Debate and discourse permeated the hallowed halls of Congress, as the leaders of tomorrow took on the role of advocates defending their respective sides in ‘The Law & Policy Debate: An Inter- University Dialogue on Legalizing Medical Marijuana” last Tuesday, June 9 (click here for photos).
Members of the St. Thomas More Debate and Advocacy Society (STM), Ateneo Law School’s premiere debate society and one of the main organizers of this event, and debaters from the UST College of Law, clashed in an exhibition match in front of an audience that included members of Congress and several lawmakers. The event was held in the De Venecia Hall at the House of Representatives, and centered on the necessity of passing HB 4477, or the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Bill. The debate was a joint effort between STM, the Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law, and the Offices of Hon. Rodolfo T. Albano III (First District, Isabela), and Hon. Leah S. Paquiz (ANG-NARS Party List). Media partners were CNN Philippines, Rappler, and the Ateneo’s University Communications and Public Relations Office.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd, the debaters showcased the oratory skills in their arsenal as they bolstered their sides with research and legal reasoning. Arguing for the legalization of medical marijuana was Team Ateneo, which was composed of John Michael Villanueva (3B), Angelique Pearl Simbulan (3B), and Patrick Cocabo (4B), while the oppositors, Team UST, was made up of Marie Sybil Tropicales, John Paul Fabella, and Jackielyn Bana.
Even though no winner was announced, Pearl Simbulan, Ateneo’s Beneficiality Speaker, romped home with both the Best Speaker and Best Interpellation awards. For Pearl, who had argued that passing the bill would pave the way for more research on marijuana’s medical use, the event was “not only an opportunity to debate, but also a great opportunity to inform the general public about issues that matter,” something she finds absolutely necessary.
The UST troika proved to be a challenging and worthy opponent, refusing to buckle down before a determined Ateneo squad. John Paul Fabella, UST’s beneficiality speaker and their current debate organization president, said that the debate was “engaging, especially because real issues were being tackled.” Debate for him is about overcoming one’s own prejudice to fight for a certain side, and he could see that the six debaters present were able to do so. Fellow senior Marie Sybil Tropicales and incoming sophomore Jackielyn Bana agreed that the debate was a good experience and that the organizers as well as the debaters themselves were well prepared to engage the public in meaningful discourse.
The event was graced by the presence of three highly esteemed individuals as the debate’s adjudicators. Amb. Manuel A.J. Teehankee, Executive Director of the Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law and a professor at the Ateneo Law School, served as the chief adjudicator. He was ably joined by Dr. Junice Demeterio-Melgar, the Executive Director of the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, Inc and Ms. Maria Lourdes Tiquia, a political stategist and the host of the show Agenda on CNN Philippines. Dr. Demeterio-Melgar stated after that the “debate was good because the issues were presented well.” She also opined that, “while some of the debaters had better command over the technical side of oration compared to the others, as a whole, the substance of each speech was excellent.” Ms. Tiquia, on the other hand, lauded the debaters and said that “debates such as this are a good way to talk about hot-button issues, as well as involve students in the thought process.”
For STM Prime Minister Leo Camacho, who led the new STM Executive Committee in their first event of the year, “debate is indispensable in any thriving society as it is only through having a free marketplace of ideas can there be sound policy and decision- making.” He added that the aim of The Law and Policy Debate was to “provide a platform for the future movers and shakers of this country to voice out their ideas on pressing national issues.”
Minister for Diplomatic Affairs Nicole Valencia expressed her pride that the endeavor turned out well, and that the success truly showed in the results. For Nicole, “From the prestigious venue, prominent adjudicators and guests, and highly skilled debaters, to our massive publicity efforts and national media coverage, the event ended up better than we imagined it would be.”
With this event, STM and the Teehankee Center’s partnership created an avenue for the leaders of tomorrow to engage the policymakers of today in a discussion of issues of national significance. It was also altogether a strong start for the St. Thomas More Debate Society, which continued to build on the success and growth the organization experienced the previous years. P