I am an activist—not “was, “am.” Even though many of my activist friends might think and say (often not to my face) that I have mellowed in my old age, I still consider myself an activist and a nationalist. I am fiercely loyal to comrades and deeply committed to many issues. I love this country and its people and I love the University of the Philippines, which developed in me my love for country and people.
One of the first issues I found myself identifying with as a student was the increase in tuition at U.P.—this was way back in 82; I would probably say that this issue got me started on the road to activism and advocacy. I had good role models; for instance, the Tolkien-spouting and totally charismatic Lean Alejandro [+] was still stalking the halls of Palma Hall then. He was someone who was totally credible because he knew the issues and respected even his opponents; as far as I knew, he did not stoop to ad hominem argumentation but stuck to issues and on issues, there was very little his opponents could do; Lean was that good.
This is why I found myself greatly dismayed at the news that a group of anti-tuition fee increase protesters had barged into Malcolm Hall and started acting like hooligans, in the process, disrupting the traditional year-end closer of Malcolm Hall—Malcolm Madness.
That U.P. students would resort to hooliganism is a sad indictment of activism; that they would resort to ad hominem and character attacks is a deplorable state of affairs. Throwing eggs at the AFP Chief of Staff and damaging the Chancellor’s car simply because they find themselves unable to “win” an argument is simply scraping the bottom of the barrel.
A few years back, a former U.P. President (supposedly Dodong Nemenzo, though I’m not sure) was supposedly asked what he thought of the problem of student activism in U.P. and he supposedly replied, “so what’s the problem?” I’m not too sure this would ring true now.
A few years back, the USC Chairperson would be a national figure; Lean Alejandro was speaking on national issues even when he was in the USC and people listened—they may have disagreed with his views but very few people found him disagreeable. Now, I am not too sure this would ring true.
To the “activists” of today, I am one with you in many advocacies but there is no excuse for boorishness or ill-breeding. You must realize that the medium is very often also the message. A hooligan with a legitimate gripe will be looked at first as a hooligan and never as one with a legitimate concern.
There are many compelling arguments against the TFI even as there are many compelling arguments for it; as advocates, we should not be afraid to have our ideas and arguments tested in the crucible of debate. But intimidation of people with dissenting views, such as what you did at Malcolm Hall, reflects a weakness of argument and an almost-dictatorial insistence on “getting what you want.”
I would be the first to defend your right to speak freely on pressing issues such as the tuition free increase but I would also be the first to speak out against destructive, ill-bred, uncouth and boorish behavior such as that you displayed at Malcolm Hall on December 15, 2006. As I do now.
We have a saying among trial lawyers: if you are weak on the facts, pound on the law; if you are weak on the law, pound on the facts; if you are weak on the law and the facts, pound on the table.
So far, you’ve been pounding only on the table.