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In an impassioned and caustic editorial published on October 7, the University of Santo Tomas' student publication "The Varsitarian" denounced professors from fellow elite universities Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle University for their pro-Reproductive Health stands, which the campus organ criticized as being countrary to the Catholic faith.
The publication has received flak for the editorial, entitled, "RH bill, Ateneo, and La Salle: Of lemons and cowards," where it openly accuses Ateneo and La Salle professors of "biting the hands that feed them" by defying the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The editorial also condemned Ateneo's and De La Salle's administrations for not reprimanding the pro-RH professors' defiance of Catholic bishops. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) advocates only natural family planning, while the Reproductive Health bill mandates public funding of contraceptives.
"Professors who are affiliated with UST must respect the stand of the University against the RH bill as they are part of an institution which is fundamentally bound with Catholic faith and teachings. If UST professors don’t agree with the stand of the CBCP, then they have a problem," the article said.
The Varsitarian argues that "academic freedom is not absolute," but rather, Catholic universities such as De La Salle and Ateneo have "a purpose over and above academic freedoms," that is, "the nature and function of a Catholic school are inextricably tied up with the mandatum given by Christ to the Apostles before He ascended to Heaven."
The article defines the RH bill as an "anti-poor, social-engineering measure that not only denigrates the natural law but also runs roughshod over maternal health, kowtows to the contraceptive imperialism of the West, and generally blames the poor and their alleged overpopulation for the ills of society."
It also said that contraceptives are "known" to cause cardiac problems, "the no. 1 cause of death of Filpino women."
In an interview on Saksi on October 8, Lito Zulueta, the faculty adviser of the Varsitarian, admitted the editorial was "un-Christian."
"The editorial position is put vehemently, I must admit. Siguro un-Christian, yes, we admit that. But sa media, the polemic is a polemic. It's vehement speech, very grave speech. We admit that, and we apologize for that," Zulueta said.
Founded in 1611, the UST is the oldest existing university in Asia and has been known to champion conservative Catholic values.
A selection of rections from the GMA News Online community—Thomasians and non-Thomasians alike:
Woo Hoo criticizes the Varsitarian editorial for not allowing a dialogue to happen by shooting down contrary opinions:
itatapat ko sayo si BLESSED Pope John Paul II..... sabi niya, the role of catholic educational institutions in modern society is to engage in dialogue.
asan ang dialogue diyan sa article ng varsitarian?
alam mo, kung balak mo magmarunong sa church teachings at history, siguraduhin mo na kabisado mo ha para di ka mabara.
Mangangarap, raijan and acidicboy remind fellow readers that the Varsitarian's anti-RH diatribe does not represent the UST populace:
Please do not think that all Thomasians think that way. His opinion is surely not the opinion of all. As a Thomasian, I am sickened by his words.
The voice of the article writer does not in any way reflect the voice of the entire Thomasian community. If we all want to be respected, we should respect others as well. The name calling and insults should END with the article.
the voice of one college-level editor is not the voice of the whole community.
Oh Gee maintains that differences with other schools must be respected:
Likewise, the Varsitarian is a University paper and the editors are free to express their opinions. On the other hand, they should not make it sound as if UST is the Vatican. God gave us the gift of 'FREE WILL' so who are you to look down on others just because they have different views. By the way...I am a Thomasian myself.
Kevin Saure thinks it is important to provide maternal care for Filipinas, regardless of how high maternal deaths are:
even if maternal death is not among the top 10, isn't worth alleviating? where is the celebration of a healthy life there?
raijan thinks that the Varsitarian write-up does not reflect a Thomasian upbringing:
to the writer of the editorial:
are you really a thomasian? after reading your editorial, i feel like i'm not really sure. being a graduate of UST, i am confident that the University did not raise me this way. i was taught to respect the opinions of others even if it is contrary to my own. i was taught that in order to be respected, you must first respect others. your writing, im sorry to say, does not reflect the proper upbringing of a Thomasian. i feel so sorry for you.
Mark Philip Wu reacted to the religious fundamentalism implied in the Varsitarian editorial:
If the author's belief is that Catholic universities should stick to Catholic teachings completely, then he/she should advocate creationism only teachings in the Catholic universities. The Bible says it loud and clear without any doubts about it, the universe was created in 7 days. It would be heresy to teach anything else, right? You cannot say you believe in God and yet not believe that he created the Earth as he said.
Let's see how credible they are as academic institutions if we start doing so.
For Thomasian alumnus celine, respect is key:
This is a very disappointing move for The Varsitarian. I am from UST and this angered me to a certain level. We, Thomasians, did not study to say malicious things to other people, blast them just because they are making a stand different from the school's position. I, myself, is Pro-RH and it doesn't mean that I'm turning my back from UST. I respect whatever the stand of the school is because this is one of the things what I learned during my 4 years in college. RESPECT.
To whoever wrote the article, I don't know what you're intentions are and I'm also questioning the things you have acquired during your stay at the university. This is a very biased and one-sided article, which is supposed to be screened and proof-read very well. Everything is below the belt, we should say.
You just ruined the image of UST and every single Thomasian out there.
On the other hand, RubenC praises the Varsitarian for summoning the courage to go against popular opinion:
Thanks to all of you, staff of The Varsitarian for strongly coming out in support of the Catholic faith despite the fact that bashing our religion seems to be the present craze even by our own members. I've continually told those pro-RH Catholics that the doors of our Church are wide open to those who can't obey her teachings. For more than 2,000 years, because of its beliefs the Church has experienced horrible martyrdoms, suffered under the cruelest tyrants. and endured continental schisms yet it remained strong and ever vibrant. She will again conquer these internal and external bashers.
For Jeffrey Guarino, the Varsitarian should have also upheld UST as a center for higher education rather than solely being a Catholic institution:
UST have their own right to choose their stand over the hot topic -RH Bill. It is okay to clearly state the stand - if this is the unified perception of the university of the school and proclaim your high ground on being a "PONTIFICAL INSTITUTION" but wrongful to insult and not clearly state the facts among other Catholic schools - mostly for ADMU and DLSU. You just bragged your university and done damage to other two - that's all. A narcissist who just want to won the argument at the expense of other. Your published opinion is nonetheless but a bias one which doesn't show the true light of the pros and cons of both the school and the bill - which by the way, a good journalist should do. CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY. From the word itself, UST, together with DLSU and ADMU are both a Catholic and an educational institution that adheres to educational excellence and enlightenment of its students, faculty, and other members with the light of Catholic teachings. With regards to Varsitarian opinion, you only favored Catholic teachings without regards to high education. If that is the case, then, you should not be an institution for knowledge but better be a center of Catholicism. The educational competence of the prestige university must then be questioned.
For Third, being educated means being allowed to think for yourself:
Being a Catholic doesn't mean being submissive to the whims and caprices of the CBCP, not to mention their misplaced beliefs on the issue of RH. Yes, ADMU and DLSU are Catholic institutions, but true to their being academic institutions, they allow their faculty and students to THINK. It's a shame that UST allowed the trash article made by their mediocre students pretending to be journalists to be published, knowing that it will lead to a wave of hate messages. Even the Pope will not approve this irresponsible action of UST.
Flugie thought there is no problem with the Varsitarian being anti-RH but they crossed the line of propriety when it called ADMU and DLSU professors names:
In fairness to UST, I don't think they want to make "sipsip". That's their stand on the RH bill like all of us have our own, individual stand on that bill but their student daily calling Ateneo and La Salle professors names may not be right. However, it is their opinion and they are free to express opinions just like all of us are free to do so.
In another comment, Flugie also said that leaving an institution whose official stand on issues are contrary to one's own is a rather extreme move:
"simple lang, umalis ka na lang sa kinaaaniban mong simbahan kung hindi ka sang-ayon sa kanilang patakaran."
So ibig po bang sabihin eh pag mayron tayong hindi sinasangayunan na patakaran - sa eskwelahan, simbahan, pamahalaan, tahanan o sa isang samahan - eh dapat umalis? Kung ganon, eh palaboy ang bagsak natin.
Ang tao ay binigyan ng Panginoon ng gift of conscience, common sense and discernment. So kung pala eh ang sinasabi sa kanila ng tatlong yun eh salungat sa sinasabi ng mga pari at obispo, dapat silang tumiwalag sa simbahan dahil hindi nila kinagat hook, line and sinker ang mga sanabi ng mga pari at obispo. Ganon po ba ibig nyong sabihin?
For Unsugarcoated Reviews, the Varsitarian editorial was more fit for a personal blog than an official school publication:
What a disgrace to UST. Nadamay pa tuloy lahat ng taga-UST.
Sana sa personal blog na lang inilabas ng editor na yan ang kanyang verbal diarrhea.
Apol thinks editorials should also undergo a second reading by an adviser or at least a fellow staffer:
student publications are expressions of student freedom. that is if they are really run by the students and not controlled by the faculty. the question is that the dominicans have a history of repression of free thought since the spanish times.
would the adviser have not checked what was to be published. suggestions- give another view/editorial by another staff member. ask the editor-in-chief to show his face on TV
Rod Galman sounded off to legal experts online, asking whether the Varsitarian's claim that ADMU and DLSU professors are "intellectual pretenders and interlopers" is libelous under the controversial Cybercrime Bill. His fellow commenters answered him in the affirmative:
Question to legal experts, is this statement libelous and therefore violates the Cybercrime Law?
"UST and her physicians surely know whereof they speak. They’re scientists and experts, unlike the Ateneo and La Salle professors who are intellectual pretenders and interlopers!"
DWAYNE11 is calling for Catholics to "adapt" to the changing world:
Dillusioned members of the UST and Dogmatism doctrine of the Church will be destroyed in the coming years if they will not adapt to the changes needed in this new era. The Teachings of Christ is about compassion, selflessness, and kindness even to the people who don't believe on the Christ teachings; While the doctrine of the Church teach dogmatism, FEAR, authoritarian and absolute interpretation to the gospel and if you don't believe and follow you will be put and condemn in hell.
Saint Luci points out that it is the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which opposes the Reproductive Health bill, not the whole Catholic Church:
Let me remind the UST writters/editors that the anti-RH position is a position of the CBCP and not of the Catholic Church. There is no dogma from Rome that the CBCP position should be followed.
feb142010, in a reply to Saint Luci, reasoned that CBCP subscribes to Rome:
The position of CBCP is always in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Of course Rome won't tell people to follow the CBCP, because CBCP should follow Rome in the first place :)
Sam replied to feb142010, saying religion must keep itself out of political affairs:
I look forward to the day the majority of Filipinos are set free from the dictates of this foreign religion and the tired old German man in the Vatican. Until the Catholic religion is booted from the political scene, we are still not free of the negative effects of Spanish rule.
Spain has already turned its back on the opinions of its bishops; it's time we all did too.
What's your say? — TJD/HS, GMA News Selected comments do not reflect the views of GMA News Online.