The UP Cebu-7
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - June 7, 2020 - 12:00am

The times are ripe for what UP students are most (in)famous for; rallies.

What with the medical crisis, the severe economic shocks that the coronavirus triggered, the social dislocation of many more families pushed to the brink of non-survival, and the political upheavals that seem to favor our nation so much these days, the natural response for the intellectually-gifted and politically-mature student body of our state university was only going to be what it normally does.

So, word of yet another assembly against a feared anti-terror bill that caught the nation by surprise came as no surprise. What was the surprise was the reaction of the local police - despite there being no violence or unruly behavior from the rallyists, police responded with a dispersal, a chase, arrests, and the bodily lifting of young students into police trucks and thereafter, to the police station.

What a scary experience that must have been for our youth. Despite the accord between law enforcers and the UP administration that considers campus grounds as sanctified temples of protest, policemen pursued students and gave chase inside UP campus grounds - leading to heart-pumping video clips of students running away and yet stopping to raise placards, or of being chased and yet halting to check to see how their comrades were faring.

Seven youngsters ultimately handcuffed and jailed. Defiant in detention. What do we make of them?

I see this as a litmus test. There are people who are going to focus on the prohibition against mass gatherings. There are others who will zero in on the supposed lack of social distancing. Or the alleged failure to cooperate with the community quarantine. They will be angered at the flouting (true or not) of lockdown restrictions, and lend their voices against UP and the “communistas” it breeds.

That is to be expected. Already, I have seen social media posts on how crazy these students are, to make a big fuss about an anti-terror bill that many legislators have already assured us is totally respectful of constitutional rights. Why couldn’t these students just have protested or rallied on social media? Why didn’t these supposedly smart UP brats just stay at home?

The underlying (or even overt) message being, that all that UP does, instead of focusing on just giving them book-bound education, is to train students to complain and to churn out graduates ready to protest and criticize. Why not just indoctrinate in them their duty to become docile members of the workforce?

Others will evaluate the situation differently.

They might see the faces of those who haven’t given up and who haven’t been co-opted. They might hear young voices speaking out, fearful of the forthcoming assault against democratic principles and yet, choosing to be unafraid, to be vocal, and using their ability to speak to make their fellow citizens aware of the perils ahead.

They could even appreciate young minds engaged by local, national, and world events unfolding before them, and articulating their analysis of the dilemma in the way they best know how, in the avenues available to them. They may recognize the hopes and dreams for a better civil society, encased in young ribcages and lungs, that they once had.

They might even see a judgment call made between personal safety and societal survival, expressed by the choice of showing up and attending a physical rally in their beloved campus.

What do you see?

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