UST draws flak for censoring photo

Sheila Crisostomo, Mark Ernest Villeza - The Philippine Star
UST draws flak for censoring photo
Students of the University of Santo Tomas’ College of Information and Computing Sciences enter a convenience store in uniforms similar to those worn by the store’s employees. Image was posted on TomasinoWeb’s Facebook account on Feb. 15 but was later taken down upon UST’s orders.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker and various groups criticized the University of Santo Tomas, particularly UST’s Office of Student Affairs (OSA), for its move to censor the school’s online campus media organization over a photo that went viral on social media.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel described the move as “oppressive,” adding that they are closely “monitoring the issue and coordinating with our chapter in UST to ensure that UST-OSA will rectify its repressive actions.”

“We strongly appeal to UST- OSA to do away with its ridiculously stringent and bureaucratic rules that hamper free expression of its students,” he said in a text message.

Manuel posted on his account on X, formerly Twitter, that the Kabataan party-list is ‘’in solidarity with everyone in UST community who stand versus campus repression.”


The controversy arose after TomasinoWeb posted a Facebook album on Feb. 15 featuring Thomasians wearing Type B uniforms, which was in line with an institutional policy on student attire for the upcoming summer season.

However, a photo of two College of Information and Computing Sciences (CICS) students entering a convenience store while wearing their Type B uniform drew the attention of netizens, jokingly comparing it to the uniform of its employees.

The following day, the UST-OSA ordered the post to be taken down, alleging that it insinuated “public ridicule.”

The UST-OSA also demanded that TomasinoWeb issue a public apology.

On Monday night, student activists staged a protest in front of the P. Noval gate of UST to call out OSA.

TomasinoWeb adviser Leo Laparan II, who also works as a desk editor for The STAR, submitted his resignation to the OSA, stating that the “recent turn of events has rendered my position in the student organization immaterial and insignificant moving forward.”

In an interview with The STAR, Laparan said that what happened was censorship and that he “cannot accept and I cannot believe that as a practicing journalist, this happened in my two-decade career in a media organization in a student environment setting.”

Without an adviser for the publication, TomasinoWeb put on hold all publications on all its social media platforms “until further notice.”


In a statement, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines said UST-OSA’s move “attacks freedom of expression for self-preservation and compromises campus press freedom for inappropriate resolution of student issues.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that “any imposed takedown, especially over an imagined slight and not because of a factual or ethical lapse, erodes press freedom and the independence of the press.”

“The UST administration’s reaction to a harmless photograph exposes its elitist stance,” the NUJP alleged, adding that UST should uphold the dignity of work and honor workers’ contributions to Philippine society.

The UST Journalism Society condemned the censorship of a harmless photo depicting the Type B uniform.

“That such a harmless photo became the source of vexation within certain quarters on campus speaks volumes about official culture in the university,” the council said.

The censorship of student journalists is reminiscent of colonial and martial law repression and has no place in UST, according to the council.

Yesterday, UST’s public affairs office said that collaborative efforts are being undertaken to resolve the matter.

“We value the inputs shared on various platforms as these help us deliberate on the matter,” the office said.

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