MANILA, Philippines—The administration of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) administration canceled a forum with senators as guests that was to be held on Friday because of the presence of candidates who supported the reproductive health bill, which has already been signed into law.
“We have been informed that the #YouthVote2013 Senatorial Forum on health, population and development … was canceled by the school administration when they learned of the participation of pro-RH candidates like myself,” Senate candidate Risa Hontiveros said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, also running for the Senate said in a statement that he received a text message from one of the organizers that read: “Hi! We regret to inform you that the admin of the University of Santo Tomas has canceled the senatorial forum set on Sunday because of the presence of some pro-RH ‘senatoriables.’”
Hontiveros, Casiño, Grace Poe Llamanzares, Richard Gordon and Ang Kapatiran’s Lito David were the panelists to the forum organized by the UST Central Student Council together with the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, First Time Voters’ Network, Smart Communications and
Argee Gonzales of the UST Central Student Council said the forum was “postponed” because “the UST administration did not want to give the impression of backing pro-RH senatoriables.”
“We will still be doing our advocacy to educate the youth voters and we plan to hold another senatorial candidates’ forum regardless if they were pro or anti-RH,” Gonzales said. He added that he had suggested that the topic of the forum be changed to education instead.
Gonzales said the series of forum would tackle the national youth agenda set by the National Youth Commission. In the agenda are such issues as governance, migration, employment, education and health.
The Inquirer repeatedly called the office of UST Secretary General Fr. Winston Cabading but he was not available for comment.
Casino was not happy with the cancellation. He said, “Not only is this a violation of academic freedom but an abridgment of our freedom of speech. We hope the UST administration reconsiders its decision. Schools should be venues of constructive debates, not the stifling of contrary opinions.”