“Mga tinig ng katarungang panlipunan”: UST SIMBAHAYAN holdspanel discussion on social justice

The University of Santo Tomas SIMBAHAYAN Community Development Office (UST SIMBAHAYAN), in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Rector for Religious Affairs (OVRRA) and the Dominican Family for Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation Philippines (DFJPCC-Phils.), organized “Mga Tinig ng Katarungang Panlipunan: Isang Panel na Talakayan,” a culminating event for the 5th Fr. Pedro Salgado, O.P. Social Justice Campaign. Held on February 22, 2024, the same week as the United Nations International Social Justice Day. 

The panel discussion explored the perspectives and theology of Fr. Pedro Salgado, O.P. The panel featured the following discussants: Rev. Fr. Napoleon Sipalay, Jr., O.P. – Vice Rector of the UST Central Seminary, Rev. Fr. Delfo C. Canceran, O.P. – Priest of the Ministry for Urban Poor, Atty. Mario Maderazo – Human Rights Lawyer, Asst. Prof. Louie Benedict Ignacio, Ph.D. – Faculty Secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, and Ms. Aiah Karrylle Jacinto- Central Student Council Vice President.

Formally opened by UST SIMBAHAYAN Assistant Director Christian Rey D. Rimando, MSPT, he remarked that the quest for social justice is an arduous but dignified pursuit. 

In his talk, Rev. Fr. Canceran shared the historical account of Fr. Salgado– how he philosophized and pursued social encyclicals’ notions of social justice, solidarity, and subsidiarity within the teachings of the church. He stated that despite such knowledge, Fr. Salgado’s encounter with the poor and his commitment to genuine empowerment led him to become an exemplar of social justice. 

Fr. Canceran’s talk served as a point of reflection for the panel discussants with the discussion moderated by UST SIMBAHAYAN Director Froilan A. Alipao, MCD.

The panel discussion first reflected on the meaning of social justice. Atty. Maderazo and Asst. Prof. Ignacio remarked that social justice is principally rooted in pagpapakatao or the humanization of laws where every Filipino achieves the justice they deserve and that their human dignity is actualized with the goal of the common good. In conjunction with their statement, Fr. Sipalay shared that justice is inherent to humans, something that is rightfully ours; an orientation agreed upon by Ms. Jacinto who stressed “[dapat] lahat ng tao ay masagana at nakukuha ang nararapat sa kanila.” 

Connecting Thomistic Philosophy and Fr. Salgado’s approach to social justice in their context, Asst. Prof. Ignacio reflected on the hardship of advocating social justice within the constraints of educational institutions. Nonetheless, he found that there are many ways of institutionalizing social justice– and that it is only a matter of what you can do within your means to achieve it. This was echoed by Ms. Jacinto, who shared her experience as a student leader working hard to represent the student body and their rights, stressing how joining organizations (from student councils to non-government organizations) played a significant role in pursuing social awareness and justice. Fr. Sipalay attested that the church’s involvement in human rights issues like Extrajudicial Killings (EJK) is a powerful movement crucial to its development. When questioned why human rights protection is almost always predicated on the “defensive position,” the speakers shared how such language is crucial as it is powerful in invoking action. However, they collectively agreed that while “defending” human rights is a must, it is high time that “offensive” action is taken– in other words, we must now more aggressively pursue creative means that forward the advocacy of social justice. Proactive advocacy of social justice, Asst. Prof. Ignacio recalled Fr. Salgado’s idea of radicalization wherein everybody (especially those with privilege) must be critical of injustice. Ms. Jacinto and Fr. Sipalay stressed the importance of continued engagement, wherein Atty. Mario recalled how his continued perseverance in the recognition of a human rights violation was integral in defending the families of EJK victims’ dignity. 

To close the event, Rev. Fr. Victor Calvo, OP of DFJPCC-Phils. shared his reflection on Fr. Pedro Salgado’s advocacy of social justice. He noted how much has changed over the years and hopes that just like how UST now reveres the advocacy of Fr. Pedro Salgado, the pursuit of social justice will only grow stronger for the betterment of the future.  

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