Thursday, February 3, 2011

Of Revolutions

In another part of the world right now, people are fighting hard to see genuine democracy emerge and flourish in their lifetime. Twenty-five years ago in this very country, people have struggled for the same thing. And some time before that, Ateneans of incomparable passion--Edgar Jopson, Emannuel Lacaba, and Evelio Javier, to name a few--defied what was 'expected' of them as Ateneans. They died for the cause of freedom from the tethers of tyranny.

Yet today in the very confines of the university, democracy is constantly under threat of disintegration. The Sanggunian elections, a process supposedly instituted to engage Ateneans and their democratic commitments, barely receive any substantial amount of fervor except from the candidates themselves. Electoral failures have been a common occurrence in the polls. At first glance, the most convenient justification would be our contemporary societal and cultural anxiety about democracy itself. But then again, the Ateneans' mobilization for last year's national elections refutes this to some extent.

So why the disparity? Why is there something amiss when it comes to the student body's concern for the Sanggunian?

Is it because the Sanggunian failed to implement more projects for the students? Is it because of the inherent challenges to logistical organization? Or is it because the Sanggunian has failed to make itself an essential institution in the university life of Ateneans--to the point that it has been perceived as an alien, opaque, and exclusive sort of circle? The Society is inclined to believe that the Sanggunian's faltering struggle to make itself 'relevant' is because of the latter reason: present systems of inclusion and representation are either shallow or misconstrued. Take for instance the assertion of some that 'your Sanggunian' is a co-formator. This claim violently reverses what a student government ought to be. The student government should not be a mere appendage of the powers-that-be. The student government must be the vessel by which students course through their contentions about the 'rules of the game'.

Ateneans deserve more than officers who act as mere relayers of information or policies that have already been decided. The powerless House of Representatives haphazardly organized by the Sanggunian solely for the botched College Fair initiative is an example of such attempts to create empty gestures of consultation and representation. Channels of debate must be built from the grassroots level, and not from the inconspicuous circles of those who already think on the level of 'what's-in-it-for-me'. Sometimes we cannot blame individuals alone, for the institution as it is perpetuates this culture of convenience and complicity.

There still are, of course, some good men and women inside the Sanggunian; perhaps there are a lot more outside of it. What we are calling for is utmost engagement and vigilance in the upcoming Sanggunian elections. It is our sole autonomous student government. The task of making it truly ours is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of responsibility. A revolution in the Ateneo is waiting in the wings. Will Ateneans make it happen?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Disturbing your so-called peace

Good day!

It has been two years since we released our last string of statements regarding the state of student politics in the Ateneo, and in that span of time, we have closely observed how the Sanggunian and the rest of the university responded to the challenge of breaking the predominant culture of complacency. While some groups rose up to heed the call of vigilance and critique, it is unfortunate that some institutional as well as individual practices in the Ateneo still retain the problematic character of imperviousness to the wider structural problems of society.

In light of its advocacy to perpetuate an ethos of critical discourse as a means to push Ateneans to ask difficult questions and, subsequently, to do even more difficult deeds to address the unsettling condition of university student politics, the Society wishes to contribute once more to the terrain of public dialog in the Ateneo.

The upcoming Freshmen and Special Elections for the Sanggunian remind us once more of our enormous task as a community to move away from paradigms of service and governance which isolate the student body from the harsh realities of Philippine society. Before incumbents and candidates alike protest this claim, we challenge them to take a look at the processes and beliefs they propagate: are they really taking the necessary time and effort to present their constituents with an analysis of Philippine society that is rooted in a concrete political program and ideology? Or are they (as how the Sanggunian-led project Bantay Presidente appears like) just there to offer Ateneans with a hodgepodge of information which substantially lack an insight on the structural and material basis of power in society?

There are a lot more examples in the Ateneo which we must pay due attention to. One of these is the still dismal condition of the political party system in the university. While the two established parties namely IBIG-Agila and Ignacio have won their share of seats in every election since their establishment, a more long-term analysis would lead us to the fact that these two parties ran on the logic of sheer utilitarianism more than a coherent and identifiable ideology. What has made this systemic problem worse is the fact that higher echelons of power seek to actively intervene and manipulate what should be an organic process of political identification, e.g. the establishment of a performance management system, stringent rules on party campaigning in elections, etc. As a result, Ateneans (especially freshmen as we speak) still suffer from the lack of candidates whose platforms have the potential to go beyond the activity-for-a-cause model of executing projects.

Another issue that the Society wishes to address is the Ateneo COMELEC’s myopic view of itself as a body which should merely execute logistical demands. It is in our belief that the Ateneo COMELEC should be at the forefront of pushing for electoral reforms which would then enable the deepening of student politics. Unfortunately, what Ateneans are seeing right now is but a student-led arm that propagates a culture of anti-politicization through its restrictive policies and its skewed priorities (i.e. launching automated elections while being silent about their past record of incompetence and the real need for electoral policies that are more democratic in character).

The return of the Gadfly Society is our way of sending a message that we are greatly unsettled by these still-existing practices and policies that restrict Ateneans from thinking and acting radically. We shall persist in doing our advocacy of disrupting complacency—whether it may be in thought or in action. We are not afraid to question. Ideas after all, as the renegade character V had famously quipped, are bulletproof.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Because Ateneans Want Numbers

Photo courtesy of Matanglawin's latest issue.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

On Silence

There are moments when everything that needs to be said has already been said, and thus the only thing left to say is nothing at all. But there are moments when silence springs not from exhaustiveness but from exhaustion. Frankly, it is easy to get tired of the promises that were being shouted during the election season.

All of the candidates (party-affiliated or not) speak of change. But what is change? Will there be genuine change when these candidates come to power in Sanggunian or will it only perpetuate the vicious cycle of incompetence? Can an independent president who claims to have a “fresh perspective” (if such really exists) really make a difference? Can a Sanggunian led by three of the four top officials from the political party that claims to have monopoly over a “strong Sanggu” really deliver its promises? Can a Sanggunian filled with vacancies due to abstentions really function to its fullest capabilities?

Our silence does not mean we are in favor of the candidates or the winners of elections. On the contrary, we believe that the elections did not answer any question but only posed more. Our silence is not one of support but of utmost skepticism on how the rhetoric of change has been easily thrown around by candidates who want to gain popular support.

On a final note, we would like to get the attention of this Ateneo IGEA. If you are looking for stupid all you need to do is look at the mirror.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Assassination of Karl Satinitigan

Disclaimer: The title is an allusion to the Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial (February 6, 2008) entitled "The Assassination of De Venecia"

We are terribly disappointed at how the Sanggunian has handled the current chain of events. We are referring to the recent string of resignations in the student council, with great emphasis on the issue of Karl Satinitigan's non-enrollment.

We have read the article in The Guidon entitled "Top Sanggu officers resign." We agree to the students' reactions when they say that the Sanggunian should have told the students about these resignations and vacancies. We agree when students talk about how Sanggunian should have been more transparent with the internal workings of the council.

We have also read the statement of the newly sworn Sanggunian President, Cabrei Cabreira, on the status of Karl Satinitigan. We are terribly disappointed at how the statement deflected the various issues raised by our group and other students by saying that "laudable efforts from our lower units were significantly negated by the absence of clear-cut leadership."

Why are they (the President speaking in behalf of the Sanggunian) putting blame on Karl Satinitigan? Is the President of the Sanggunian the only one liable for this "absence of clear-cut leadership?" Aren't the Vice President and the other officers also culpable? Why does it sound like the Karl Satinitigan issue is being used as a fire escape from the burning building known as the Sanggunian? Can't the Sanggunian take care of its own? If it can't, how does it expect to "take care" of the student body? Karl Satinitigan is first and foremost a student and part of the Sanggunian constituency.

If there was one thing that the new president said that was right, then it would be the importance of the coming Sanggunian elections. It would be the true measure of how students perceive this recent chain of events. We wouldn't be surprised if, like the on-going plebiscite regarding the number of course representatives, the quota would not be reached.