Playground politics

Standards set by DLSU political parties seem to only apply outwardly, given that in the recently concluded USG Special Elections, even platforms remain to be void of concreteness.

The 2022 National Elections are fast approaching and Lasallians from different generations are at the forefront of political movements. Along with alumni and University administrative figures, undergraduate and graduate students have joined in calling for the public to discern which leaders would best represent Filipinos and eventually, be elected. 

It is no surprise that amid the unfolding of Halalan 2022, Lasallians are very vocal about their criticality of candidates’ platforms, demanding for more detailed proposals and would-be projects. Sharing insights with other members of the community, a greater importance should be given to developing whatever it is these candidates would want to show the public to hopefully sway people to vote for them. When we look at college politics, this is very much applicable, too. There are people who advocate these as well but continue to parade their vague and idealistic platforms every election season: Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon). Even in the recently concluded University Student Government Special Elections, the same formula is applied in branding their platforms: void of substance, novelty, and sincerity.

While seemingly obscure platforms have never determined the success of candidates for when they get elected, it seems reflective of the preparation they and their parties facilitate. 

Furthermore, the Lasallian community stresses how candidates for both local and national posts should have sound judgment, progressive principles and viewpoints, and relatively clean backgrounds. Yet, these are the same people who seem to have little to no understanding of issues within and outside the University. This reached the point where agreeing with the Visiting Forces Agreement, saying no to student financial aid, and dismissing mental health concerns of fellow candidates warranted them to publicly defend their stances. 

Moreover, these people also advocate for press freedom and the protection of journalists—but only when it’s convenient and beneficial to their reputation. The moment election season transpires, they are the first to harass student media groups and our staffers to “exercise our right to vote.” They clamor for us to do our job properly because Fast Talks give no justice to answers that need context and further explanation. 

These are also the same people who violate rules in secret in order to be more visually appealing in publicity and promotional materials. These are the same people who try their hardest to bury past indecent and inhumane actions as they were not able to take accountability for them when these happened.

While there is somehow an effort to redeem themselves from previous unbecoming acts by now campaigning for the most qualified and fit leaders, it’s hard not to see this as hypocrisy when such high standards are only applied outwardly. 

They, too, are public servants in the context of the De La Salle studentry that need to embody the hopes they project on local and especially national candidates. They are not absolved or exempted from showing they really are leaders who are transparent, competent, and dependable. 

DLSU has always been dubbed as a microcosm of the Philippines. True enough, even in terms of politics, people seem to be mimicking the same gimmicks and dirty tricks all in hopes of garnering the most votes from ballots.

Over the years, there have been multiple issues associated with both political parties’ candidates and eventually, their elected: the USG budget allegedly used to fund a Boracay trip, the University Mission-Vision Week funds allegedly pocketed to set up a business, a college government’s funds in deficit after a college president’s term, a standard bearer carelessly saying yes to charter change, taking the Commission on Elections to court because of candidates’ late requirements—the list goes on. 

These actions do not embody the ideals and principles Tapat and Santugon supposedly uphold. In fact, these are the opposite. 

How can political parties fight “for a just and free society” or respond to “the call of the times” when they can’t uphold these among their ranks and don’t even know what steps to take to realize these? Ideals are meant to guide us to what it is we’re aiming for, but to act idly and to allow these to remain abstract is counterproductive. If no action was meant to be taken, these thrusts shouldn’t have been so paraded over social media. These shouldn’t have been echoed by a number of Lasallians who only know the slogan, not their cause.

As student leaders, we need to realize the essence—the depth of our responsibilities. If we aspire to take after the local and national candidates we hold to higher standards, we should work inwardly. We need to realize that apart from choosing the right leaders, we also play crucial roles in ensuring that we do the work on the ground and within our communities. 

Our political parties will have to rethink their marketing strategies and campaigns. If they really want detailed, realistic, and specific platforms from others, why don’t they start with themselves? 

Like in everything, what we hope to happen on a bigger scale—in this context, in Philippine society—must be started from smaller units. If De La Salle politics and elections are to be treated merely as a playground and not be taken seriously, we will fail. We will be no better than the corrupt and despicable leaders we campaign against. 

Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

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