Challenge to Leadership in the Samahan

My favorite activist tweep, who can be contacted in Twitter at @ashbulldoglagon resembles neither ash nor bulldog. One day he must enlighten me on how this moniker evolved. Meanwhile, he asked me what challenges I might have for the forthcoming ADDU Samahan (=ADDU Student Government) elections.

Happy to be asked, I tweeted I would respond with this blog entry. Here goes!

Challenge to the future Samahan student leader:

You are called to lead in a University that is Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino.

In this sentence there are seven important words.

The first is “University.” Understand this in its original meaning as a community of scholars and teachers who come together in academic freedom for the pursuit of truth. “Universitas” was originally not an institution, nor even an institutional status. It was a community of flesh-and-blood people hungry for the truth. Too often “university” today is reduced to program requirements that lead to degrees, or the highly complex public organization that allows this. I do not want to bash program requirements and degrees. But a university that is just about churning out program graduates is not worthy of its name. People, including students, must work to maintain their shared thirst for truth – that must go beyond program requirements. They must appreciate that the “academic freedom” which is the sine qua non of higher education is a privilege and responsibility not only of the institution and of teachers, but in its original university context emphatically also of students. It is in academic freedom that students pursue their intellectual passions.

Then the words which describe our University: Jesuit. There are Jesuits around. Some may have noticed too few. But why the university is Jesuit is twofold: first, because it appropriates the mission of the Society of Jesus. Students, hopefully, even without signing up to be Jesuits, appropriate the mission of the Society of Jesus: the service of the Faith, the pursuit of Justice that Faith demands, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and protection of the environment. Second, because it promotes Ignatian spirituality. It invites all within the universitas – the university community – to bond more deeply through Ignatian spirituality.

Catholic. As applied to the university in the light of the Apostolic Constitution on the University of Pope John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, this means the openness in faith to search for truth about all in our relations to God, to nature and to one another. Because of the belief that Jesus is the Way, the Life and the Truth, the Catholic university is convinced that there can be no contradiction between Faith and reason. And, if I might add, since love is the core – or “cor” – of our relationship to God, there is also a conviction in a Catholic university that the discussions and debates that involve reason in the pursuit of truth (even in conversations about RA 10534!) can also be accompanied by love.

Filipino. As Filipinos we find our deepest identity not only in appreciation of all things Filipino, but in accepting the challenge to benefit from and contribute to the global community. Being Filipino in Mindanao is not only about commitment to human development in Mindanao, and about commitment to national development through development in the Philippine nation. It is also about a serious contribution to human development on the globe that in turn supports our development in Mindanao. In taking this perspective, I do not mean to trivialize any of the levels – local, national, or global – in mere conceptual abstractions. I mean the opposite: the challenge of the “Filipino” University must enable its scholars and teachers to bring instruction, research, community service and advocacy to bear concretely on issues pertinent to each level. Today, on the local level, this means: the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro and the Peace and Development Framework for Mindanao (Minda2020), which include respect for our diverse cultures, the sustainable development of our resources, the protection of our river systems, and education for all. On the national level, issues of national leadership, the enactment of meaningful laws, judicial integrity, corruption-free governance, a vigorous economy, meaningful educational reform, the protection of our environment. On the level of global humanity, the possibility of diverse peoples living in peace, the possibility of settling contentious issues through international law instead of international war, the possibility of diverse religions co-existing in shared worship of a God of Compassion as a complement to a healthy secularism.

Those are four words: university, Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino!

The next word, essential for one who is contemplating the Samahan is “lead.” You are called to lead. Those who know the Samahan – and all the work, discussion, sacrifice, exhausting days, sleepless nights, and pain it entails – know that leadership in this context is a service. Of course, as the way things are, it is easy to power trip in the Samahan. But if we are to understand the challenge of association with the Samahan, it must be on the plane of leadership as service. Hopefully, on this plane, when there is knowledge of service well-delivered and contributions to the common weal generously given, there is also possibility of deep and formative joy.

I would like to think that the Samahan leader might be challenged by some of the things that I articulated in my talk on “The ADDU Leader Sui Generis.” Should there be time, I suggest that those running for the Samahan peruse this piece again, copies of which are still available in my office (for free!). One of the key challenges there is that the development of the ADDU leader, which is leadership not only for campus service, but for life, is to develop an abiding commitment to the common good. This means that no matter the political party one belong to and no matter one’s later labors in a private corporation, an association of private corporation, in an NGO or association of NGOs, in an association of professionals, in public office on the local, national or even international levels, you are to lead not to advance private interest (my profit, my comfort, my power, or our good vs. yours) but to advance the common good.

Our Ateneos may have produced many leaders for private interests, but too few for the common good. This is certainly not easy considering the fact that “my common good” is often perceived as different from “your common good.” But this is the challenge. Commitment to the common good must be anchored not in an abstract concept but in a community of people, scholars and teachers, committed to the common good. That is what I think our universitas, Ateneo de Davao, can be.

But we are not yet there. That may be a substantial challenge for student leadership at ADDU.

There are two more important words: “you” and “called.” Let us take them in faith together. You are called to leadership. The “call to leadership” begins from within, but it is inspired from without. One can say, it is God calling from within, sensitizing you to respond appropriately to the call of the common good from without. Did you know that theologians have sometimes referred to the common good as God? Do not take that as a mystification of the common good, allowing it to elide from something very concrete into just a divine metaphor. But take it as a goal to try to find divine truth in achieving a real situation where human beings share a society of meaningful human living, peace and harmony. That is very easily said. In a plural world, explicating what it means is truly challenging. Doing it is even harder.

Leadership in the Samahan and beyond? You are called…

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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5 Responses to Challenge to Leadership in the Samahan

  1. This is a great challenge to the future youth leaders of this nation and of the world.
    We can always be a leader. But , what kind of leader.
    We must instill within us and heed the call of our time, to take up the challenge and actively participate in nation building and social transformation.
    We must serve the toiling masses ,be it within or out of the walls of our university.
    as what fr.arrupe said, cura personalis, and it’s same principle of great leader, Mao Zedong on his ‘Serve The People’

    even if you are not going to win any posts or office in Samahan, we can still be leaders. Collective leaders working for genuine unity against selfish capitalists andbourgeoisies .. Thank you for this fads.

    P.s.hope we could have a chat in the future and share ideas and opinions, and work hand in hand 😉 until victory

  2. Jopriz M. Bueno says:

    As a member of the AdDU Alumni Association (Pioneering Batch of AB PolSci 1996-2000) and as a former President of SAMAHAN in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 when Fr. Edmundo Martinez was the University President, it is nice to hear from you as the present University President challenging the Ateneans to pursue a student leadership in our university that is a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino. Your statement of encouragement is so powerful and inspiring to acquire a sense of student leadership that “does not advance private interest (my profit, my comfort, my power, or our good vs. yours) but to advance the common good. I for one became an Atenean leader and was humbly influenced by its Ignatian Spirituality as what you said “in the pursuit in the service of the Faith, the pursuit of Justice that Faith demands, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and protection of the environment”. I must admit that I am not perfectly Ignatian in spirituality or others may say not really an Ignatian at all but I see this spirituality formed in me by Ateneo if sincerely reflected and discerned within the lens and within our engagement with the poor, the deprived, the oppressed, the marginalized, the struggling or I should say the masses waging a revolution and the r/evolutionizing creation as a spirituality that transforms.

    I might be a Political Scientist not good in theology but in my consciousness and in my soul I have known Jesus living a life with the poor and the exploited people in his time. I have also known how God supported women and also with men in their struggles against the odds of patriarchal authority during the time of slavery and unfortunately existing up to now where the world is dominated by the imperialistic character of a “demonic” capitalism. And in this context, I have known that God chose a woman in the person of Mary, not from an elite and exploitative social class but from among the classes of the slaves. Our Mother Mary, the Star of the Se, is a young simple peasant girl whom God chose to be his mother-a mother that is so pure who known God in her Magnificat, “God that has shown strength with his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” I have known Jesus that is so critical, aggressive, and antagonistic to the abusive power bearers, to the interventionist-authoritative-militarist and the ancient imperialist approaches of the state (Roman controlled), and the hypocrisy of the faith of the Jewish temple that is so rigid, opportunist, and without compassion. I have known Jesus so angry to the unjust but so compassionate, forgiving, so friendly and loving to the oppressed and exploited people. Jesus even kisses their feet as a sign of his humility and love to the poor. He makes “barkada” or “ka-gimick” the fisherfolks, the gentiles, the tax collectors, the slaves, the prostituted women, the Samaritan, etc. whom the social order cannot fathom. The critical and compassionate God of ours ended up crucified and died without justice and due process by makers of the law, the Pharisees and the Scribes, and in the hands of the Roman Empire through Pontius Pilate. One thing I understood, it might be a belief to deliver us against sins but the crucifixion is an image of people martyred for freedom and peace. I might put my God in the political realm but politics as I understood is a relationship, it is also a concretized spirituality-Faith and Politics.

    Taking the spirituality that you Jesutis guided me and as I continually engage myself to these struggling communities during my SAMAHAN days and even after I graduated in our university, I always remember Jesus and Mary with them. I see the God with these people. God is really there fighting against the evils of poverty, corruption, imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. I realized that this is not just words technically activists always shouted in the streets “IBAGSAK!” and maybe some of my Atenean teachers will always lambast these people as simply naive or part of their youthful adventures. I must say this is a concrete spirituality and a faith in action for common good. With the imagery of the mighty sword of St. Michael, I can see how God hated this evilness that peasants, Lumads, Muslims learn to hold this violent sword in the pursuit of the people’s hope and joy to abolish the evilness of violence, to kill the Satan (the system of oppression and exploitation) of our time, the violence in itself for their genuine redemption. In the four walls of Atenean campus, peace in the past for me should be the absence of war, the absolute non-violent discord as if discord by itself is not violent in its content, as if hunger, land grabbing, unjust wages is not violent by itself. But as I slowly go out and search the truth as an NGO in the communities of Mindanao and Central Luzon, I begin to understand that peace begins if justice prevails. I tried to find the inner peace but it’s hardly to be found if my neighbor is so disturbed by their hunger and the lack of basic needs. The image of this justice has a sword in its hands. It depends now upon our logical, literary or political, ideological, or spiritual interpretations on what this sword must be. Our intellect, politics, and spirituality must be concretized to choose our interpretations and what we must do.
    I am also a product influenced by Ateneans’ student activism fighting for social justice and genuine social transformation. This activism is not by itself an imposed Atenean virtue but the product of the academic freedom, our strive for excellence, our care for persons, and our being women and men for others guided by Jesuit education. Above all, this activism is by virtue of the inspiration I got from the words and the love of the Filipino masses that are currently leading and forwarding genuine social changes during our collective engagement with them as an Atenean. I am a product of Atenean activism inspired by the lives of Atenean martyrs like of Jose P. Rizal whom my father got my name JOPRIZ,; but mostly inspired by the activism of the some alumni of Ateneo, the likes of the anti-imperialist Antonio Luna; Former AdMU’s Sanggunian President (1969-1970) Edgar Jopson killed by the military in Skyline Subd. Davao City, AdDU’s Faculty Taking Lanzona killed by the military in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, SAMAHAN and Atenews’ Evelia Bontia who died defending her stance for the people, and my close friends like the Atenews Managing Editor and the SAMAHAN Involvement and Social Awareness Committee’s (1999-2000) Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez who was killed by the military when she conducted human rights research in Arakan in 2002 and the Atenews Editor in Chief (1998-1999)Angel Artizada, an activist writer and a victim of Violence Against Women killed by her own husband in 2011.

    When I was elected by the democratic population of around 1,700 votes (with over-all population of 4000+) of Ateneans in 1998 and 2, 250 votes in 1999 (with over-all population of around 5,000+) to be their President of the SAMAHAN, those days where so challenging and too risky I must say. It is challenging because of its difficult tasks and risky for you might lose friends. As a petty bourgeois intellectual, to be an activist or even a simple advocate, is to be misunderstood, vilified, criticized, and put in the lime light of some political turned personal controversies by some or worst killed because of your principles. But this must not weaken me for I took my inspiration with the people around we must serve. To be a leader for the sake of the concept of “common good” entails sacrifice, intellectual preparedness, and strength of heart. Admittedly, SAMAHAN leadership really squeezed the remaining drops of tears in my eyes. Father, I really drop tears out of anxieties and difficulties but, I must say, opposition to where I stand doesn’t shaken my conviction to serve the people. It was the most joyful and glorious mysteries of my life. SAMAHAN is a formation on my being. It is not simply the highest student organization or the official university student council of the Undergraduates of Ateneo de Davao University in the Jacinto Campus. This is the student center of the Ateneans’ democratic rights and welfare, the student center of the praxis of student leadership formation, the student center for the praxis of the Jesuit education, and above all the student center for transformative education. SAMAHAN might have critical (ideological) conflicts with the administration in terms of policies on increasing tuition and fees through the decisiveness of the student’s movement but we do open dialogue and do negotiations. Despite some conflicting points, SAMAHAN should always be a partner of the university’s goals for the faith in action, genuine social development, and environmental justice. I might say these are all easy to say but really hard to act. This is the ideal but subject to determination when put into real. This is always perceived as a challenge.

    SAMAHAN molded me of who I am. During my time, it is always our collective tasks through our collective unity with other SAMAHAN Officers and members to unite the studentry towards involvement and towards the students well being. SAMAHAN is not the Central Board alone. SAMAHAN is the entire students. It is in the unity of SAMAHAN that students are united in the formation of leaders, organizing the students, and mobilizing them towards social transformation. But, there will come a time that energies fall in the middle of conflicts and contradictions due to its highly partisan character. But contradictions are also helpful and good in the synthesis of plans and actions. Debates helps us process in reaffirming our being and principles and in rectifying our mistakes. Partisanship is good to prove sincerity of conviction to serve the students and the people but it is bad if we stick on it and if we counter opposition on the basis of party affiliation and not on the principled acceptance of the truth as a product of discourse and debate. Any organizations have no monopoly of truth. It is always a product of our concrete analysis to concrete conditions and to the practicality of ideas and if the broad masses of students and people will see it as truth. Organizations or parties will be truth bearers if they carry the general sentiments, interests and welfare of the people. Student Council work is an alliance work. It is a work of unity in diversity. It is a combination of unity and struggle. We struggle carrying our stands on issues for purposes of unity. Your challenges Fr Joel are so important to be recognized of our being a SAMAHAN. The call for intensive and extensive social involvement, community engagement, and activism is the challenge for SAMAHAN leadership. SAMAHAN was formally re-established as a student council in 1982 after it was shot down as Ateneo Student Council during the Martial Law years. Fr. Finster, SJ is very instrumental in the establishment of this student organization in 1956 if my historical data is correct. The 1982 SAMAHAN was the product of the Democratic Reforms Movement of the youth and students starting 1977 to 1986 who supported the public clamor to fight against the martial rule. The formation of the Alliance of Ateneo Student Councils (BUKLOD Atenista) that started as Colloquia in Ateneo de Cagayan-Xavier University and named Buklod Atenista in the assembly held at the Ateneo de Davao University is a result of the Atenean involvement to the well being of our nation. This her/history of Ateneo Student Council must continually mold the SAMAHAN identity and in support to the Vision Mission Goals of Ateneo de Davao University. As a former student leader of this popular organization of students, I second to your motion and challenges! Mabuhay po ang inyong mga adhikain bilang Pangulo ng Ateneo De Davao! Mabuhay ang ating SAMAHAN!

    Jopriz M. Bueno
    Former SAMAHAN President, SY1998-1999 and SY 1999-2000
    Ateneo de Davao University

  3. Leadership is a process of socially influencing others in the accomplishment of a common task. This is a challenge to SAMAHAN.

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