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Student, youth groups condemn activist crackdown, Lumad food blockade in walkout protest

Progressive student groups marched to Mendiola to condemn the intimidation, harassment, and deaths of student-activists as well as the military food blockade and attacks on Lumad communities in Mindanao.

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Progressive groups from different schools and universities stage a walkout protest against the government’s crackdown on activists at España and Mendiola, Thursday, Dec. 7. Photo by Von Ozar/TomasinoWeb.

Militant youth and student groups once again stormed to Mendiola last Thursday, Dec. 7, to decry the government’s intensified crackdown on civilians and progressive groups, as well as other “fascist attacks” on the youth.

Unfazed by recent cases of intimidation and harassment of student activists, students walked out of their classes to stage local actions in their respective schools before gathering along España at noon.

“Kung nagkacrackdown si Duterte, dapat magkaisa ang kabataan,” urged John Paul Rosos, national spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS).

Last Tuesday, Dec. 5, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist organizations due to the NPA’s recent skirmishes.

With it, he also threatened to arrest members of progressive groups — which he referred to as the CPP’s “legal fronts” — for terrorism and conspiracy.

The military had reportedly completed their list of targeted individuals and personalities, and were merely awaiting directives from the Malacañang to conduct the arrests.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago retorted in a statement: “If anyone’s a terrorist here, it is the US-Duterte fascist dictatorship,” as she pointed at the spate of extrajudicial killings (EJK) and human rights violations committed by police and vigilante forces under the government’s vicious war on drugs.

Elago continued that the government’s attacks on progressive groups would be “the new drug war,” warning the public to “expect not just activists but [also] civilians to be affected and victimized.”

“Justice for all the victims of extrajudicial killings!” reads a placard from Anakbayan. Photo by Kennelf Monteza/TomasinoWeb.

Harassment, intimidation, red-tagging

Over the past few months, progressive groups from different schools and universities have reported cases of harassment and intimidation of their members and leaders.

Last Sept. 28, a member of Anakbayan — Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) was attacked and robbed by suspected military agents just outside the PUP campus.

Meanwhile, Tanggulan Youth Network— Vito Cruz reported last October that two policemen in plainclothes visited the house of one of its conveners to inform the convener’s parents that their child was under surveillance.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines had also denounced the red-tagging of its member publications in Bicol, which are allegedly being included in the “watchlist” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

However, a few days after the declaration of the CPP-NPA as terrorist groups, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) National Spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim stated they began receiving “numerous reports of harassment towards student leaders.”

Last Dec. 4, Monday, a senior high school member of LFS-UST received a death through a phone call. The same number also sent threats to a member of poetry collective KM64 (READ: Militant student group decries death threat on SHS student amid activist crackdown).

Lim also slammed the recent death threats and harassment of the chairperson of Anakbayan — UP Diliman and the chairperson of the UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences Student Council.

Lumad student Beverly Gofredo condemns the ongoing military food blockade and intensified attacks on Lumad communities. Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Lumad schools, food blockade

Meanwhile, Lumad student Beverly Gofredo said the resumption of intensified counterinsurgency operations in their communities were merely excuses by the military to drive the Lumad away from their ancestral lands.

“[K]ung nasaan ang presensya ng malalaking kumpanya ng mina, nandoon din ang presensya ng Armed Forces of the Philippines dahil sila ang protektor at nagseserbisyo hindi sa mga mamamayang Pilipino kundi sa mga malalaking kumpanya ng minang [nandoon] sa Mindanao,” Gofredo said.

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Lumad schools — along with its students and teachers — have been persistently tagged by the AFP as “training grounds of the NPA” and their communities have been accused of harboring communists.

However, Gofredo denounced these tags as attempts to justify the military attacks and atrocities on their schools and communities.

“Winawalan nila kami ng karapatan na makapag-aral. Wala na ngang ibinigay ang gobyerno ni piso sa mga eskwelahang Lumad, pinapatuloy pa ang pang-aatake dito,” she exclaimed.

Last Sunday, Dec. 3, militant human rights group Karapatan reported the killing of eight Lumad farmers in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, allegedly by military forces. Gofredo, along with the activist groups, decried the killings.

They also condemned the reported food blockade on 345 displaced Lumad families that were forced to relocated to an evacuation center in Lianga, Surgiao del Sur due to the counterinsurgency operations.

Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) said military checkpoints were restricting the entry of food and relief goods being sent by non-government organizations and civil society groups to the families in the evacuation center.

The families were also barred by the military from returning to their communities, according to ALCADEV. AFP Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, however, denied the military food blockade.

Protesters carry a bloodied portrait of Duterte. Photo by Kennelf Monteza/TomasinoWeb.

Youth wasting time on ideology

While the protest was being conducted, Duterte mocked the progressive youth groups in a speech before a food festival in Pampanga, saying they were offering their lives and dying for “useless ideologues.”

“Mga bata, nagpakamatay for the belief, for the ideals, for the ideologues na wala naman talagang macontribute,” Duterte said.

His remarks came in the midst of the death of student activists from UP and PUP, who were killed in a military clash in Nasugbu, Batangas last Nov. 28, five days after the government terminated the peace talks with the CPP-NPA.

The AFP tagged all 15 casualties in the Nasugbu clash — including the students — as members of the NPA, based, supposedly, on the high-power firearms recovered from their personal belongings.

However, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Convenor Raoul Manuel lambasted these claims during the protest as futile attempts by Duterte and the AFP to further accuse activists of “terrorism” and justify his crackdown.

“[K]ahit na bansagan na mga terorista itong mga kabataang ito na wala naman palang mga armas at ang tanging armas ay paninidigian at mga placard, hindi kami natatakot na ipagtuloy ang paglaban para sa ating mga karapatan,” Manuel said.

Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo also slammed the President’s remarks in a statement posted Dec. 8, saying: “As always, our hope lies in the idealism and activism of the youth who, open to new ideas and filled with optimism for a better future, are willing to serve the people and fight injustice even it means risking their very lives.”

Crisostomo also warned the President that “[his] repression will only compel more and more Filipino youth to join the Filipino people in struggling against his tyrannical and terrorist regime.”

As of Dec. 3, Karapatan had recorded 25 alleged EJK cases related to various counterinsurgency operations in the country during Duterte’s first year as president.

The group is now looking into the case of the Lake Sebu killings as well as the deaths of pastor Lovelito Quiñones, who was killed by military forces in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro last Sunday, and activist-priest Marcelito Paez, who was shot down by unknown assailants in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last Monday.

With the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao and the recent declaration of the CPP-NPA as terrorists groups, Karapatan expects the numbers to rise.— P.J.

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Protests vs charter change, ‘dictatorship’ mark People Power commemoration

Groups slammed plans to amend the constitution as a move toward another dictatorship as they commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Thousands flocked to the People Power Monument on Saturday and Sunday to protest plans to amend the constitution and to condemn the administration’s “dictatorship” as the country commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

The No to Cha-cha Coalition led by Movement Against Tyranny, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and various religious formations marched to the historic monument Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, where they decried President Rodrigo Duterte as a “budding dictator.”

“[Former dictator Ferdinand] Marcos’ (sic) ouster is a grim reminder to all budding dictators, including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, that our people will never allow tyranny to reign,” Movement Against Tyranny in a statement.

The group further warned Duterte that “[s]hould he persist in his policies of extrajudicial killings, all-out war, dictatorial rule, and subservience to foreign powers, he will surely suffer the same fate as Marcos.”

The People Power Revolution led to the ousting of the Marcos regime and restored democracy in the country in 1986 after years marked with human rights violations and suppression of dissent.

The uprising also gave birth to the 1987 Constitution, which Duterte and his allies are now planning to amend through a charter change in order to establish a federal form of government.

Movement Against Tyranny has slammed the planned charter change as an “act of tyranny.”

Meanwhile, in the protest program led by opposition group Tindig Pilipinas Sunday evening, Feb. 25, Lanz Espacio of Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa rejected the moves to amend the constitution.

“The basic sectors are not asking for a constitutional change, but for a change in their condition, which was not uplifted in the last 32 years,” Espacio said.

Opposition senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV also joined the Sunday rally.

Trillanes, who has hounded Duterte with accusations of ill-gotten wealth, told reporters that he believes “na nagbabago na ang ihip ng hangin [at] nararamdaman na ng mga kababayan natin ang false promises ni Duterte, at worse, humihirap ang buhay nila ngayon.”

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The protests on Saturday and Sunday also coincided with “Dasal at Ayuno Laban sa Cha-cha, Para sa Demokrasya: Pag-amin, Pagtitika, Pagababago at Pagkakaisa,” a nine-day prayer and fasting vigil at the People Power Monument that started on Feb. 17, Saturday, led by Catholic clergy and laity group Gomburza.

In a statement, Gomburza leader Fr. Robert Reyes said the administration “seeks to cast aside this legacy, proposing to replace it with a federalist project short on social justice principles and long on authoritarian possibilities lurking beneath its extravagant promises.”

Duterte’s remarks and stand on certain issues have led to critics to tag him as a “dictator,” a label which he has seemingly acknowledged and even accepted.

In a gathering with former New People’s Army cadres last Feb. 7, the President stated, “Muingon mo’g diktador, diktador gyud ko. Kay og ‘di ko mag-diktador, putang ina, walang mangyayari sa bayan na ‘to (If you say I am a dictator, then I am. If I will not become a dictator, son of a bitch, nothing will happen to this country).

Along with charter change and threats to declare a “revolutionary government,” critics cite Duterte allowing the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao May last year and its subsequent extension until the end of this year, extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war, and his tirades against the media and opposition personalities as signs of the President’s dictatorial tendencies.

Duterte skipped the commemoration rites which was attended by former President Fidel Ramos and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, but nonetheless called for “unity and solidarity.”

“May this occasion foster unity and solidarity as we pursue our hopes and aspirations for our nation. Let us further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedoms,” the President said in a statement.—A. Ortega

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Students decry Duterte’s ‘tyranny’ in mass walkout

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday.

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Photo by Von Ozar/TomasinoWeb.

Students from various schools and universities in Metro Manila walked out of their classes on Friday to protest the Duterte administration’s “tyranny” and “anti-people” policies.

Around 1,000 protesters from militant student and youth groups trooped to España carrying banners and placards condemning numerous issues such as extrajudicial killings, the implementation of the free tuition policy and tuition fee hikes, the tax reform law, the phaseout of old jeepneys in the modernization program, the extension of martial law in Mindanao and charter change.

The protesters then marched to Morayta carrying an effigy of Duterte as a king holding a rod with a swastika and wearing a long red cape listing the administration’s “oppressive” policies.

The effigy was accompanied by four men wearing masks in the likeness of Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

In the program in front of the Far Eastern University, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago slammed “threats of dictatorship” and called on the youth to push for social reforms.

“Ang mga kabataan ay handang lumaban para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa, handang lumaban para sa pambansang industriyalisasyon, handang lumaban para sa libreng edukasyon sa lahat ng antas, handang lumaban para ang walang boses naman sa ating lipunan ang magkaroon ng boses,” Elago said.

Editors and leaders from different school publications, media organizations and student councils also decried “attacks” on press freedom during the protest in the midst of the President’s tirades against online news site Rappler and the banning of their reporters from the Malacañang.

Micah Rimando, editor-in-chief of Matanglawin Ateneo, said that despite these attacks, “kaming mga estudyanteng mamamahayag [ay patuloy na] magiging mulat at mapagmulat laban sa anumang atake sa karapatan ng sambayanan.”

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Meanwhile, Mikko Ringia, UP College of Mass Communication Student Council chairperson, urged student journalists to fight for “genuine” press freedom and to stand with marginalized sectors.

“Hindi ibig sabihin na ibinalik na ang license ng Rappler ay mayroon nang press freedom. Hindi ibig sabihin na wala nang libel case ang mga journalist ay andiyan na ang press freedom. Ang tunay na press freedom ay [ang] pagpapalaya sa uring pinagsasamantalahan,” Ringia said.

Activist fisherfolk, labor, and peasant groups joined students from the University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the East and the National University as they marched to Mendiola later that night, where they continued and ended the protest.

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday, earning more than 3,000 tweets and at least 2.6 million impressions.

Militant youth groups staged similar walkout protests in Baguio and Cebu, which came two days before the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Various groups are expected to hold more demonstrations in the days leading to the commemoration of the uprising that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Feb. 22, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque warned that students from state universities could face expulsion should they participate in the protests.

“Bahala po sila kung gusto nilang ma-kickout sila. Sayang po ‘yan lalong lalo na yung sa nakikinabang sa libreng tuition,” Roque said.

Nonetheless, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan endorsed the demonstrations in a memorandum, encouraging student participation in the protests “as part of their education.”—P. Jamilla

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Senate passes new anti-hazing bill

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend the Anti-Hazing Law by strengthening existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes on Monday.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Vida/Senate PRIB.

The Senate approved on Monday on the third and final reading a bill prohibiting hazing as a prerequisite for admission into a fraternity, sorority, or organization.

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 by strengthening the existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstentions.

The bill defined hazing as “any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte, or applicant for admission or continuing membership into the fraternity, sorority or organization.”

The existing law permits hazing during an initiation rite, provided that there is a written notice addressed to the school a week before the activity.

The House approved a counterpart bill on Jan. 22.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who sponsored the bill as chair of the Senate public order committee, said the amendments would now require organizations to submit an application to school authorities, with the initiation rites outlined seven days prior to the scheduled date.

School authorities should then supervise and report that no hazing was conducted in the initiation rites.

The bill penalizes with reclusion temporal or a fine of P1 million the officers and members of a fraternity, sorority, or organization who would participate in hazing rites.

The school would be held accountable and be fined P1 million if its officials failed to prevent hazing.

Lacson added that aside from rites in schools, the measure will also cover hazing activities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Military Academy, and Philippine National Police Academy.

The filing of the bill was prompted by the fatal hazing case of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III during the  initiation rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity September last year.C.N. Dumaua

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