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Sectoral concerns take center stage in presidential, VP debate

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WITH SECTORAL representation in the Sanggunian still in the air, representatives from several sectors made their concerns known to the Sanggunian presidential and vice presidential candidates at a town hall debate last Tuesday, March 21.

All candidates for the top two positions were present in the debate, namely independent presidential candidate Regis Andanar and vice presidential candidate Roxy Trillanes, as well as Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD) standard-bearer Ia Marañon and running mate Benjamin Alvero III.

On the national situation

Both Andanar and Trillanes commended the current student government for mobilizing students in response to the national situation, but also emphasized that mobilizations are not enough.

Andanar mentioned that the Sanggunian should move beyond merely releasing statements and creating task forces, noting that the students wanted “concrete engagement.” He says his vision of the Sanggunian is one that “promotes and fosters nation building with the student body through their own capabilities.”

“I want to be able to capacitate the student body in order for the Sanggunian to move towards its goal or its direction,” he said in a post-debate interview with The GUIDON.

Marañon, on the other hand, described the current Sanggunian administration as “reactive,” while pledging a more “proactive” Sanggunian if elected. She also urged students to “study and take action,” stressing the need to examine and comprehend well the issues before acting.

Marañon noted that what the Sanggunian lacked with regards to responding to national issues was a sectoral approach. “We think we have the answers. Dapat ang pinaglalaban natin ay nakabase sa karahasan ng mga taong nakakaranas nito (What we fight for should be based on the violence that was experienced by those who went through it),” she stated.

SOGIE-based discrimination

Dollhouse representative Gladys Urbano asked the candidates what their concrete actions are regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or SOGIE-based discrimination on campus.

According to Urbano, while the administration is “still debating” whether to allow transgender women to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity because of its “considerate impact to other sectors in the Ateneo,” a “short term remedy” offered was “to use [Person with Disabilities] PWD bathrooms instead.”

“We believe that this is blatant discrimination for it is a form of alienating transgender women from their basic rights,” Urbano said.

Marañon said that she will “lobby for gender-neutral facilities.” She also plans create a Department for Student Rights and Welfare where sectors such as the LGBTQ+ community can forward their concerns.

Wala naman kasi talaga tayong tanggapan ngayon for these kinds of issues kung sinumang kakausapin ng mga estudyante (As on now, we don’t have an office for these kinds of issues where there are people who can speak to the students),” she said.

Meanwhile, Andanar said that the Sanggunian can talk to Ateneo de Davao through Buklod Atenista to ask how they were able to implement gender-neutral bathrooms in their university. He also said that consultations should be done between the LGBTQ+ community and the administration regarding the matter.

Andanar also said that the long-term solution for SOGIE-based discrimination is sectoral representation, as merely building gender-neutral bathrooms will not mean the elimination of discrimination.

On ‘lawful contracting’

Another interesting exchange in the debate was on the issue of labor contractualization in the Ateneo. Marañon said that she will lobby for the regularization of workers. Aside from this, she said that it is important “to empower these workers” by strengthening the Ateneo Employees and Workers Union (AEWU).

Andanar agreed that coordination with AEWU must be strengthened. He also said that contractual workers in JSEC should receive the proper benefits that they deserve.

Andanar will also “demand” to know from the administration how contractual workers are employed, since there are still legal forms of contractualization. One form is subcontracting, where an employer such as the Ateneo hires workers contractually from an agency where these workers are supposed to be regulars.

“I think one concrete step that the Sanggunian should do is really to ensure na ‘yung mga ina-outsource natin sa mga kumpanya ay sumusunod sa lawful contracting (I think one concrete step that the Sanggunian should do is really to ensure that the companies that we outsource from follow lawful contracting),” he said.

Marañon responded to this, saying that Andanar had a “weird position” regarding lawful contractualization.

“If we condone lawful contractualization here in the university, then you have no right to say to the laborers outside na kasama natin sila sa laban…na hindi tayo sang-ayon sa contractualization (If we condone lawful contractualization here in the university, then you have no right to say to the laborers outside that we are with them in their fight against contractualization),” she said.

Andanar clarified that while such provisions on legal contractualization stand, there should be efforts to lobby for their removal. “Hindi naman natin sinasabi na tayo ay para sa contractualization per se. Pero dahil sa mga batas na ganito, kung hindi pa siya nare-repeal or kung hindi pa siya natatanggal sa labor code, eh ‘di ‘yun ang pwede nating gawin (We are not saying that we are for contractualization per se. But we can do these actions while these provisions are not yet repealed from the labor code),” he said.

To this, Marañon responded that as it stands, the Sanggunian can already make its stand known on the whole issue of contractualization.

Hindi natin dapat sinasabi na, ‘oh, just because it’s in the law, we should work around the system.’ I think, that in the pursuit of justice, you should demand to change the system that continues to condone these structures,” she said.

Relating with students

In differentiating himself from his opponent, Andanar said that what sets him apart was his ability to connect with numerous people, a statement he echoed during his opening statement.

He stressed the importance of coordination with different sectors, organizations, offices, and even campuses beyond the Ateneo. In response to a question on the holding of Lakbayan on campus, Andanar said that the first thing needed was a dialogue with the administration.

Paano natin magiging men and women for others if hindi tayo makikipagusap (How do we become men and women for others if we do not engage in conversation)?” he asked.

Last year, a controversy ensued after the now-defunct party Ignatian Initiative for Transformative Empowerment Movement held a donation drive in support of Lakbayan, a protest of indigenous peoples supported by national democratic or militant Left-aligned groups.

In response to a question on protecting student activists, Andanar also called for the need of the Sanggunian to be there for the students.

In his closing statement, Andanar called for the “collapse of the walls” of the Sanggunian’s headquarters by becoming more accessible and approachable to students.

Likewise, Marañon stated that the Sanggunian should be able to stand in solidarity with students who face different realities each day. “It’s about the students; it’s about the stories of the students that we want to put into policy, that we want to forward in my administration,” she said.

Marañon also stressed the need to bring the issues back to the students. On mobilizing students for environmental sustainability beyond campus, she said that “aside from partnering with orgs, [there is a need to] bring the issue back to the students.”

“We can link it to studies and research outputs,” she said.

“At the end of the day, this campaign will not be about me,” she added.

Representation, management

The vice presidential candidates debated similar issues as their running mates. USAD candidate Alvero repeatedly stressed the importance of sectoral representation and giving these sectors an avenue for their voices to be heard.

“We’re pursuing sectoral representation and a sectoral approach to student governance because we really believe that kailangang maging involved ang mga mag-aaral sa mga proseso ng mga polisiya ng Sanggunian (We’re pursuing sectoral representation and a sectoral approach to student governance because we really believe that students need to be involved in the processes of the policies of the Sanggunian),” he said in a post-debate interview.

In a question about scholarships, Alvero also emphasized that education should be a right for all students, and should not be a privilege for those who can afford an Ateneo education.

“Your scholarships are very reliant on grades. If bumagsak ka, paano ka mag-aaral?... Education should be accessible to all people and shouldn’t depend on whether you have money or not, karapatan mo ito (Your scholarships are very reliant on grades. If you fail, how will you study? [...] Education should be accessible to all people and shouldn’t depend on whether you have money or not, this is your right),” he said.

Trillanes, on the other hand, said her platform focused on the “internals and inside [functions] of the Sanggunian and the school” and stated she believes there is “no divide between external engagement and internal management.”

Naniniwala ako na para lumabas tayo’t tumugon sa [mga] tao sa lipunan natin, kailangan maayos din natin sa loob (I believe that in order to go out and respond to the people in our society, we need to be organized internally),” she stated in a post-debate interview with The GUIDON.

Trillanes mentioned she believes in the “potential of the Atenean” and wants to establish a Sanggunian that innovates its engagement and bridges its gap with the student body.

She also wanted to provide several avenues for students to feel welcome, as she stated that students with mental health issues should have that kind of space, and to engage in discourse. She wanted to push for a more engaging Sanggunian in bringing awareness to the LGBT community by also lobbying for sectoral representation, and becoming more active in campaigning for the LGBT community.

“Everything that we want to do, we want to do it with you,” she said.

The Sanggunian General Elections is from March 27-29. Voters may cast their ballots at any of the following polling stations: Matteo Ricci Hall, MVP Lobby, Gonzaga Cafeteria, New Rizal Library, and Faura Hall.

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