MANILA, Philippines – Aspiring student leaders at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) came under fire for how they responded to a debate question about martial law.
Gabriela Sepulchre of the Lakas Tomasino Coalition and Renz Santiago of Lakas Diwa, who are both running for vice president of the UST Central Student Council (UST CSC), were asked what the student council should do "just in case the President decides to declare martial law." (READ: Understanding Duterte’s martial law remarks)
Sepulchre, a College of Rehabilitation Sciences student, said the UST CSC can spread awareness of what martial law is.
"Ang isang martial law ay hindi lamang ‘pinapatupad nang basta-basta lang. Pinag-iisipan ito, pinag-uusapan ito sa Senado, sa Kongreso," she said.
(Martial law is not implemented on a whim. It is carefully thought of, discussed in the Senate, in Congress.)
Sepulchre added that students should not be afraid despite the period of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. (READ: #NeverAgain: Martial Law stories young people need to hear)
"Hindi porke’t naging masama ‘yung pamamalakad ni Marcos dati, ay gano’n na rin ang tingin natin sa martial law ngayon," she said.
(Just because the Marcos regime was bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should look at martial law negatively.)
Meanwhile, Sepulchre’s rival Santiago said the UST CSC can research first about martial law. (READ: Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history)
"Ito’y nangyari noong ‘di pa po tayo ‘pinapanganak or kakapanganak pa lang po sa atin, so research po muna ang unang hakbang," he said.
(It happened when we were not yet born or we had just been born, that’s why research is the first step.)
The video of the candidates’ answers was posted on Facebook by Thomasian Cable Televison (TOMCAT). It has reached 172,000 views, more than 4,500 reactions, and over 600 comments as of posting.
The commenters slammed the two candidates for giving "disappointing" answers that were "insensitive" to the victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime. (READ: ‘Buti pa si Marcos may bangkay,’ says sister of missing martial law victim)
Some also expressed concern that the UST CSC would be led by students with such views. (READ: 7 in 10 Filipinos thumb down martial law – Pulse Asia)
One Facebook user, Jules Guiang, urged people to offer constructive criticism. "Sana mas constructive tayo sa pagpuna, subukan nating i-educate muna," he said. (Let’s be more constructive when criticizing, let’s try to educate them first.)
In a statement posted on his Facebook account, Santiago noted that he didn’t say he is in favor of bringing back martial law. He later on added that the UST CSC should be the one to "initiate the movement in fighting the threat in our democracy and constitutional rights."
Sepulchre could not be reached for comment as of posting time.
According to Amnesty International, about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed during Martial Law from 1972 to 1981.
Various estimates also put the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth at between $5 billion and $10 billion. – Rappler.com
JP Punzalan, a Rappler Mover, is studying BS Business Administration at the University of the Philippines Diliman.