwhile, moderators queried Ibon if he believed the current University system was insufficient in uniting students for him to push for his platform. He responded that the current online setup disconnected many students and that under his leadership, students will feel united despite the physical limitations. Kahit na online classes lang tayoramdam natin na protektado tayo ng USG at meron tayong kaakibat sa pakikipaglaban sa mga basic freedom rights,” he declared.

(Even though we are only taking classes online, we feel the USG protecting us and standing with us in our fight for our basic freedom rights.)

USG ‘toxicity’

Answering questions on political integrity, Tapat’s USG President candidate Maegan Ragudo and EXCEL2022 Legislative Assembly (LA) Representative candidate Aeneas Hernandez faced off against Santugon’s presidential candidate JM Gutierrez and BLAZE2022 LA Representative candidate Giorgina Escoto. 

Gutierrez insisted that he has “ensured that all throughout my stay in De La Salle University, I have not committed any offense whatsoever for these [USG] matters,” while Ragudo maintained that she has always been clean in her politics, reiterating that her duty as an elected USG officer is to uphold the rights of students.

Moderators, however, questioned both teams on whether certain incidents within the USG exacerbate “toxicity” in student elections, citing a recent occasion where an LA Representative gave strong remarks in a Facebook group about a junked resolution on a recall process for elected officers.

Ragudo said that the officer’s actions at the time were unbecoming of an elected official and that the disapproval of a resolution must be handled in a professional manner.  “If discourse was done properly, open it to the LA, not to social media [which] is open to call-out culture,” she added.

In response, Escoto, who admitted to being the LA representative in question, maintained that she was only exercising her right to express opinions and inform her constituents of what goes on in the assembly. She further emphasized that the recall process was necessary since “it is stipulated in the USG Constitution, in our Bill of Rights, that every student has the right to recall their representatives from office.” 

On student apathy 

Candidates were also asked whether the behaviors shown by elected officials and political parties increases voter apathy. 

Escoto stressed that the actions committed regarding the previously mentioned resolution were not representative of the USG and denied that they discourage voters. ”I still do believe that expressing their (USG officers’) opinions is very vital and important in the political climate right now,” she explained. 

Gutierrez likewise shared that while he agrees with the influence that political organizations have over voters, it is ultimately the voters’ discretion to be proactive and have their own say on issues. 

In contrast, Ragudo agreed that the exhibited “toxicity” of USG officials have been detrimental to student participation in democratic procedures. “Our political parties…have failed to democratize fully. They have failed to fully embody ideologies,” she lamented, emphasizing that ideologies serve as the backbone of political parties whose responsibility is to cultivate an environment that ensures the safety and well-being of the student body. 

The Tapat bets won unanimously for both rounds of the debate, while Escoto bagged best overall speaker with a 3-2 split decision. The voting period for Make-up Elections 2021 will run from January 28 to 30.

By Jezah Mae Bagsit

By Julianne Cayco

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