Head to Head: Cate Malig, Earlrich Ibon seek to build links as OVPEA

In this interview with The LaSallian, aspirants for the Office of the Vice President of External Affairs (OVPEA) seat, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) candidate Cate Malig and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) candidate Earlrich Ibon discuss politics, voter’s education, and their visions in fostering a more socio-politically proactive student body. 

On their background

The LaSallian: How did your past experience as a member of the USG help prepare you for this position?

Cate Malig (Tapat): My experiences under the Office of the President, especially in the National Affairs Committee, really helped me decide that I want to do more for the University. I was heavily involved with the Senate hearings for the SOGIE equality bill…It was these experiences that really helped me and molded me into deciding that, “Hey, we can do more advocacy in terms of reaching out to other sectors and other parts of the community outside of De La Salle University.”

Earlrich Ibon (Santugon): Before this, I was nonpartisan for a really long time…I wanted to show to myself that I can do this, I can work my way up, regardless if I was in a political party or not. Because when the time comes that I actually run, I would present the version of me molded by me…And same with Cate, I have experiences when it comes to the past government batches.

The LaSallian What other traits do you possess that you think will factor [into] your credibility as a candidate for OVPEA?

Malig: Being an Economics major, it enables me to be analytical; it enables me to be objective…But as a Development Studies [minor], I think this really molds you to become more empathetic to others, to understand that development isn’t always one-sided, isn’t always as unidimensional or as monolithic as we think it is.

Ibon: I was a social entrepreneur…One thing I learned in being a social entrepreneur…is that there’s always a way to help other people without having repercussions or sacrifices…I’m a CEO of my own company, and again, in my perspective, I don’t need politics for leadership—politics is dirty. The only reason why I’m here is because I want to help.

The LaSallian: Earl, can I just ask you to elaborate more when you say you don’t want to deal with politics ’cause politics is dirty? Because your position is inherently political…How would you reconcile that stance with the political realities that we deal with as Filipinos and as Lasallian students?

Ibon: So [as a] clarification, when I said I don’t like politics, it doesn’t mean I’m apolitical…I’m looking at it (politics) in a micro-to-macro scale perspective. I always saw the USG elections or politics as a micro scale of the Philippine politics. When you’re a nonpartisan for a really long time and you see things like what happened with the pen issue last USG elections, you get so demotivated…People forget the sense of leading…I chose [to run] because I want to lead people—I want to be there for them.

The LaSallian: Thank you. Cate, would you like to respond to his answer? 

Malig: As a feminist, I believe that everything is inherently political…I think the very reason we should be part of the USG is so that we dismantle the misconceptions about politics being dirty [and] being manipulative…Our purpose should be to dismantle those feelings, to make people believe that, no, politics doesn’t have to be dirty. 

Ibon: Yeah, I do agree that we should be the start of something new…When I was thinking about running for OVPEA, my mentor in my social enterprise told me that…“Hindi maiiwasang magagalusan ka diyan.” [What] matters [is] that you yourself need to be focused on what you’re doing.

On the status quo

The LaSallian: In the context of the current socio-political climate, do you believe that it is warranted for the USG to take a stronger stance on social issues?

Malig: Definitely. I think that goes without saying. As students of undeniably (sic) economic privilege, we have to be at the forefront of doing so…That’s why one of my platforms is to uphold a stronger student movement. I feel like although I was part of the USG in the past administration, I still have a lot of things that I would have done differently, and one of them would be to take a much stronger stance against everything that is happening right now. 

Ibon: Again in OVPEA, I definitely feel the need for the USG to have a stronger stance…[In the] USG, you’re put in this position where you get to represent the whole La Salle community…That’s why one of my platform (sic) is strong proactive student involvement.

The LaSallian: What do you believe is the most pressing social issue in the country today? 

Ibon: I believe the most pressing social issue right now is the handling of the whole pandemic…The concept “new normal”—it’s different for everyone…We can’t move forward if there are people left behind…There are people continuously left behind, and the government is not doing anything about it.

Malig: I’ll agree with Earl that the pandemic is indeed the most pressing issue in our country right now…I think the most important thing that we have to learn about the pandemic is that it didn’t just make things bad overnight…The only thing that the pandemic did, if not expose them, is that is has exacerbated those social inequalities. 

The LaSallian: The online academic year has restricted the activities of the OVPEA…How do you think the previous academic year’s OVPEA handle (sic) the situation, given that some projects were left on the table? 

Ibon: Actually, I was part of the OVPEA that wasn’t able to put up projects…It is at some point understandable that the projects were not flexible enough to create an online case…When it comes to how OVPEA handled it before, certainly there are rooms for improvement, and I think it should be looked at as what we can do in the upcoming administration. 

Malig: I feel like all the other USG officers, but especially for the previous OVPEA administration, that there were definitely a lot of shortcomings…If I were part of the OVPEA last year, I would’ve definitely shifted [to digital platforms]…It would’ve been the prime time to push forward digital safe spaces.

The LaSallian: Just to follow up on what Earl said. Since you were in OVPEA before…Do you plan to revisit any plans or initiatives that first started during his (Ronin Leviste) last term?

Ibon: Yes, I plan to modify and extend one of my projects…One of them is the on-campus registration. I plan to…extend it to voter’s education…[We] should also increase the quantity of it’s reach, so I plan to partner with local government units when it comes to this voter’s registration. 

The Lasallian: How about you, Cate? Do you plan to revisit any plans or initiatives that were started during the last term?

Malig: I think it’s really good that Earl and I have similar platforms…We also plan to do a university-wide campaign, and now to reach to the community level on voter’s education and voter’s registration…I know that the incumbent Vice President of External Affairs was the author for the Magna Carta for Commuters…I feel like this is something that we really need to look into.

The LaSallian: How will your USG respond to the socio-economic issues on both national and University level? 

Ibon: I want a symbiotic relationship between the people inside of La Salle [and] outside of La Salle…There are lots of people in La Salle who wants (sic) to help but can’t, and there’s a lot of people who can help the Lasallians as well. So one of my office thrusts is proactivate student involvement. One of my project (sic), Lasallian Response, is a risk and disaster task force…It will monitor the students who will go to relief operations. 

Malig: Before I answer that question, just in connection to what Earl said previously we also have a crisis preparation and response plan in our platforms…But on answering to the country’s social and economic problems…we will create a University and national-level think tank…So while the Office of the President is crafting these policies on a University level, the Office of the Vice President for External Affairs would also be researching, crafting, and lobbying for policies on a national level.

On their plans and priorities

The LaSallian: Given the circumstances with restrictions in place, how do you plan to implement projects that can be relevant to the student body?

Ibon: Number one, establish communication channels. Number two is to again provide the students with sustainable and long-term solutions…One of my specific plans of action is to have an online part time job expo…We also have a graduate studies prep…Most of this has this common theme of pushing out and pulling in resources—pushing out the things that Lasallians can do and what they have, and also pulling in resources that will help amplify those. 

Malig: I think the first thing to do will be to strengthen our partnership with OCCS (Office of Counseling and Career Services)…But also, we have the Lasallian for Lasallians platform, which is really about leveraging the Lasallian community and the alumni network and gathering all of these Lasallian businesses or connections…[to] connect the Lasallian community to them.

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