MANILA - (UPDATED) Three alumni of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) are returning their awards given by the university's alumni association after the same group awarded Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson for her service in the government.
One of them was Bino A. Realuyo, a novelist and poet based in New York.
Realuyo, who got the UST High School's “75th Founding Anniversary Award," said he accepted the recognition with pride believing in the virtue of truth.
"The recent Thomasian Alumni Award recognition of Mocha Uson, a known propagandist and 'purveyor of fake news' at a time when Freedom of the Press is under attack in the Philippines is an insult to all UST Alumni who believe in upholding one of the pillars of strong democracies—VERITAS," he said in a lengthy Facebook post.
"I am demoralized by your recognition of Mocha Uson. As a protest of your decision to support a political propagandist who thrives in attacking the highest ideals of Philippine democracy, I am returning the award given to me," he added.
Another former UST student returning an award to the university's alumni association, who asked not to be identified, said the honor she received has lost its meaning after being given to Uson.
"The USTAA, in defense of the award given to Mocha Uson said the only criteria is a graduate of UST and in government service. Out of personal conviction and many others more deserving, I am returning this award for it has lost its meaning and significance," she said, stressing that it's not about the award but it's about who gave it.
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, likewise, has expressed his intention to return his award.
"I am returning the Thomasian in Government Service Award given to me last January 21 by the UST Alumni Association because I refuse to buy into their recent justification for awarding Mocha Uson that one only needed to be a graduate of our Alma Mater, and be part of government. If that were true, then all Thomasian civil servants should have also been given such an award," he said in a statement.
Villarin added that he initially accepted the award in good faith.
"At first, I decided to accept the award in good faith and was in fact even humbled by such gesture. But awards should distinguish role models from the rest based on merit. Awards should stand for something but if they can mean anything, then they are nothing," he said.
For Villarin, Uson's actions go against Thomasian core values.
"But here is something that’s undeniably true: It is shameful and unpleasant for someone to accept the award when one’s actions go against the core values of Thomasians, 'truth in charity' as well as public accountability and transparency in government. Uson is a purveyor of fake news, an unrepentant violator of ethical standards in journalism, and a free-flowing fountain of foul language and obscenity. Indeed, she has corrupted the values that Thomasians hold dear," he said.
Villarin was among the alumni who received the award on the same day as Uson.
Uson was given an award by the UST Alumni Association for exemplary public service on Sunday. The award, said the association, was meant to inspire and challenge the recipients.
UST, meanwhile, distanced itself from the award, stressing that the body that gave Uson the recognition, operates independently from the university.
The UST Central Student Council also strongly denounced the award on Uson, saying her service in the government of President Rodrigo Duterte "does not embody the ideals of a real Thomasian."