Gabriel "Heart" Diño, an MS Applied Math student at the University of the Philippines Diliman, has been elected chairman of the student council of the State University's main unit, becoming the first transgender to lead the influential student government.
The Philippine Collegian, the official organ of University of the Philippines, posted on Twitter that Diño, of the student party Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (Alyansa), became the elected chair of the UP Diliman student council (USC) by late evening Thursday.
Alyansa itself dominated the student elections, "clinching the majority of seats in the UPD USC elections," the Collegian reported. The party won 12 of 33 seats in the council, "including the positions of chair, six councilors, and five college representatives".
Diño had campaigned on a platform of transparency and accountability in the student council, while also vowing to combat gender discrimination and fraternity-related violence. Born a male but proudly transgender, she said in an Alyansa statement in the week before Thursday's elections: "I came here not only to speak about what changes we want in our University Student Council. I also stand before you to remind that you, yourselves, are the change this university and this nation needs."
"As a teenager, I endured stigma and discrimination from my classmates and peers because of my gender. And when I entered college, it was in UP where I got the opportunity to be accepted and grow," Diño said. She had served in the University Student Council for two years before running for the chairmanship. "Serving the students in the student council for the past two years has been my way of thanking UP for embracing who I am," she said in the statement.
Diño served as Gender Committee Head of the USC for the Academic Year 2011-2012. Previously, she was the Councilor of the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010-2011.
"UP has never been the university of the status quo. With issues such as gender discrimination, transparency and accountability in the USC's finances, and the strings of fraternity-related violence in campus this year, it is high time that we become the change for a better UP," Diño said.
Having won the student elections, Diño carries on a tradition of student leadership and activism whose influence palpably extends beyond UP itself. The UP Student Council is an active and influential member in national student government networks and coalitions.