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When the rules are bent against us, we must break them

The Editors

For almost a century, the Philippine Collegian (Kulê) has served as witness to students’ and people’s struggles and watchdog of issues concerning their welfare. But when it is under attack, the publication finds itself as the newsmaker as it did Saturday morning, May 5th, when it spearheaded a picket protest at the College of Mass Communication (CMC). This follows after the Board of Judges (BOJ) for the 2018 Collegian Editorial Exam disqualified two writers vying to be the next Kulê Editor-in-Chief (EIC). Graduating students and Collegian writers Marvin Ang and Richard Cornelio were disqualified from taking the Saturday exam after the BOJ stated that they do not fulfil the one-year residency required of the EIC, citing Article IV, Section 13 of the Philippine Collegian Rules.

Section 13 states that “the editor of the Philippine Collegian, while serving in the capacity, must continue to satisfy the same qualifications [of being enrolled in an undergraduate degree course carrying not less than the normal load prescribed for a regular student] and be free of the disqualifications governing eligibility to participate in the competitive examinations, as prescribed in these rules.”

Of course, Section 13 is only necessary; if the editor herself is not a resident student, then how would she be able to properly represent and assert student views? It is also only reasonable to expect that the editorial examinee who will become the next EIC will be able to fulfil this requirement. But on careful note, Section 13 requires the residency from “the editor of the Philippine Collegian” and not necessarily from the editorial examinees. This means that if the editorial examinee scores the highest in the exam, she still has to accomplish the requirement in order to be named EIC. But that section does not mean that anyone who does not fit the rule is barred from taking the exam.

Also, Article III, Section 8 of the Rules, which states the requirements needed to be eligible for the exam, only demands a one-year residency therein and not residency thereafter, meaning that to take the exam, one must have stayed in UP for a year (not necessarily after a year).

Further, the Philippine Collegian has cited six previous graduating students who have been qualified to take the editorial exam, including Mary Joy Capistrano who enrolled under residency for the first semester of her second term as EIC. Both Ang and Cornelio meanwhile have planned to enroll in a second undergraduate degree.

More importantly, why did Chancellor Michael Tan or the BOJ not raise concern over Law student Jayson Edward San Juan who has just been named as the next EIC? According to a 2001 resolution by the Commission on Higher Education, the Bachelor of Laws degree is equivalent to a master’s degree. Are we seeing here a selective interpretation and application of the rules? If we are, then we ask to whose side does this interpretation favor.

The basis for disqualifying Ang and Cornelio on that residency ground should have not been an issue in the first place. The Board of Judges should have just allowed them to take the exam since: (1) Section 8 does not require it for examinees and (2) past graduating students have taken the exam. If one of them, if selected, is about to serve their term as EIC, then that’s the time we invoke the residency rule. If they cannot comply, then that would be the time to disqualify the winning examinee.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Tan has expressed his support for the BOJ’s decision. He said that enrolling in a second undergraduate degree “is not assured.” But the problem with this assurance argument is that it solves the residency concern not by proving but by assuming that the residency requirement will not be fulfilled by Ang and Cornelio.

What the BOJ did is repression because it destroys the chances of the two writers from being selected even though they are qualified to take the exam under Section 8. They were barred because of assumptions that should have not been made in the first place. Despite portraying itself as mere upholders of the “rules,” this latest move by the BOJ demonstrates how administrative power-tripping can affect the students’ exercise of press freedom by bending editorial examination rules as it deems fit, to the detriment of the studentry.

The BOJ should have let Ang and Cornelio take the exam. But now that the next EIC has been chosen, it should render the results null, interpret the rules in favor of students and reschedule a new exam, one that Ang and Cornelio can take. Otherwise, Kulê has no next EIC to be recognized. When the rules are bent against us and rules of repression are upheld, it is imperative that we break them.

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Scientia

The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.