Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin chose to return the government service award given to him by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association Inc. on Sunday, in protest of the association’s decision to give the same award to Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson.
Villarin and Uson, along with Sen. Joel Villanueva and Health Secretary Francisco Duque, were among 19 government officials awarded the Thomasian Award in Government Service during an alumni homecoming on Sunday.
Uson supposedly was included in a last-minute decision by the alumni association.
In a statement on Monday night, Villarin described it is “shameful and unpleasant” to accept an award when one’s actions go against UST’s values of “truth and charity.”
“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,” he said in the statement.
“If that were true, then all Thomasian civil servants should have also been given such an award,“ Villarin added.
“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 joined the likes of former Health Secretary Carmencita Noriega-Reodica, who was awarded The Outstanding Thomasian Alumni by the University in 1997, and New York-based novelist Bino Realuyo, who was recognized by the UST High School during its 75th anniversary.
The Akbayan representative initially accepted the award in good faith and was “humbled” by the gesture.
“But awards should distinguish role models from the rest based on merit,” Villarin said. “Awards should stand for something but if they can’t mean anything, then they are nothing.”
Reacting to the brouhaha, Uson on Monday night defended her Thomasian alumni award.
On her Facebook page, she asked why people are deviating from other issues, such as the dengvaxia controversy and the funds coursed through the Disbursement Acceleration Program and allegedly given to Sen. Franklin Drilon by alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles.
“[These people are already becoming laughable],” she wrote. “]They keep calling for press freedom but they are still free to express their thoughts and views. They even keep mentioning my award].”
“[First of all, nothing was lost in the people’s purse for this award],” Uson later wrote.
On Monday afternoon, Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque said they welcomed the award to Uson, adding that President Rodrigo Duterte made the right decision to appoint her to the government.
UST journalism society president Patricia Lee Yanga hit back at Uson’s claims, saying she is very one-sided
The UST Journalism Society issued a statement also on Monday, saying the award given to Uson was a “serious insult” to Thomasians in the government.
“Uson, who has been using her blog to peddle inaccurate information, malign critics of the Duterte administration and discredit media practitioners who are performing their role as independent monitors of power, does not in any way represent the Thomasian core values of compassion, competence and commitment,” the statement read.
The UST alumni association president on Tuesday said they will not take back the award given to Uson because “morality and uprightness” do not figure in the criteria for the award.
In an interview over GMA7, Henry Tenedero said the association chooses its awardees based on two main criteria: a Thomasian graduate and in government service.
Uson, Tenedero added, finished medical technology in 1998 in UST and entered the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in 1999.
In the TV interview, he said there was no political color in the award to Uson.
Nevertheless, according to him, he is standing by their decision to give the award to Uson.
He, however, said he is getting hurt form the bashing he has been receiving.
WITH FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO