We serve the Kingdom of God!

[Address to the Oathtaking Ceremony and Awarding of Certificates of Election of the Samahan Central Board | February 24, 2022]

To Ms. Daisa Salinas, the chairperson of your Commission on Elections, my sincere gratitude for the kind invitation to address you during this Oathtaking Ceremony and Awarding of Certificates of Election of the duly elected student leaders for the various positions of the Samahan Central Board.  

There were other commitments I had today.  But I gladly sacrificed them for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon, heart to heart.  

Democracy Alive Among ADDU Students

Your having gone through a formal election process in order to determine your leaders for School Year 2022-23 that follows the Constitutions of your student government is in itself an appreciable achievement – especially as the health restrictions during a pandemic have hindered normal student assembly and face-to-face interaction.  I appreciate having received the data on the participation of students of the various academic clusters.  For this exercise in democratic responsibility, I congratulate the students, and I thank the Comelec for enforcing the rules which made this exercise not only possible but meaningful.  

I have also seen the data of the election returns: clear, and in some cases overwhelming.  I am happy to congratulate all the academic cluster representatives, Ms. Chyna Marie Legaspina as the new Treasurer, Ms Diana Kyle Tagalog, as the new Secretary General, Ms Mary Niñalyn Espuelas as the Vice President, and Samantha Clare Cayona as the President of the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Davao.   

Even as I greet the new Samahan officers, I thank the representatives and officers of the past Samahan administration led by the outgoing President, Mr. Karlo Torreon.  

I felt it important for me to talk to you this afternoon, especially under the circumstances of the university, the nation, and of the world.

Student Democratic Responsibility for the University Community

These past years have not been easy for the university.  They have not been easy for you.  They have not been easy for the entire university community.  The Coronavirus has taken us to places we never foresaw we would have to go to.  What we have undertaken in dialogue with our students through the Samahan we have undertaken in the hope of continuing to provide our students reliable higher education online, where students can study and keep learning, where serious students can study and achieve the learning outcomes that humane and professional training demand for graduation.  This has not been easy, I know.  Students have been challenged by stress, isolation and mental health.  As the health situation may now permit, we hope to take steps in this coming academic year towards more, although yet limited, f2f interaction through a hybrid instructional strategy using the flex model of blended learning.  As in the past, I look forward to collaboration with the university’s students through the Samahan in taking this step towards our future normal.  

Democratic Responsibility for the National Community

Beyond the immediate academic concerns of ADDU, I address you today not only as leaders of the university but as young leaders in Mindanao and of the nation.  The local, provincial and national elections on May 9th approaches.  They will take place with yourselves in place as our students’ leaders.  It has always been my hope that the implemented Mission and Vision of the University with its institutional commitments to such as the pursuit of truth, its recognition of God, its commitment to social justice and the common good, its commitment to the environment, and its uncompromising commitment to Mindanao, guide you in your lives and shape your personal decisions relative your leadership.  We have called this ADDU sui generis leadership.   It can be no different with these elections.  Let the university’s vision and mission guide you in making your own discerned choices and in leading others to make discerned choices.  You are university students.  You are not insensitive to falsehoods.  You are not naïve to the algorithms and echo chambers of social media.  You are not fooled by empty political promises.  Meanwhile, I thank you and the students who are already actively involved in helping prepare our community for these elections, notably the Samapula of our political science students for its organization of the Piniliay 2022 series of webinars, those involved in the many activities of the university’s Blue Vote and of DAC’s Candid Dates.  Meanwhile, I encourage those who in conscience have chosen to work in political parties for the victory of appropriate candidates.  With the DACS and the bishops of Davao, Digos, Tagum, and Mati, ADDU as such takes a non-partisan posture of involvement in this election; as University President, I take a non-partisan stance.  But all are enjoined to genuine discernment to choose the right candidates for political service in our country. 

Democratic Responsibility for the World Community

Finally, I take this opportunity with you to sensitize you as student leaders to the significance of the events taking place in Ukraine one-fourth of the globe away from us.  They are events which challenge the values of our global order and so threaten the presuppositions of our global peace.  Since the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine has been a sovereign state.  But in the past few days, Vladimir Putin of Russia has characterized Ukraine as a non-nation, being a mere creation of Russia, and so belonging to Russia.  He has begun a process of military invasion of Ukraine, not only to liberate separatist regions of the Donetsh and Luhanks on Ukraine’s eastern border but ultimately to take over the entire Ukraine.  This violation of the international order, I believe, challenges us all to consider fundamental values in our lives:  can a state today decide with impunity to expand its territory through military might?  Can a state undermine the sovereignty of a neighboring state by recognizing parts of its territory as independent states? Can a democratic state withstand the bullying of an autocratic state?  Are democratic states willing to come to the aid of small democracies victimized by bully autocracies?  How do you make peace not war, when a powerful nation is intent on war, not peace.  These are important questions because what is happening in Ukraine can also happen to us.  What does that mean to you as student leaders today with your generation’s responsibilities for the national and international order?

We Serve the Kingdom of God

As members of ADDU, in the university, in the nation, in the world today, we serve the Kingdom of God. At least, we pray we do. We sing, “To God’s high command our hearts bow.” What does He command today?

Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today about fundamental values dear to our heart.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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