Last December 15, 2005, a group of UP students with strong anti-tuition fee increase sentiments, barged through the doors of Malcolm Hall, in search of members of the University of the Philippines Board of Regents. The group was headed by the Student Regent, and the University Student Council. Such students verbally assaulted members of the UP Law Student Government and the UP Law community who were at that time peacefully preparing for “Malcolm Madness”, the College’s Christmas program. In the attempt to find the regents, these students harassed practically everyone who was foreign to them including the UP Law Center staff, the UP Law Personnel and fellow UP students. They were hurling accusations such as, “Tinatago n’yo sila!” “Niloko n’yo kami!” “Bakit n’yo kami pinagtatagksilan?!” at the members UP Law community who were in sight. During the height of turmoil, a student of the College was pushed to the door of the Malcolm Theater in her attempt to ward off the rallyists from entering the Theater, wherein there were students preparing for the College program; a handful of other students were likewise emotionally traumatized. It was only after a five-minute, initially adversarial dialogue between the Student Regent and the Law Student Government President that the angry crowd was asked by their leaders to turn around and leave. Unfortunately, however, the injury had already been inflicted. Aside from emotional and physical injuries, the mob ultimately left the college with property damaged, specifically the door of Malcolm Hall and the Malcolm driveway was splashed with red paint. Furthermore, the “Malcolm Madness” was cancelled for the first time since its inception, causing losses for equipment rentals and decoration costs on the part of the UP Law students and the UP Law Student Government.
It is understandable that these students may have had strong sentiments against the Tuition Fee Increase issue. After all, they are entitled to express their vehement objections to the Board of Regents in accordance with their constitutional right to free speech and expression. However such forms of expression are never justifications to trample on others’ rights to safety of their persons and property.
Thus, it is with a heavy heart that we, the Law Student Government, condemn this chaotic incident initiated by our fellow UP students. We believe that their acts have crossed the borderline of freedom of expression as it tramples on propriety, ethics and any notion of reason. We have no choice but to respond accordingly – as of all institutions, the UP College of Law and the UP Law student Government will not tolerate exploits of such kind. In verbally and physically hurting other people and destroying property, these acts are no less than criminal.
We hold the Student Regent responsible for inciting this mob and leading it into our college with no sense of direction or restraint according to the purpose by which it was gathered. We implead him primarily for being the proximate cause of the incident, without regard for those who do not share his agenda.
We hold the members of the University Student Council responsible, most especially the USC Chair, according to the principle of command responsibility. The Chair was not present during the incident; the members of the USC who were in attendance did nothing to pacify the crowd during the height of chaos. We deem that they should have reasonably anticipated such consequences when a group of extremely emotionally charged individuals rally: chaos will definitely result from the mob rule – despite lack of premeditated ill intentions to inflict harm on others.
As veterans of mass action protests, the Student Regent and the University Student Council should have foreseen harmful results and consequently formulated and implemented proactive safeguards to avoid or minimize them. The damages caused by these acts of omission were not rectified by belated measures to make the crowd turn back. Such conduct of the USC betrays the very office that they occupy. Beyond advocacies, the primary accountability of the USC belongs to the UP populace, whose safety, welfare and well-being they ought to have upheld – whichever side of the fence the constituent-students sit in an issue.
We, too, in the UP Law Student Government, are scholars of the people. Like every UP Student, we are being educated to become productive members of society who are reflective of the ideals of the nation. We believe that the UP student has brilliant ideas and opinions, which have to be voiced out in a reasonable manner. Thus do we champion the spirit of activism, one of the forces for which our University is distinctly renowned. It is in this spirit that we, ourselves, participate in various rallies, fora and social action in the midst of various issues of public interest. Yet, we condemn riotous and anarchical modes of activism. No matter how noble the purpose or ends of a rally, mutinous styles of mass action will NEVER be justified, especially when they infringe on others’ safety of their persons and property. Though we, ourselves, are activists in our own right, we will never allow activism to cast a dark shadow on the conduct and character of the UP students.
We, in the UP College of Law, denounce the December 15, 2005 incident in Malcolm Hall. We deem that it is only just and equitable that those at its helm be held responsible for its outcome. We condemn all types and kinds of abuses of the spirit of activism, which has been enshrined in the history of our university. Relentlessly, we will cling to our bias for order, propriety and the rule of law.
Christina Faye M. Condez
Lorybeth R. Baldrias
Faustina Victoria E. Ochoa
Hardy B. Aquende
Elgene Lawrence C. Feliciano
Public Relations Officer
Leandro Angelo Y. Aguirre