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An open letter to Ateneo de Davao


March 16, 2012

Mr. Vinci Bueza
Assistant to the President for External Affairs
Ateneo de Davao University
Jacinto Street, Davao City


Thank you for your 15 March letter in reaction to my column  published last week  at the Davao Catholic Herald captioned "On Church and Mining". In that article, I expressed dismay at the way my alma mater, the Ateneo de Davao University was unduly converted  into an exclusive enclave for the “anti-mining” groups upon the instance of its president, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ,  presumably  ignoring or bypassing  the Ateneo Board of Trustees which was  supposed to be the competent authority to decide on such policy matter. I was dismayed because I had been made to believe all along  that the Ateneo was a place where all ideas and sides were allowed to freely interplay and that it was home to all views, however diverse they might be. To alter that needs a policy decision by its Board of Trustees. Not unilaterally or presumptuously by a president.

In that article, I criticized the way  Ateneo allowed its institution to exclusively cater to one sector (the anti-mining) to the   exclusion of the “pro mining” sector.  Worse, it  even evicted those who were already inside the venue for “not being of like mind”.   You categorically denied that   there was such an  incident of eviction  and forthwith accused me as a liar .  In my long years as a journalist, this is the first time I am accused of writing an “outright lie”. Please know that  I am an “old fashioned” reporter. I check my facts before I write them. Hence,  this is an accusation most undeserved.

I am tempted to also re-enact the now popular “pro and anti mining”  encounter between Ms. Gina Lopez and Mr. Manny Pangilinan weeks ago.   Gina emphatically said “I don’t lie, ” but  at some point in the debate, Manny told her to her face: ”Now you’re lying”. I will however restrain myself and refrain from being unfairly accusatory, as you were, and  will just give specific details of the incident to prove that I did not  fabricate the story.
After the “anti-mining” forum, a communications man  told  me that he  came all the way to Davao  from Manila to attend that forum.  He was from the mining industry and wanted to just sit and listen and  hear the views of the “antis”. He  was of the belief that the forum was open to the public.  He claimed he got that impression from an earlier press conference with  Ateneo President  Tabora as guest.

Nonetheless, he was  already INSIDE  the venue of  that Ateneo  forum FOR ABOUT ONE HOUR when organizers accosted him and asked that he show his registration badge. He had none on his lapel.  He could not show one as he entered in the company of another media person.  Wanting to stay just to listen,  he first argued with them  saying that he thought, (although erroneously), that it was open to the public. The organizers were adamant and  insisted that  he had to leave the place, the forum   being   “by invitation only”. He further argued but to no avail.  He left to avoid further trouble.

If this is not a case of "physically ejecting (or evicting)  someone who is already inside", (which  you categorically denied and for which you called me a liar) then, I pray,  what is?
I now request that you categorically clarify once and for all whether the Board of Trustees was consulted or had the opportunity to pass judgment on such an important matter. Sadly, you further exacerbated the issue by invoking “exercise of academic freedom” to justify why your own Trustees had to be “out of the loop”. By saying so, you unduly deny them the authority—nay, the courtesy -- that they deserve. I trust  this is your own personal afterthought and that of Fr. Tabora and is not the official position of the University. Otherwise, if I were your Trustee -- thankfully I am not -- I would quietly hand in my resignation from the Board out of self respect. Please don’t get me wrong. This is my own view. I have the highest respects for your Trustees as I know many of  them personally. And I do not wish to supplant their take on the issue.

One final point. I always try my best to avoid belaboring the issue on matters I write about. However, your accusatory letter had to be put in its right place. You sounded like many of the “anti mining” elements who are cocky and who parade themselves as if they have the exclusive monopoly of truth, love of country and care for  the environment.

Bless you and Fr. Tabora.

Very truly yours,

Ateneo AB, 1967; Law 1973

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