MANILA - (UPDATE) Palace Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson on Wednesday decried what she described as “pang-aalipusta” (insult) she has received over the award given to her by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association (USTAAI).
Uson confirmed to reporters that she has returned the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service to USTAAI in protest of the “bullying” that the association’s president, Henry Tenedero, has received over the issue.
“Hindi ko hiningi ang award na ito. Binigay sa akin, tinanggap ko, pero para matigil ang issue na ito na isang maliit na bagay, ibinalik ko na lang po dahil sobra na ang pambu-bully ng ilang Thomasians kay sir Henry Tenedero,” Uson said.
"Masaya naman po ako. Dapat po wala naman isyu dito. Hindi naman po Nobel Peace Prize yan," she added in a separate statement on social media.
The award was received back by Robert Sy, chairman of the UST Alumni Association and board adviser Jack Castañeda.
USTAAI’s award to Uson, a medical technology graduate at the university, caused an uproar among UST students and alumni, prompting Tenedero to quit his post.
Student leaders and school organizations hit the award for Uson, saying it was an embarrassment to the Thomasian community as she has been accused of peddling fake news and participating in the government’s supposed crackdown against its critics.
Uson lambasted UST students who decried the conferment of the award on her, saying they too were “curtailing” the alumni association’s freedom to decide who should be recognized.
“Ako na lang ang i-bully niyo. Ako na lang ang murahin niyo,” Uson said as she defended Tenedero.
“Sila ba do they embody the Thomasian core values sa pang-aalipusta sa isang taong katulad ko?” she added, referring to her Thomasian critics.
The USTAAI earlier said the award, which was also given to 18 other alumni in government service, including Senator Joel Villanueva, was meant to "inspire and challenge" the recipients to lead the Thomasian core values.
"The sole criteria are for the recipient/s to be a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and [to be] in government service. The recipients came from four levels of the government: House, Senate, Judiciary, and Executive," it said in a statement.
Villanueva was offended after he learned that the award was given based on flimsy merits.
He, however, refused to comment on Uson’s selection as among the awardees.
Nonetheless, Uson issued strong words against the senator.
“Sa akin lang huwag siyang magmalinis dahil siya ang hinatulan ng Ombudsman na ma-dismiss dahil sa kaniyang kasong graft and corruption,” Uson said.
Villanueva was ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman in 2016 after he was found guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service in connection with his alleged misuse of P10-million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2008.
UST had earlier clarified that the award was not from the university as the alumni organization is a distinct and separate corporation.