The Final Step?

The Ateneo de Manila University, along with four subdivisions in the surrounding area, have filed graft and corruption charges against 19 Quezon City councilors from the 17th council, as well as a bureaucrat and three private sector officers.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/111199/ateneo-subdivisions-take-fight-vs-sm-condo-building-to-ombudsman

This is the latest and very well-celebrated step in the fight of indignation against the SM Development Corporation’s building of a 42-story condominium near the corner of Katipunan Ave. and Aurora Boulevard. The complaint focuses on the lack of due process surrounding the whole affair, as an exemption was granted by the city council to SMDC to ignore certain zoning laws.

The specifics can be found in that article.

As no significant voice within Ateneo has publicly opposed or even criticized Ateneo’s move, I can only assume that Ateneo’s crusade enjoys at the very least indifference or tacit support from the majority of the student body. One would be forgiven for thinking that Ateneo had decided to let the issue go in the meantime. The last time Blue Residences had come to the forefront of, say, the news feeds of casual Facebook users was in the weeks leading to August 12, five months ago, when a “rally for good governance” was being hyped.

For months before August 12, sporadic but informative updates had been posted on the Facebook page dedicated to the advocacy, Halt the Construction of the Blue Residences Now.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/132741216796938/

The group was created on March 15 by current student council vice-president Gio Alejo, and rapidly started adding members that week. Several stands were released, such as one by the Ateneo Student Catholic Action, and one by the Ateneo administration itself. On March 17, the Quezon City mayor’s office issued a temporary cease and desist order that made people feel as if they had toppled Gaddafi. By the first week of April, however, construction had resumed.

After an attempt to mobilize Ateneans to lobby at City Hall on June 6th, Sanggunian president Drew Copuyoc announced on July 5 that the prime movers had concluded that “lobbying to the QC Councilors will not lead to a revocation of the SM Blue Residences without further pressure from the student body” and that “we might have to resort to meta-political means to reach our objective of revoking the zoning requirement exemption. Prepare to mobilize come August.” This promise was kept, as said August 12 mobilization pushed through.

Many Ateneans were proud of having joined the mobilization – sarap maging Atenista was a common reflection. It felt, I believe, great in order to be fighting for both an abstract (good governance) and a concrete cause (no to Blue Residences) at the same time.

Between the mobilization and now, the Facebook page dedicated to the advocacy – Halt the Construction of the Blue Residences Now – has been filled with self-confessed shameless plugs for fast food and concerts, announcements regarding the student council’s Financial Grant system, job placement advertisements, and all manner of unrelated trash. It appears as if the main people tirelessly working on the Blue Residences case just gave up trying to drum up explicit and workable support from Atenean netizens, as announcements regarding meetings among student groups completely disappeared. Instead, we got this:

This is not surprising at all, as the Blue Residences page has never had a wide coverage. As of today it stands at 727 members, whereas in 2009, Ateneo had 8,259 students (source: http://www.ateneo.edu/index.php?p=2448). And that’s just the undergraduate students. Ateneo estimates over 1,000 graduate students as well, and then there’s faculty and staff.

My theory is that many of those who joined the mobilization saw that as their entire part in the whole process. Join the mobilization, and you’re done. Let the leaders take care of everything else.

So it appears, reassuringly, as if they are taking care of the issue.

Three things on the latest development:

1.) As noted above, nowadays only a very few people are working on this.

2.) The Philippine Daily Inquirer and GMA News (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/241577/news/metromanila/ateneo-to-file-graft-charges-vs-qc-council-for-42-story-building-permit) picked up the story. Since March or so, the prime movers have been agonizing over how difficult it was to get the cause into the papers, with only papers such as the Manila Bulletin printing the story on page 6. After all that time, Ateneo has finally broken through the publicity front.

3.) The case has been filed with the Ombudsman. The fight until then has been to get people to officially recognize the complaint. Lobbying didn’t work, and the mobilization only inflated the pride of a lot of Ateneans who attended the rally like they would any other 90-minute org activity. Now that it’s with the Office of the Ombudsman, led by Conchita Carpio-Morales who is widely perceived to be trustworthy (unlike the previous one), the petition is now finally in the hands of the law. And now that it’s with the law, well, there’s always the possibility that the respondents could be absolved of the charges. Would that suck? Yes, it would, but if that does happen, then the only thing left to do is file an appeal. If that fails, it’s over. The complaint would have been fairly adjudicated, and unless the general credibility of the Office is thrown into question in the next months, there’s no way Ateneo can call ‘lack of good governance’ on such a decision.

Of course, many Ateneans are convinced that the case is rock solid – otherwise they wouldn’t be publicizing the move with epithets like “Headshot!” In either case, this is the final step.

(Credits to Jase Tiojanco and Google Image Search for the above photo, dated September 2011).

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