MANILA, July 6, 2005 
(STAR) The long-running rivalry between Ateneo and De la Salle moved to the political front with the two upscale universities taking opposite sides in the manner of resolving the controversy following President Arroyo’s admission of impropriety in last year’s elections.

By issuing contrasting statements, school administrators apparently jumped the gun on their respective basketball teams, which face off this weekend at the start of the collegiate league.

The Jesuit-run Ateneo was more moderate in its view of the problem, saying that any course of action should be within the ambit of the Constitution. La Salle, on the other hand, has called for the immediate resignation of the President, similar to the more hardline stance of leftists and the political opposition.

Father Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, president of Ateneo de Manila University, said "the process to be followed for truth and justice should be within the framework of the constitutional systems for the sake of the lasting good of the institutions and country."

Nebres issued the stand as he met with Father Provincial Daniel Patrick Huang, SJ, and the Jesuit leadership to assess the political situation of the country and discern the path of truth, integrity, justice and peace for the good of the Filipino people, especially the poor.

Nebres expressed that the Church is a unifying and trustworthy voice for the people and believed that the government should be accountable to Filipinos.

He asked the nation to discern, with sobriety, prayerfulness and astuteness, the principles of accountability and constitutionality that will serve and lead the country out of the present crisis, the Philippine Information Agency said.

De La Salle University, a Roman Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers with nearly 100,000 students nationwide, was the first important institution to add its voice to the clamor for Arroyo’s resignation that has been mainly pushed so far by the opposition, a cluster of ex-generals and left-wing groups.

"We pray her to voluntarily relinquish power so that a constitutional process of succession may proceed," the university said in a newspaper advertisement.

"Resignation would prevent the person from dragging the whole Philippines down, and we feel it has reached that point," university president Armin Luistro told The Associated Press.

Although the university took stands against presidents Ferdinand Marcos, who was toppled in 1986, and Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in 2001, De La Salle’s position was a surprise considering it has not been known for its political activism.

Luistro said 10 of the university’s 15 branches nationwide, including its main and largest campus on Taft Avenue, Manila, backed the position taken by top school officials, Luistro said.

While acknowledging that the charges against Mrs. Arroyo have not been proven, the university said the President could no longer serve out the remaining five years of her term with "the respect of the nation."

La Salle said Arroyo, along with the Commission on Elections, should give more substantive and convincing proof that she did not cheat.

It added it would not support any move to bring Mrs. Arroyo down through street protests or a military uprising.

And here is where La Salle’s stance intersects with Ateneo’s: "We reject all other extra-constitutional solutions to this present crisis or any other means which may lead to violence."

Mrs. Arroyo has taught economics at the Ateneo, where her students now include some of her advisers. Her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, dropped out of the Ateneo high school.

Meanwhile, another Catholic university, the Dominican-run University of Sto. Tomas, said in a statement that there is a need to establish "the truth."

"The truth has been held hostage by those whose interest is to score political points at the expense of the larger national interest. The truth is being used at the service of falsehood. What can be made clean by the unclean? And what truth can come from that which is false?" UST said, as it pushed for the creation of a Truth Commission to get to the bottom of the crisis and "depoliticize the truth." – PIA, AP, Sandy Araneta

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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