Make-Up Elections University

Head On: Arvin Ajesta vows to fight red-tagging through socio-civic engagement initiatives as aspiring VPEA

Arvin Ajesta of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista discusses his leadership background and his plans to support socio-civic engagement among the student body as he goes head on for the University Student Government’s (USG) Office of the Vice President for External Affairs (OVPEA).

The LaSallian: You have held a variety of leadership positions, one of which was spearheading DLSU’s Rotaract Club. What other past experiences do you believe would support your credibility as VPEA?

Arvin Ajesta: Back when I was in high school, I was able to hold three executive board positions consecutively. And then from being an assistant secretary to secretary and eventually senior high school, I was also the vice president of our student council in [University of Santo Tomas]. 

I was also able to take part and give external opportunities such as, for example, attending a youth conference, having access to these internship opportunities, and of course, volunteering opportunities as well. Lastly, I was also able to take part in community development projects. With that, I chose to be at the forefront of social political movements because I see the need for us to really involve ourselves and our country’s affairs.

The LaSallian: Past USG officers tend to fail in delivering some of their promises at the beginning of their term. Why do you think this happens and how will you avoid this in your term?

Ajesta: One of the things that probably leads past USG officers from not being able to implement their projects is that they weren’t able to foresee circumstances…we need to always be proactive. We need to always think of alternatives even if wala pa tayo sa situation na ‘yon. As your next VPEA, sinisigurado natin na lahat ng pinepresent nating platforms sa student body ay maiimplement siya

First, mayroon na kaming naitayo na framework kung paano gagalaw ang mga different offices sa USG to actualize all of those projects. Second, [na-consult] na rin [namin] sa different offices ang platforms namin. Lastly, is ‘yung determination namin to really serve the best interests of the students. 

The LaSallian: What are your metrics to measure the success of your plans as VPEA?

Ajesta: First is ‘yung participation of students; not just in terms of the numbers, but also in terms of the quality—kung paano nila iniinvolve ang sarili nila under the [OVPEA]. For example, in one of our pillars, we want to provide [wide-ranging] volunteering opportunities for every student and kung meron tayong ibibigay na access sa possible opportunities na ito, makikita natin na marami ang gumagamit ng avenue to actualize our advocacies. Then that’s one of our indicators na naging successful projects namin

The LaSallian: As the officer responsible for engaging students with other stakeholders of the University, what are some of your ideas to encourage more civic involvement within the student body?

Ajesta: One of our plans for the student body is to get involved and really go out of their comfort zone to support their student advocacies. First, I mentioned kanina magbibigay tayo ng wide-ranging volunteer opportunities for every student. Kahit anong advocacy mo—for example, about equality, about social justice, about environment—magbibigay tayo ng options sa kanila na pwede nilang puntahan upang ma-actualize nila kung ano yung vision nila [for contributing to] that advocacy. Second is dito pumapasok ‘yung pag-enrich natin sa mga current connections natin sa mga Lasalyano, National Union of the Students of the Philippines (NUSP), [and] Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP). Aside from that, we want to invite marginalized groups inside of our University; what better way to learn than to actually engage ourselves with those people who face the very issues we want to address? 

The LaSallian: To what extent will you utilize the OVPEA to address issues involving limited opportunities on community development and international affairs?

Ajesta: Sa ating opisina, mayroon tayong iba’t ibang committees such as ‘yung Community Development, National Affairs, and External Opportunities. So i-utilize natin ang mga committees na ‘to. Magbibigay tayo ng access sa students kung saan magkakaroon sila ng first-hand experience kung ano talaga ang nangyayari sa governance and kung paano ang participation natin rito. Second is kapag nabibigyan natin ng opportunities yung ating fellow Lasallians to get involved sa grass-roots na issues na meron ang ating bansa. From there, mae-empower natin yung civil society organizations kasi parte ng governance ang civil society organizations. Also, we have national affairs, dito nabibigyan natin ng avenues yung mga students natin na matuturn natin yung awareness nila into something tangible.

The LaSallian: In an increasingly online world, how do you intend to address data privacy and information safety for students through the OVPEA? 

Ajesta:  In order to protect [students] first in terms of their privacy, i-eensure natin na nakakapag-comply tayo sa Data Privacy Act of 2012. Makikipag-continuous consultation tayo sa opisinang naka-assign kung paano natin mas mae-ensure [that students do not have to worry about their] privacy when participating [in] the projects offered by the USG. In terms of safety, dito papasok yung ilo-lobby natin na anti-red tagging policy. From this, ie-ensure natin na yung students can really freely express dissent online without the fear of being harassed by any state officials or any entities inside and outside the University.

The LaSallian: The University has recently taken positions on pressing national issues, along with the USG engaging in demonstrations such as the call to wear black on the 50th anniversary of Martial Law Declaration. Amid threats of red-tagging, are you in favor of further encouraging student activism?

Ajesta: Yes, definitely we are in favor of encouraging student activism. Mayroong different forms of activism, one way is from protesting, another way is yung creating projects, [and] another way is listing statements on your personal (social media) account. At the end of the day, in a democratic country like the Philippines, kailangan may involvement ‘yung bawat mamamayan—in this case ‘yung bawat estudyantesa ating governance. Kasi dito natin masisiguro ‘yung best interest and ‘yung kailangan ng students talaga, yung nauuphold ng concerned offices natin

Dapat tanggalin natin ang stigma [of student activism] na automatically about red-tagging lang ito. Napakahalaga ng kontribusyon [nito] sa paglo-lobby ng mga polisiya na para sa mga mamamayan. For example: no tuition fee increase. Dahil sa student activism, nawala ang financial burden ng mga estudyante.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Jhustin Dipasupil

By Jhustin Dipasupil

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