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Probe into alleged censorship of UST campus media outlet sought

/ 02:32 PM March 11, 2024
Probe into alleged repression of UST’s campus media outlet sought

MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers have asked appropriate House of Representatives panels to investigate the alleged repression of a University of Santo Tomas (UST) campus media outlet, which has stopped operations after posting a photo of students wearing uniforms similar to employees of a convenience store chain.

The TomasinoWeb posted the picture on Facebook on February 15, but UST ordered the staff to take it down, a decision the Makabayan bloc lawmakers deemed an attack on freedom of expression.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro—filed House Resolution No. 1633 on Monday, asking the chamber to investigate alleged violations of students’ rights to free speech and the practice of campus journalism.


The lawmakers are referring to the threat from UST’s administrators, particularly the Office for Student Affairs (OSA), to disallow the reaccreditation of TomasinoWeb after its post on social media.


TomasinoWeb was shut down for two weeks due to the resignation of its advisor, as rules state that organizations without advisors cannot operate.

Earlier, UST’s official student publication, The Varsitarian, said a new advisor had been appointed, which means TomasinoWeb’s operations can resume.

“The reported media censorship and violations of democratic rights of student councils, organizations, and individuals inside the [UST] demands urgent investigation and action as it compromises the life and security of concerned students. It also appears that the rights to autonomy, the right to organize, and the right to press freedom are placed in jeopardy,” Makabayan lawmakers said.

“The Office of Student Affairs Director Maria Cecilia A. Tiu Cuison and Assistant Director Maria Regina P. Arriero should be held accountable […] Now, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the censorship and threats of closure made against TomasinoWeb, and into other violations of students’ rights in the [UST],” they added.

TomasinoWeb’s issue started when the campus media outfit posted a photo of two students from the College of Information and Computing Sciences (CICS) standing outside a convenience store whose employees use a uniform that closely resembles the students.

UST’s OSA allegedly ordered the removal of the photo, as it supposedly earned “public ridicule.”  However, the UST Journalism Society pointed out that the photo was not harmful but only meant to pose wholesome humor.


“Aside from members of the campus press, the UST Central Student Council (CSC), the highest student governing body in the university, is also experiencing difficulty in functioning and upholding its autonomy due to repression from UST OSA, which, for multiple years, has been notorious for its heavy-handed restrictive acts including consistent threats, intimidation and gagging of the duly elected student council officers whenever they attempt to participate in the discussion of national issues,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

“Aside from the university-wide student council, the UST Artlets Student Council based in the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters also forwarded their concern towards bureaucracy being used as a barrier against political events organized by students,” they added.

Makabayan also claimed that on March 1, 2024, members of the Rise 4 Education Alliance in UST who distributed pamphlets and discussed media censorship and student repression were harassed by the university’s security officers.

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INQUIRER.net has sought the side of UST and OSA regarding the issue and the lawmakers’ HR No. 1633, but they have not replied as of posting time.

TAGS: Probe, UST

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