The call for justice is not just a statement
Despite the looming threat of a creeping dictatorship, the spate of rampant killings in the streets, and even the death of one of its students, life goes on in the University of Santo Tomas.
However, this is unsurprising, considering how the University has always remained mum on the issues and controversies that plague it.
This is probably why following the fatal hazing of Faculty of Civil Law freshman Horacio Castillo III, the University has only managed to release an official statement “condemning” the act that led to his death — and after that, nothing else followed.
The campaigns, vigils, and protests that emerged in the wake of Castillo’s death were all largely initiated by students with little to no involvement nor endorsement from the University administration.
Their silence — a tried-and-tested and effective public relations strategy of letting a controversy subside — is seemingly deliberate.
After all, the University has shown, on numerous occasions, that it is very much capable of mobilizing its students for a united cause. The Guinness record-breaking human sentence last Sept. 29 is a testament to this.
There is nothing wrong with honoring the teachers of this University; the formation was done to celebrate National Teachers’ Month and this activity has already been planned since last year.
However, it begs the necessary question: If the University of Santo Tomas is capable of mobilizing more than 17,000 students for a Guinness record, why, then, does it seemingly refuse to do so on the issues that it should address?
If the University administration truly condemns “in no uncertain terms hazing in any form or manner,” then why does it continue to seemingly ignore the indignant demands of the student body for justice and accountability?
In keeping their mouths shut, they are simply killing Castillo even further, letting the Aegis Juris fraternity — his murderers and their accomplices — roam freely and escape the condemnation of the University and the law.
But then again, this is not new; UST has always been fond of merely releasing official statements in the face of issues and controversy without making the necessary actions.
Even as President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ claimed the lives of Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and largely poor students and youth, UST only managed to put out a poster that said “No to EJKs” while other Catholic universities were openly leading protests against Duterte’s fascist war against the people.
The administration could easily blame the apathy of the students; however, students have shown on numerous times that they are not silent — proving that it is the lax stance of the administration that continually perpetuates the environment of apathy in UST.
And in times like these, apathy is an infectious disease. By keeping silent and refusing to take a strong stand, the University administration is letting it spread even further.
Even more alarming is the lack of opposition from the University regarding the President’s plans to re-impose mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC), abolished in 2003 after UST lobbied for such in the wake of the murder of another Thomasian, Mark Welson Chua.
All of these incidents — Castillo’s murder in the hands of his fraternity, the silence of the University in strongly condemning extrajudicial killings, the lack of opposition from the University administration on the re-imposition of mandatory ROTC — they do not exist in vacuums.
These are signs of the times, and they simply show the culture of impunity and violence perpetuated by the current administration has successfully crept inside the walls of the University of Santo Tomas.
Thus, if UST is truly a Catholic university as it proudly claims to be, it should know better than to simply type down words for a press release and letting issues fade in apathy.
The University should own up to its own shortcomings and make up for them by actively engaging in efforts to call for justice for Castillo, to ensure that those responsible for his death will be held accountable, and that the tradition of violence in fraternities will be finally put to an end.
But hazing in fraternities is merely one aspect of impunity.
UST should also make efforts to mobilize its largely middle-class student body and enlighten its constituents on the plights of the nation. It should openly resist the temptation of bourgeois apathy and lead the fight to defend the poor from the state’s fascist and violent attacks.
If UST truly is a Catholic university, it will not stay silent in the face of violence, impunity, and injustice.
It will take a stand, and fight.