Again, Tug-ani extends our deepest and warmest gratitude to everyone who attended the Hunger Games: UP Cebu Electoral Debate 2013 last Friday, March 1. We thank the top 6 candidates, members and supporters of Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante and Union of Progressive Students for gracing the event.
While we were happy that some students were celebrating the intensity of the debate as well as the relevant issues earlier discussed, we are saddened by some people’s attempts to discredit the gains of the event.
A few hours after the event, an online petition calling for the condemnation and the banishment of the debate because it was “unprofessional, rowdy and unruly” ensued in Facebook. It went on to say that Tug-ani strived to “put future student leaders in the worst light possible” and that it “promotes unruliness in student leadership”.
But such conclusions are unwarranted.
Nature of the debate
The debate, adopted from Solidaridad—Diliman, seeks to (1) measure the sincerity and truthfulness of both political parties’ advocacies and to expose their true agenda; (2) help the students make principled and informed votes. The candidates must effectively defend his/her programs and principles through open grilling from the opposing party and the public. The innovation provided the students with a more intense crucible of choosing the best student leaders among the best.
Similar activities were launched in three UP units, namely, Diliman, Cebu, Tacloban and Mindanao this year.
As a beginner, despite all the orientation from Solidaridad-Diliman, it is not surprising that there were still a few rough edges that we needed to iron out. We concede that there were weaknesses in the handling of the debate e.g., lack of stricter moderation and sudden change of mechanics during the cross-fire.
But let it be known that Tug-ani is, and always will be, open to any suggestions or comments UP Cebu students may have in order to improve the debate and even the publication.
Unfortunately, some people would love to by-pass dialogue and place the students’ official publication in a bad light.
Criticisms and arguments are ingredients of a healthy democracy
The debate had substantial impact, a fact which can never be discounted nor discredited.
Even with the sudden change in mechanics, the questions raised continued to be principled and relevant. With the audience participation, it became a venue for students to actively and directly engage aspiring student leaders in a discussion.
We stand firm that we were able to achieve what the debate was set out to do. We believe that the debate was a fertile venue for such goals, where student leaders were subjected to public scrutiny as they manifested their personal and party stances.
During the entire course of the debate, parties were free to question the mechanics of the debate or to even withdraw participation. Both parties did not protest and even actively joined thereby setting its dynamics.
As Iskolars ng Bayan, we trust that the students are capable of differentiating between substantial and principled arguments and occasional heckling and bashing.
The next time Tug-ani organizes an electoral debate, we will make sure to set parameters. However, we will never stifle the voices of the students by mere technicalities belatedly raised by individuals with an electoral agenda.
Just like the student council, Tug-ani is an independent institution that wishes to forward student rights and welfare especially in such a crucial time when students are to select their next set of leaders. After all, for most parts of the election campaign period, students are bombarded with rhetoric, pageantry, slogans and rehearsed spiels that intone democracy and dialogue.
We urge all students to make informed and principled choice come Election Day.
*Tug-ani is the official publication of UP Cebu.