Students ask UST to remove possible restrictions on free speech
MANILA, Philippines — Progressive students have asked the University of Santo Tomas (UST) to stop restricting freedom of expression after the school administration supposedly now requires student organizations to fill up a document before posting on social media.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and the Anakbayan chapter at UST condemned the move, which allegedly came about after the university released a memorandum that would oblige student organizations to complete a “permission to post” document before official pages release anything on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
In separate statements, both groups said these sets of regulations are not needed especially in times where press freedom is in peril due to the political climate.
“Regulations such as submitting ‘Permission to Post’ forms and gaining approval from school administrators before content can be published are roundabout methods of legitimizing and extending student repression through online means,” NUSP said in a statement on its Facebook page on Tuesday.
“The Union calls on UST to abolish these provisions that mirror the current regime’s moves to hinder freedom of expression and speech. We also compel CHED to cease the patronizing of counterproductive, anti-student policies when it has yet to fulfill its role of ensuring quality, inclusive education amid the pandemic,” it added.
For Anakbayan, it also reveals the anti-democratic system hounding UST for some time now.
“Anakbayan-UST vehemently condemns the need for organizations to process their publications on social media before they are posted. These guidelines manifest the anti-democratic system that governs the university. It suppresses students’ freedom in expressing their concerns, stands, announcements, and advisories,” Anakbayan said.
“In the time of political and economic turmoil, the voices of students need to be amplified, not censored and regulated. We strongly urge the UST administration to dismiss the guidelines, as press freedom is needed now more than ever as Duterte unleashes draconian measures to silence dissent,” it added.
ALERT: The University of Santo Tomas (UST) has released a memorandum requiring its student organizations to allow…ADVERTISEMENT
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the suspension of face-to-face classes, students have complained numerous times during the lockdown periods that they have still experienced harassment for expressing their views.
In April, youth groups sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) after schools supposedly castigated students opposing online classes due to the stay-at-home policies meant to curb coronavirus infections.
According to the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan and the Student Solidarity Network to Survive COVID-19, schools — including UST — have asked students to refrain from making social media posts that would criticize online classes.
One student who refused to be identified even said that those who opposed the order were made to explain their actions.
Official Statement of Anakbayan-UST on the Social Media Handling Guidelines for Organizations and Councils within the University#UpholdDemocraticRights
Then last May, the CHR reminded government officials that the 1987 Constitution and various other laws allow legitimate dissent to flourish, adding that it must stop red-tagging or labeling students and journalists as members of communist armed movements.
CHR’s clarification stemmed from posts implicating students’ organization in the University of the Philippines as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
UST’s management and UST’s Office for Student Affairs have yet to make an official statement about the issue as of posting time.
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