San Beda alumni criticize Duterte’s ‘defeatist’ stance on WPS

Rodrigo Duterte’s fellow San Beda University (SBU) alumni criticized the President’s statements belittling the nation’s victory in the international arbitral tribunal on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a statement Sunday evening, an informal group of SBU alumni called on Duterte to uphold the Philippine Constitution by retracting his “defeatist” statements on China’s occupation of internationally-recognized Philippine islands at the WPS.

 “When a part of our country’s territory is taken against our will by the People’s Republic of China and our countrymen, particularly the fishermen, are threatened with force from exclusively enjoying our nation’s marine resources, the President is solemnly bound to uphold, defend and protect his countrymen and the integrity of our national territory,” the statement said.

Signed by former SBU student leaders, the statement is the first ever statement issued by Duterte’s fellow Bedans critical of the President.

The statement, also posted on online petition platform called on the President to:

• Retract his public statement that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea;

• Retract his declaration that the Arbitral Award “is a mere scrap of paper, and should be thrown in the wastebasket” in order that it will not be used as an admission against the interests of the Philippines; and to

• Categorically, demonstrably and publicly uphold the mandate of our Philippine Constitution that: “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”(Art XII, Sec. 2).

President Duterte’s fellow Bedans ask him to uphold the Philippine Constitution.

The statement, which was uploaded on the social networking site Facebook and on public advocacy platform, continues to gain signatories from San Beda alumni.

In his recent late night addresses to the nation, Duterte repeatedly justified the presence of Chinese boats within the Philippine exclusive economic zone near Palawan province.

Duterte said the international tribunal’s upholding Philippine rights on the West Philippine Sea is merely a piece of paper he could throw in a wastebasket.

He also said his earlier promises to personally stake Philippine claims to the territory were mere campaign jokes.

Senator Leila de Lima, Makabayan President Neri Colmenares and former Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chairperson and bar examinations topnotcher Winston Ginez were among those who signed the statement.

Former presidents and officers of the SBU College of Arts and Sciences Student Council, former editors of college student newspaper The Bedan, as well as former presidents of national youth and students organizations were also among the early signers of the petition.

Duterte earned his law degree from the then San Beda College in 1972.

After winning the presidency, Duterte has appointed a number of SBU classmates in his Cabinet.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as commencement speaker at SBU’s May 2018 graduation ceremony. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Student Duterte

Duterte is the first Bedan who became Philippine President.

Early aspirants included Ramon Mitra and Raul Roco, both editors in chief of The Bedan, and Ambassador Roy Señeres. Benigno Aquino Jr. was also believed to have aspired for the presidency.

Duterte nearly failed to graduate after shooting a fellow College of Law student a few weeks before graduation.

Then College of Law acting dean and former Senator Rene Saguisag recommended his expulsion but was overruled by the administering Benedictine monks on “humanitarian reasons.”

A tabloid also quoted Duterte bragging he once threatened to burn down the school after a disagreement with a law professor.

Before enrolling at SBU, Duterte also matriculated at the Ateneo de Davao University (which expelled him for disciplinary infractions), Holy Cross College of Digos (now Cor Jesu College), and the Lyceum University of the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Community pantry closest to Malacañang serves indigents around palace complex

A community pantry had been set up a stone’s throw away from Malacañang Palace and is located at no less than President Rodrigo Duterte’s alma mater.

On its third day of operations today, the Mendiola community pantry at San Beda University (SBU) has been handing out food and other items to indigents living in the nearby areas of Sampaloc and Quiapo districts of Manila.

Initiated by alumni of SBU’s College of Arts and Sciences student publication The Bedan, the activity is one of nearly four hundred similar humanitarian operations inspired by the phenomenal Maginhawa community pantry of Quezon City.

Mendiola community pantry initiator and former The Bedan chief editor Ares Gutierrez said their effort is both a version of the Magihawa Street phenomenon and an extension of a Bedan tradition.

Bedan tradition of giving. (Conscienta Bedista photo)

“From grade school, we were encouraged by the school to automatically bring relief items to be distributed to affected residents of nearby communities after each strong typhoon. We also witnessed the Benedictine monks organizing soup kitchens whenever surrounding areas were flooded,” Gutierrez explained.

He added that those who have lost their livelihood are the main beneficiaries of the pantry a hundred meters away from the nearest Malacañan gate and located inside the closed-off and well-guarded palace complex.

“The vendors, parking attendants, and others who relied on the once busy Mendiola street are the first ones helped by the pantry, although people from as far away as Quiapo’s Central Market have come,” Gutierrez said.

The community pantry phenomenon had been serving indigents reeling from loss of livelihood due to successive coronavirus pandemic lockdowns imposed by the Duterte government.

It has spread like wildfire throughout the country from Cagayan Province to Zamboanga City since it was started by a few individuals last April 14.

It has even inspired a similar operation in Dili, Timor Leste.

Government critics said the phenomenon is proof of the failure of the Duterte administration to look after the poor when it imposes lockdowns due to the pandemic.

San Beda University is the last of four schools that Duterte attended.

Donations from near and far

Student publication alumni were the first ones to volunteer and donate but several other Bedans from near and far sent donations as they learned of the Mendiola pantry, Gutierrez revealed.

Rice from Cagayan Province and monies to buy food items from the United States were donated, he said.

Even non-Bedans donated, such as Quiapo businessperson Jaime Wong who happened to pass by while jogging along Mendiola Street.

“He saw an ambulant vegetable vendor and purchased all his upo (bottle gourd) to donate to the pantry,” Gutierrez’s fellow The Bedan alumnus Ramon Jose said.

Jose said Bedan businesspersons have also donated their products such as bread and fruits.

“After we have given everything away on our first day last Wednesday, donations kept coming that replenished the pantry,” he said.

Jose said that stay-in SBU employees such as utility personnel, security guards and workers of the ongoing construction projects in the campus helped in the distribution.

Camouflaged uniforms and guns at a humanitarian activity.

Unnecessary presence

Even the community pantry by Duterte’s fellow Bedans were not spared from unnecessary police presence and online trolls, however.

Officers with handguns from the nearby Mendiola Bridge detachment of the Manila Police District arrived as the beneficiaries’ queue formed.

An organizer disinfects the pantry table before arranging the relief goods. (Conscientia Bedista photo)

The police said they wanted to assist in ensuring that proper physical distancing is observed, a task already implemented by SBU guards.

An automatic rubbing alcohol dispenser is also in place and the area is disinfected before distribution starts.

The police repeatedly asked for the names of the organizers and also deployed intelligence officers in plainclothes during the event.

Photos of the Mendiola community pantry posted online were also attacked by trolls.

Clarion call

Gutierrez said it had been a successful three-day operation of the Mendiola community pantry and he hopes other SBU alumni groups would pick it up and continue.

He said he already formed a Facebook page where fellow Bedans express desire to donate more items.

Gutierres said he named the Facebook page Conscientia Bedista in reference to one of the school’s three Latin mottos “Scienta” (knowledge). The others are “Fides” (faith) and “Virtus” (virtue).

Conscientia is also the Latin word for conscience.

“A clarion call has been sounded and, as our school hymn says, Bedans always answer it,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)