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STM wins first-runner up at ANC's Square Off. Photo by Leo Camacho.

Successful run for STM in ANC’s Square Off

Represented by members of the St. Thomas More Debate and Advocacy Society, the Ateneo De Manila University Law School debate team reached the final round of Square Off: The Firm Debates, a prestigious and well-known televised debate tournament shown in the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

The team is composed of Ayzeris Ong of Block 3B, Nathaniel Oducado of Block 4A, and Leonardo Camacho of Block 3B.

Ayzeris Ong of Block 3B, Nathaniel Oducado of Block 4A, and Leonardo Camacho of Block 3B for the ALS. Photo by Leo Camacho.

Ayzeris Ong, Nathaniel Oducado, and Leonardo Camacho for the ALS. Photo by Leo Camacho.

Team Ateneo’s first match was shown on live television on December 19, 2014 against the University of Cebu debate team. The debate focused on ex-PNP Chief Alan Purisima’s application for a TRO in the Court of Appeals against his preventive suspension, with ADMU Law arguing for the affirmative side. Team Ateneo lost the match. However, Leo Camacho was awarded as both the judges’ and viewers’ choice for best speaker. 

Despite the first round loss, ADMU Law still had a chance to progress to the quarter-final round of the tournament  as it gained the highest number of votes in an online poll conducted by ANC. Thus, the ADMU Law team was able to qualify for the wild card round, battling the San Beda Alabang debate team for a spot in the quarter-final round. Held on February 6, 2015, the wildcard round centered on the Mamasapano incident, with ADMU Law arguing that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas should not be held liable for the Mamasapano massacre. ADMU Law won the round, with Ayze Ong chosen by the judges as best speaker and Nat Oducado voted as viewers’ choice for best speaker. 

The ADMU Law debate team next battled the Centro Escolar University Law debate team in the quarterfinal round, held on March 6, 2015. The debate centered on whether or not the Philippine government can require the MILF to surrender its forces identified as having been involved in the Mamasapano incident, with ADMU Law arguing for the negative side. Team Ateneo won a spot in the semi-final match, with Leo Camacho being voted as both judges’ and viewers’ choice for best speaker.

Square Off’s semi-final round, held on March 20, 2015, pitted ADMU Law against their first round opponent, the University of Cebu Law School. The two teams debated on whether or not the Philippine government can be held accountable before the UN for violating the rights of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with Team Ateneo arguing for the negative side. The result of the debate match between the two teams differed from their first encounter, with ADMU Law emerging victorious and earning a spot in the final round of the tournament. 

With STM Prime Minister Diego Santiago. Photo by Leo Camacho.

With STM Prime Minister Diego Santiago. Photo by Leo Camacho.

The final round of Square Off saw two Ateneo teams battling it out for the championship, with the debate focusing on the mootness of the TRO issued by the Court of Appeals against the preventive suspension of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. The debate team of Ateneo De Davao University (ADDU) argued that the TRO issued by the CA was not moot and academic, while ADMU argued the opposing position. The final round was televised live on March 27, 2015 in the ABS-CBN’s Dolphy Theater. The panel of five judges was composed of three partners of the Villaraza and Angangco Law Firm (V&A Law), the law firm that organizes the debate tournament. Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel and COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez were also members of the panel. The ADDU Law debate team won the championship round, while ADMU Law garnered its second first-runner up trophy. Despite coinciding with their final examinations, the ADMU Law debate team fought valiantly and presented well-researched and legally sound arguments to support their side. 

According to Ayze, Nat, and Leo, the whole experience of representing the school in a debate tournament shown on national television was a nerve-racking experience, yet ultimately fulfilling. According to them, juggling both academic responsibilities and preparing for the debates was particularly difficult, especially that the final round of tournament coincided with their finals week. But the whole experience helped a lot in building their character. And the three debaters couldn’t feel happier that they made their alma mater proud by giving their all in the tournament, articulating very well with conviction and passion arguments rooted in law and jurisprudence. P

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