With 26 million youth voters in the coming 2019 senatorial midterm elections, the University’s student political parties, Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), have joined forces to increase “political consciousness” among the youth by launching their own partylist—Aral Muna. Formed in secret in November 2018, the partylist now formally announces the beginning of their official activities in April.
Iñigo “Borgy” Elizalde, Aral Muna Partylist Youth Chairperson, explains that their main goal is to strive for democracy by “awakening” youth sectors. “Dapat ma-realize ng youth that they are the key to rejuvenating society. [We] should not become complacent sa mga pangyayari,” he states.
(The youth should realize that they are the key to rejuvenating society. We should not become complacent to the happenings around us.)
Elizalde, who hails from an “activist” family with a strong Lasallian upbringing, has high hopes for their cause, despite admitting the current “weaknesses” of the partylist in rallying for open support.
Fighting a good fight
“Huwag tayong mahiya na sumali sa mga initiative na nagfi-fight para sa mga karapatan natin,” says Elizalde.
(We should not be afraid of joining movements that fight for our rights.)
He argues that the youth’s lack of action behind defending ideals is their greatest obstacle, calling for students—especially those from privileged backgrounds—to vote wisely in the upcoming elections. “If [Lasallians] can realize that small actions count for environmental advocacies, why not democracy? Isa itong mapagpalayang laban,” Elizalde exclaims.
(This is a liberating fight.)
Aral Muna General Secretary Ken-Jeong Bondoc describes the group’s leanings as center to 35 degrees to the left. Its key platforms include educational reform, free and fair markets, a stronger welfare system, and human rights especially for marginalized groups.
‘We always strive to attend our classes’
Since its establishment, Aral Muna has banked heavily on its grassroots establishment, drawing support from members of the Lasallian community. Part of the challenge in forming the partylist was bridging the gap between Santugon and Tapat. Longtime rivals in DLSU’s internal politics, the two had to reconcile differences that have been set for the past decades.
Lance Dela Cruz, Vice President for External Affairs of Tapat, and Gio Acosta, Secretary General of Santugon, explain that while the idea for a grassroots student partylist had been in the works since last year, College of Law Dean Chel Diokno’s recent senatorial campaign inspired both student leaders to step up and proceed with the creation of Aral Muna.
“[We] really wanted [a simultaneous push] to also happen alongside the campaigns of progressive senatoriables, because [Santugon and Tapat] share [common] goals,” Acosta explains.
Bondoc, on the other hand, reveals how the partnership between the two almost failed to materialize due to naming differences. “Tapat wanted it to be called ‘Tapagon’, which Santugon did not want because it had Tapat’s name first. Santugon wanted to call it ‘Santapat’ instead, which Tapat didn’t like. It’s ridiculous,” he cites.
Eventually, the parties finally agreed on Aral Muna, which Dela Cruz believes is both neutral and very appropriate for them as student leaders. “Even when we actively participate as student leaders on campus, we always strive to attend our classes. Just because we’re socially active, we don’t want to give the impression that we cut classes all the time. Super minsan lang naman,”
Acosta, meanwhile, adds that the partylist name is an attempt to fight against the stigma often faced by student activists, who are often told by critics to focus instead on their academics. “We can do both, after all, just like our student leaders before us,” he notes.
Elizalde, who had never been part of either political party, narrates that they initially expected the formal establishment of the partylist last August 2018 to make it in time for the midterm elections. However, internal conflicts got in the way. “Sometimes, they were arguing who to put in this position, or over there. It was frustrating [and difficult]. We started from scratch,” Elizalde laments.
Aral Muna Externals Secretary Sandara Tantiangco reveals that the partylist’s membership strives for cooperation with other groups that have similar interests, saying that it is important to look at what fundamental issues groups agree upon.
“Many times, our fundamental platforms are 80 to 90 percent similar, and that’s where we should focus on the short term,” Tantiangco narrates.
Retired detective Lt. Leon Guerrero, spokesperson of the allied initiative Social Alliance for Watchful Action (SAWA), expresses his support, adding that the concerns of the youth bear just as much merit as “any citizen of the country.” He warns that unaddressed problems like poverty as root causes of political violence, “Kapag puno na ang salop, kinakalos,” he says.
(When the container is full, [the excess] is removed.)
A protest group, on the other hand, welcomes the establishment of the partylist, at least for the “common” short-term goals that the two organizations hold. Chapter representative John Paul Quisadas expresses solidarity for peace and democracy, even if their long-term goals may differ.
“At least we won’t be alone in front of McDonald’s anymore,” he says.