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Opinion

An open letter to the UP Hooligans a.k.a. enemies of UP


Dear UP Hooligans,
 
First of all, let me say that as a UP alumnus, and a former UPLB faculty member, I have every right to make as my business what happened on that fateful day when you shamed Butch Abad.
 
News of your act has spread like wildfire in both social and traditional media. It has evoked a strong reaction to a point that even the President found time in his busy schedule while on official travel to condemn your act. He was so hurt by you disrespecting his alter ego that it rattled him more than the floods that hit many parts of the country due to Typhoon Mario and the monsoon rains it spawned.
 
For some, your act was so abominable to a point that 23 members of the faculty of the School of Economics of your University, my Alma Mater, rushed to defend Abad and condemn you in strong words, calling your acts as despicable forms of hooliganism, and virtually labeling you as dangerous enemies of your University. And as a University funded by people’s taxes, by implication you were condemned as enemies of the people. The letter they signed was unequivocal in its anger, and went to the extent of demanding that you be investigated, and punished.
 
And your University President responded by calling for an investigation, even as in the same breath he condemned your act.
 
Indeed, you have offended many people. It is obvious that you have rubbed people in power the wrong way. 
 
As your fellow Iskolar ng Bayan, and as someone who devoted about two decades of my life serving UP as one of its faculty, I am upset.
 
I am upset not at your act of defiance.
 
What I am upset at is how some sectors of the University have betrayed you.  
 
In calling you as enemies, they took the side of Abad. In declaring your act as pure hooliganism, they became instruments for a closure of the dynamics of resistance. They dared to condemn you for your lack of civility, even as they deployed apologetically the continued commitment of the University to be the harbinger of critical thinking. In doing so they converted what I thought was what made UP for what it is into an empty propaganda.
 
In acting out your defiance at an official who is the face of the DAP that has been declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, it now appears that some in UP are ready to desert you. In response to your expression of rage, something which in the history of UP is already a tradition, and about which it has so many stories to tell, and for which so many lives were lost as evidence of how far its children are willing to fight for what they believe as right and just, you have been bullied.
 
You are being accused of being a bunch of hooligans by 23 faculty members of the influential UP School of Economics.  
 
You are now being investigated by your University for being its enemies, for committing an act that is already prejudged as unbecoming of UP students.
 
Your alleged lack of civility is now condemned by Malacañang.
 
You are now being treated like a true enemy of the state in being assaulted in all fronts—from some in the faculty ranks to your administrators to the highest officials of the land. Senator Pia Cayetano, a member of the UP Board of Regents and also a UP alumna, has joined the fray and issued a statement in her FB page criticizing you. Even some of your fellow student leaders have now turned against you. I would not be surprised if the Church will one day jump into the bandwagon to condemn you.
 
Those who criticize you believe that you have to be taught a lesson.
 
But what lesson are they talking about? Is it a lesson in civility and self-restraint? Would it be a lesson that puts parameters on resistance, as if there should be a code of conduct on those who fight oppression and corruption?  
 
I honestly believe that instead of being taught a lesson in civility and restraint, the lessons that UP should teach you are those that are long enshrined in the discourse that populates it—the lesson of critique taking precedence over convenience, of the right to express being weighed in favor of the comfort of one who has power, and of the realization that civility towards rogues in power is a form of prior restraint.
 
And these are lessons that those who now condemn you as hooligans appear to have forgotten.
 
A hooligan refers to someone who does noisy and violent things as part of a group or a gang. In calling you as such, your accusers practically neutered the politics that you carry deep in your hearts. 
 
You are not fastidious, irrational punks festering the streets and harassing old women and helpless girls and children. You are not bullies since you do not even have the power and the resources to make Butch Abad miserable all the time on a sustained basis. You are not simply a member of a raucous gang.
 
They dare call you enemies of the University, and by implication, enemies of the people whose taxes finance its existence. This, just because you dared throw some crumpled paper on someone who ironically, and as validated no less than by the Supreme Court itself, was at the helm of how funds were sequestered illegally in violation of the Constitution.
 
But what you did to Butch Abad was far less serious than the acts of academics who lend their expertise to provide legitimacy to such unconstitutional acts in the guise of practicing their professions.  
 
It is indeed more damaging to constitutional order for people in academe to make light of, even justify, the violation of the Constitution.
 
Did you call these people as enemies of the state for doing so? Well, maybe you should. Maybe, we should.
 
It is blatantly hypocritical for academics to now deploy some rule in civility, and would argue as if there is a necessity for a handbook on how to engage people in government in moments of protest. Their criticism of what you have done to Butch Abad appeals to our moral sense as civilized, ethical people. Yet at the same time they are utterly silent on the sheer violation of decency when one uses public funds to favor preferred provinces, or uses people’s hard-earned money to bribe Representatives and Senators to oust a sitting Chief Justice. 
 
They call your politics as misplaced, but are totally oblivious to the dangerous, if not unethical and immoral, politics that is engendered when one uses public funds to exact political vengeance on enemies, and to dispense political favor to allies.
 
They call you hooligans, when the only damage you have done was to hurt the pride of Butch Abad. They dare label your acts as kin to gang violence when it is in the context of righteous anger, and not just unreasonable rage. They inflict in you the guilt of shaming UP just because you shamed Abad, and in doing so they have literally trivialized and devalued what UP stood for in all these years.  
 
Well, my dear UP students, my only advice to you now is to keep the flame of rage and resistance burning in your hearts. Do not yield to the demands of your older generations for restraint. For in their youth, they have also done the same things that you do now.  
 
And look at them. They are either collaborating with those who plunder our coffers and violate our Constitution, or becoming their instruments, or becoming their apologists.  
 
It is most terribly unfair for our generation to inflict on you the restraint that in our own youth was not there and thus allowed us to test the limits and the possibilities of our collective efforts to challenge the powerful and the abusive.  
 
Can you imagine what would happen if at this stage in your critical formation you are going to celebrate the need for a handbook or rule of engagement on how to conduct your protests? 
 
That will be the end of days for activism, and will usher in the era of coopted pseudo-activism. It will become a field day for the institutionalization of consultations after the fact, or of staged protests, or of propaganda masquerading as seminar-fora, or of open forum but only with screened questions. It will be the days when student activism will become kin to company unions. 
 
I urge you not to mind those who bully you and call you hooligans, or worse, treat you like enemies.
 
Consider it as just part of the natural law of aging. As you grow old, you will realize that you become more conservative and intolerant of dissent. And as you acquire more power, you become more afraid of those who speak up.
 
Do not betray the future generations by selling out to the conservative forces of the older generations, which unfortunately have infected even some of your cohorts. Be comforted by the thought that in the history of resistance, the many political rights that we enjoy right now are because of people who suffered even worse than the labeling and the condemnation that you now have reaped. The spaces that enable those who criticize you to articulate freely their condemnation of your acts are legacies they inherited from people who went beyond throwing crumpled paper at those who were from the establishment.
 
And furthermore, be comforted by the fact that there are many voices in UP. You are being accused by those who claim to be ashamed of what you have done as not being representative of UP, but this is something that can also be said of those who criticize you. The UP School of Economics is not the totality of UP, as its Student Council does not represent the rest of the other College Student Councils. President Alfredo Pascual may be the UP President, but anyone who knows UP culture would not even dare refer to him as the bearer of a singular and undivided UP voice.  
 
Be comforted by the fact that many of your faculty members do not agree with the 23 who condemned you. And be assured that I am not alone, and there are many UP alumni who are out there that would never abandon you, or betray you.
 
So I implore you to please keep your resolve.
 
And please be more understanding of those who now label you and call you names.
 
It is your turn to understand our generation, and our political fears, even as you keep making us accountable for our political choices.
 
Sincerely yours,
 
A kindred spirit who has also been labeled as a hooligan in many instances


The author is a former dean of De La Salle University.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website. 
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