Just a few minutes ago, I read on Facebook that the UPLB Administration has finally withdrawn charges filed against some members of previous UPLB University Student Council officers, including former Student Regent Banez, and UPLB Perspective Editor-in-Chief Acuna. After being used to prevent the Student Regent from enrolling and leading to her ouster, and the disapproval of the Perspective’s budget, it seems the charges had no basis at all. But the damage has been done: UPLB students have lost their newspaper for almost a year, UP students have lost their sole representative in the Board of Regents for several months, and the UP-Phil. General Hospital’s rightful director was also ousted.
It seems the UP Administration has now discovered the “weapon of choice” of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and foreign mining corporations in our country: the SLAPP.
Wikipedia defines the SLAPP as:
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
The plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate
The charges filed against the UPLB student leaders may not be an actual lawsuit, but it did serve the same purpose: it intended to stop PUBLIC PARTICIPATION of the targets. Now, it seems there wasn’t really any basis for the charges to prosper. Still, SR Banez was unseated and the Perspective did not get its requested budget, thus the plaintiff’s goals were met.
Another newsflash is that the PUP Administration has changed its mind and has filed charges of “malicious mischief” against nine PUP student leaders for their now-world-famous chair-burning protests. Now that the daily protests by PUP students and their supporters among the youth have stopped, it seems the Admin no longer sees the necessity to pretend that it has seen the error of its ways.
Two important questions: What is the difference between April 17, and March 29 (the day the charges against the PUP 5 were dropped)? What is the difference between April 12 (the day the charges against the UPLB students were dropped) and the previous six months where they kept appealing the suspension order against them?
One important difference: the militant protest actions. When the charges against the PUP 5 were dropped, it was the culmination of more than a week where the entire country (and even the world, with those student groups from other countries) was watching their in-campus drama. Now, most students have gone home to the provinces for summer classes, or are busy with summer jobs so they can re-enroll the next semester. Before the UPLB chancellor was paintbombed, his Administration kept a deaf ear against arguments that the charges were baseless.
Yet again, the importance of boldly taking action against dictatorial school administrations (and all dictatorial authority institutions as well) has been underlined.
The claim that UP is a “marketplace of ideas”, that all ideas have equal merit there, and that everyone is free to debate, is based on the ideology called pluralism. From what the self-proclaimed pluralists of UP Diliman have spewed all over me for six years, one would think that the political Left and Right can co-exist peacefully, as well as contending classes such as farmers & landlords and workers & capitalists, and that the present national elections could be conducted without anyone resorting to accusing their opponents as terrorists.
But obviously, that’s not the case.
The Liberal Party and the Noynoy Aquino candidacy have resorted to calling its main rival, Manny Villar, as a “communist-backed” candidate, and its critics as “communists”. It is ironic (for many, but not me) that the son of Ninoy and Cory would adopt Ferdinand Marcos’ tactic of accusing his opponents as commies or commie-lovers. 19 years after the Berlin Wall, it seems our next presidency’s mentality has not kept up with the times.
Aside from showing that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances will continue under Aquino II (has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?), it exposes the true nature of pluralism and pluralists, at least in our country.
There are no true pluralist groups and movements in the Philippines, only a few individuals. Akbayan, the Liberal Party, Akbayan and LP’s campus sections, do not believe in diversity. They will respect a person or group ONLY if his/her ideology does not conflict with theirs. The Hacienda Luisita issue is possibly the most sober issue facing Noynoy, seeing that the psych report is “fake” and the SCTEX controversy is as bereft of evidence as the C-5 issue. But what is the response of the Noynoy camp? It claimed that those who were bringing the issue were part of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. If you are someone who follows U.S politics since Obama, you’d see the similarity: extremist Republicans branded Obama as “Al-Qaeda”.
We know that for these people, “communist” has a negative connotation, and to use it against legal groups with legitimate gripes shows how these “pluralists” handle criticism: badly.
Going back to the campuses, this “pluralism” is reflected by the attitude of their supporters and members. They were outraged and raised hell (at least, online) when the chairs started burning and the paint started flying. But when members of the Phil. General Community called on them to donate blood as a form of protest, did anyone of these “peace posers” attend? None. When a patient at the PGH almost died because the surgeon was also a protester and the one in charge of giving blood was against the protests, did anyone of them ranted about it in their Facebook statuses? None. When the PUP Administration decided to file charges against the new PUP 9, did anyone of them make those Facebook fan pages in support of the Nine? No, in fact, they were the ones who first called for the criminal prosecution of the rallyists.
Those who are against the chair-burning and paint-bombing incidents are in fact, active defenders of their respective school administrations and the status quo. They are fond of claiming “I am also against the raising of the tuition fee” but they never bothered to make the same level of (online) noise that they have made to protest these “barbaric” actions. For them, their tolerance of protests is based on their indulgent view that such protests can never achieve anything.
But now that the first shots have been fired and the wheels of change in the campuses are starting to move, they have “slipped” and exposed their true colors. Expect more political Freudian slips in the coming months. And the same can be said about our national politics: expect an intolerant and brutal six years under Aquino II.