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Magtanim ay ‘di biro: Rice Liberalization Law backfires

“What affects the farmers the most is the all-time low prices of their copra and palay and there is nothing else to be blamed for this but the anti-farmers program Rice Tariffication Law and the perpetual negligence of the government towards the agriculture sector.”

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Farmers and militant groups rallying in front Mendiola Gate in Manila on Oct. 21, 2019 | Jaime Taganas/TomasinoWeb

The promise of Rice Liberalization Law (RLL) to aid both the Filipino farmers and consumers falls short as it devastates the palay industry and the livelihood of local rice farmers.

Fifty-eight-year old Dominador Abarcar’s outcry are the lack of irrigation in their farming land and the incessant rice imports which continuously strike heavy blows in the price of his palay.

“Kasi sa dami ng mga [iniimport na bigas dito], naaapektuhan kami dito kasi nako-kontrol yung price ng palay dito sa amin,” the farmer from San Nicolas, Pangasinan told TomasinoWeb in a phone interview.

He said that they were left with no choice but to trade with the buyers in their area from whom they have loans because they needed the money for their livelihood.

“The Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) had to be enacted to liberalize the importation of rice with tariff…allowing the Philippines to limit rice imports for a specific period of time in order to give the Philippines enough time to make our rice farmers competitive,” Senator Cynthia Villar, the primary author of RLL, said in a statement sent to TomasinoWeb.

“The rice farmers will benefit by reducing their production costs, increasing their farm yields, and ultimately raising incomes,” she said.

10-billion pesos, according to Villar, will also be allotted for rice farmers through the creation of Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under RLL. This includes farm equipment and technology, assistance programs, irrigation projects, and fertilizers.

In addition to RCEF, excess to the tariff collected by the Bureau of Customs from rice importers beyond the 10 billion pesos will be distributed to rice farmers in the form of unconditional cash transfer.

“[Y]ung sa irrigation wala ho eh. Walang nagpopondo sa amin,” Abarcar said when asked about how the local government acts on their irrigation problems.

For him, the adverse effects of RLL which now burden many farmers like him will only be resolved if the entry of imported rice will cease and if the National Food Authority (NFA) will take in charge of the palay trade in the country.

“Ang gusto namin sana totoo yung sinasabi ni Rodrigo Duterte na…wala nang papasok na imported na bigas dito sa amin… na hahawakan na ng NFA yung sa magsasaka,” Abarcar said.

Farmers from Western Samar have also been lamenting over the same absence of government assistance after the devastation brought by El Niño last year.

“Nagpupunta sila doon [sinasabing] tutulungan kaming magsasaka. Tinatanong ko nga isa isa kung ano [ang]  ikaaangat ng mahihirap na magsasaka. Ang sinasabi [nila] bibigyang puhunan para maka-angat naman,” farmer Allan Labong said. “[Hanggang] ngayon hindi pa naman ‘yon dumadating.”

In an official statement released by Stand with Samar-Leyte Network, Eastern Visayas region was once the primary source of copra and palay but now it has been experiencing a decrease in production since 2013 after the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda.

“What affects the farmers the most is the all-time low prices of their copra and palay [which] now plummeted at 10 pesos and below [and there] is nothing else to be blamed for this but the anti-farmers program Rice Tariffication Law and the perpetual negligence of the government towards the agriculture sector…” it said.

Agricultural crisis

Research group IBON media said that government’s “long-time neglect and chronically low prioritization” of the agriculture sector gave rise to the agriculture crisis.

“This is in line with government’s advancement of neoliberal policies favoring local and foreign big business. The Duterte government continues this by giving minimal support to the agriculture sector.” IBON said.

Signs that the crisis is worsening, according to IBON, include the declining share in gross domestic product and agricultural productivity per capita, increasing import dependence, rising trade deficit, and widespread rural poverty.

“The agriculture sector’s share in the economy has [shrunken] from over 40% in the 1960s to less than 10% in 2018,” they said.

Reduction of all forms of loans, according to IBON, including amortization for awarded lands, and substantial increase in support and subsidies for the agriculture and agrarian reform sectors are the immediate steps that should be done by the government to alleviate the agriculture crisis.

“It should also suspend, and eventually repeal, policies like the Rice Liberalization Law, that are harming domestic production and farmers’ livelihoods,” they added.

“But to truly strengthen domestic agriculture, [the] government needs to implement long-term policies that prioritize rural development over big business interests.”

‘Man-made calamity’

Civic leaders expressed their resentment and disapproval of the RLL in several interviews with TomasinoWeb during a farmers’ rally in Mendiola last October 2019.

For former representative of Anakpawis party-list and chairman of the farmers militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, the RLL is a “catastrophic man-made calamity” as it destroys the livelihood of farmers and the agriculture sector in which the country’s staple food is sourced.

“Talagang salot ‘yan, hindi lamang sa kabuhayan ng ating mga magsasaka—pangunahin ‘yon—kung hindi salot ‘yan sa lokal nating produksiyon ng palay, bigas, at pagkaing butil sa bansa, bilang staple food natin ‘yan,” Mariano said.

He also mentioned that the RLL itself violates the constitution: “…Sa 1987 Constitution, malinaw doon na may pertinenteng probisiyon [na] nagtatadhanang ‘the state shall defend the right of a family to a family-living wage and income.’ ‘Di ba labag ‘yon?”

“Sa declaration of principle and state policies na nagsasabi yung Section 19: ‘The state shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.’ ‘Di ba labag ‘yang pinirmahan ni Duterte na ‘yan?” he added.

Rice insufficiency

According to IBON, Duterte government has painted a picture that the country can never be rice self-sufficient.

“Rice import dependency ratio declined from 9% in 1990 to 5% in 2016. But this rose to 6.6% in 2017 and is expected to be higher due to the influx of rice imports under the Rice Liberalization Law,” they said.

Villar stated otherwise: “We are not depending on rice imports. The RCEF will enable the 947 rice producing towns to mechanize by giving them machines at the rate of P5B/year where each town shall be receiving P5M a year for the next six years.”

“Filipino rice farmers will become more competitive and the Philippines will become rice sufficient,” she added.

Mariano similarly stressed that if the palay industry dwindles amid a subsequent global food crisis, the local food security will be at risk.

“Hindi tayo dapat umasa sa pandaigdigang pamilihan kasi kahit may dolyar tayo…kung wala ka namang maangkat na bigas—Traditionally itong mga rice exporting countries malaunan niyan, ‘pag tinamaan din itong climate change, bumaba ang kanilang lokal na rice production, so maghihigpit ‘yan at hindi na rin sila mag-eexport ng kanilang bigas,” he said.

IBON maintained that RLL jeopardizes the country’s food security: “The Philippines has now embarked on imports liberalization of its staple – a dangerous path not just for the country’s food security, but more importantly, for that elusive economic development.”

NFA’s road to demise

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Aside from the “drought” in support and subsidy for the farmers, Mariano said the “neoliberal economic policies na liberalization, deregulation, privatization” of the RTL will soon lead to the privatization of the NFA.

Mariano and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes expressed the same sentiments that the RLL should be revoked to regulate again the rice import and called for the strengthening of NFA for it to influence palay price.

“Ang first thing na kailangan gawin is to reverse the decline dun sa livelihood. So tatanggalin mo yung Rice Tariffication Law [at] i-reregulate mo yung import. Puwede magpasa ng legislation that can strengthen the NFA. Increase its budget and its purchasing [capacity] para sa domestic rice producers,” Reyes said.

“Kailangan ng NFA ang 40 billion pesos para at least mabili niya at least yung 10 percent ng total palay production natin sa bansa,” Mariano said.

Mariano explained that there should be a “floor price” in the price of rice and palay to avoid too much fluctuation because there is no reason for the price of local rice to increase.

“Dahil ang rule of thumb diyan, ‘pag bumili ka ng 20 pesos per kilo ng palay, multiplied by 70 percent—‘yon na yung dagdag na cost to produce one kilo of rice—so 14 pesos. Idadagdag mo lang 14 pesos sa 20 pesos, so dapat presyo ng bigas 34 pesos […] may kita na ang retailers. […] Eh magkano presyo ngayon?…38 pesos to 44. Walang dahilan para tumaas yung presyo ng bigas,” he said.

“Kung NFA naman ang bibili no’n, puwede pa rin. Kung well milled rice, binili mo ng locally produced, P20 clean and dry sa magsasaka, so puwede mong ibenta pa rin ng P30 ang release price kung well milled rice, at P25 per kilo kung regular milled rice. May subsidy,” he said. “Yung subsidy na ‘yon ituring na social cost, hindi financial losses para sa NFA,” Mariano said.

Mariano also explained that the privatization of the NFA will limit its operations because its buying of palay will be limited only to its buffer stock or the rice consumption good for 15 to 30 days, and will only serve during emergency situations. In addition, only private businesses will sell rice in the country making it difficult to know the total rice inventory of the country.

Meanwhile, UST Political Science Department Chairperson Asst. Prof. Dennis Coronacion, Ph.D. said that removing NFA will also remove the regulating mechanism or office in the country’s agricultural sector.

“Ang purpose naman kasi ng NFA is to regulate ‘yung market. Probably ‘yung regulation mechanism or office, ‘pag tinanggal mo wala nang magre-regulate. Who else will set the price? You don’t expect the market in setting the price or prices to think of the welfare of the consumers. […] It’s the role of the state,” Coronacion told TomasinoWeb in an exclusive interview.

Mariano and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estabillo also called for the enactment of laws that will truly support the agriculture of the country such as the House Bill Resolution No. 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act and Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill or the Free Land Distribution Bill.

“[At saka] lang magiging competitive ang ating magsasaka kung yung mga pangangailangan nila, yung [kasiguraduhan] dun sa lupang sinasaka nila, subsidized loans, subsidized inputs, at the same time, ay tiyakin na mataas binibili yung palay ng ating mga magsasaka sa pamamagitan ng NFA,” Estabillo said.

Build or destroy?

“Build-Build-Build” projects of the government, according to Mariano, affect much of the agriculture sector which shrink the agricultural lands in the country.

“Paubos nang paubos ang ating agricultural lands. Eh ang agricultural lands lang naman ang klasipikasyon ng lupa sa ating bansa na puwedeng…ireclassify. Eh ‘pag hindi natin pinrotektahan ‘yan mauubos yung agricultural lands natin,” he said.

“’Yang mga Build-Build projects na ‘yan na malalaking highways sumasagasa sa ating mga productive agricultural lands. Lalo na yung mga irrigated rice lands natin. Eh dito sa norte meron tayong NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX… Babagtasin no’n humigit kumulang 400 hectares of productive rice—irrigated rice lands,” Mariano added.

Women farmers, affected families

For Estabillo, who is also the secretary-general of the national federation of peasant women AMIHAN, the “all-time-low” palay price affect not just the farmers’ livelihood but also displaced women farmers.

“‘Yung kababaihang magsasaka marami ang umaalis sa kanilang komunidad para maghanap ng mapagkakakitaan sa mga bayan-bayan kahit na katulong, labandera, nagtitinda-tinda. At saka ang masakit, siyempre, iniiwan nila yung mga anak,” she said.

Aside from affecting their families, there is also a possibility of farmers losing their lands due to the continuous deficits in their palay production and livelihood.

“Andun din yung tendency na nare-remata yung kanilang mga bukid dahil naisangla [ito] para makakuha ng puhunan, para makapagtanim ng palay. Pero dahil dalawang beses na silang luging-lugi, mas mataas yung porsyento na nareremata at naibebenta na nila yung kanilang mga bukirin,” Estabillo said.

“Ang usapin sa pagkain ay usapin ng buong mamamayang Pilipino. […] Sana maging bahagi [tayo] dun sa iba’t ibang kampanyang inilulunsad ng ating mga magsasaka dahil tanging sa pagpapatupad ng tunay na reporma sa lupa maa-attain natin yung kasiguraduhan natin sa pagkain,” she added.

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Mga Tomasinong student-leader, dismayado sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

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Nanawagan ang mga Tomasinong student leader sa Unibersidad na bigyang-linaw at agarang abiso hinggil sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula para sa AY 2021 – 2022.

Noong ika-23 ng Hulyo, matatandaang ibinalik ng Unibersidad ang 50 porsyentong downpayment sa matrikula ng mga freshmen kasunod ng anunsyo na hindi ito magpapatupad ng tuition hike sa panibagong akademikong taon.

Nagpahiwatig ng pagkadismaya ang tagapagsalita ng Central Student Council (CSC) Central Board na si Nathan Agustin, Internal Vice-President ng Communication Arts Students Association (CASA) na si Jeia Jazul, at Internal Vice-President ng UST Journalism Society na si Sophia Castillo sa kakulangan ng komunikasyon at representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa mga inilalabas na patakaran ng Unibersidad.

“They should have consulted us through announcements man lang, even if hindi direkta agad sa councils, […] so that we may immediately say our views or if hindi na talaga mababago, makapag-prepare sana tayo, ‘di ba?” ani ni Agustin sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Binigyang-diin ni Agustin ang pagkakaroon ng maayos na konsultasyon sa pagitan ng Unibersidad at mga mag-aaral bago magpatupad ng mga polisiya para maiwasan ang paulit-ulit na batikos mula sa mga mag-aaral ukol rito.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang pagkakaroon ng representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa pagpapatupad ng iba’t ibang polisiya sa nakaraang State of Thomasian Address 2021 noong ika-24 ng Hulyo.

READ  New central board officers to push for students’ code, other pro-student policies

Sa isang panayam, nagbigay ng karagdagang paliwanag si Jazul kung bakit mahalaga na bigyang-pansin ang mga hinaing ng mga mag-aaral sa mga ipinatutupad ng Unibersidad.

“Students are the main stakeholders of the University. The school should be listening to the concerns of its students, especially financial [matters]. Instead of increasing the fees, I would ask to please keep it at how much we’ve been paying before when consideration of the pandemic was still a concern,” aniya.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Agustin ang muling pagsingil ng mga dagdag na bayarin mula sa mga mag-aaral katulad ng energy, medical, at dental fees na hindi nagamit ng mga mag-aaral noong nakaraang termino.

“Although there are no tuition fee increases, tandaan natin, hiwalay ang other at miscellaneous fees. Wala ngang tuition fee increase, meron namang other fee increase, meron namang miscellaneous fee increase,” sabi ni Agustin.

Mas mababang downpayment, hindi pa rin sapat umano

Ayon kay Agustin, sa kanilang pagpupulong kasama ang Office of the Vice Rector for Finance (OVRF), sumang-ayon at binaba na ng Unibersidad ang downpayment mula sa 50 porsyento ng matrikula sa P15,000. 

Dagdag pa niya, sa kabila ng pagbaba ng downpayment, masyado pa rin itong mataas para sa ilang mga mag-aaral na nakararanas ng problemang pinansyal dahil sa mas pinahigpit na lockdown dulot ng lumalalang pandemya.

“Even if this amount may not be too much for some, it is too much for others, so there [are] students who may be discouraged to enroll, especially if they don’t know na may means pala para makapag-enroll sila by writing a letter to OVRF,” ani ni Agustin.

Para kay Jazul, hindi nakabubuti ang pagtaas ng mga bayarin sa kabila ng nagpapatuloy na pandemya dahil napipilitang tumigil sa pag-aaral ang mga apektadong mag-aaral.

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

READ  Birtwal na klase, hamon sa mga mag-aaral ng unang taon sa kolehiyo

Inihambing ni Castillo sa isang bitin na eksena sa pelikula ang kanyang pangamba na posibleng hindi siya makapagtapos ng kanyang huling taon sa Unibersidad dahil sa nasabing pagtaas ng bayarin.

“Natatakot ako kasi paano if, yes, naka-enroll ka this semester, pero what if [sa] next sem, tumaas ulit ang tuition or ang downpayment? Parang nasa peak ka ng pag-aaral sabay cut eh,” aniya.

Nitong Biyernes, pinalawig ng Unibersidad ang enrollment para sa unang termino ng panibagong akademikong taon hanggang Miyerkules, ika-25 ng Agosto.

Iniulat ng Department of Education na halos isang milyong mag-aaral ang hindi nakapag-enrol ngayong AY 2021-2022.

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Birtwal na klase, hamon sa mga mag-aaral ng unang taon sa kolehiyo

“It really feels isolating, especially as students working alone [sa activities o schoolworks]. So feel mo na if there’s actual learning ba talaga, may na-absorb ka bang relevant for your future work?” sabi ni Pellejo.

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(Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

Noong ika-9 ng Marso 2020, sinuspinde ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Maynila ang klase sa lahat ng antas. Ito ang pinakahuling pagsuspinde ng klase sa face-to-face na setup.

Ang Batch 2024 ang unang pangkat ng mga mag-aaral na hindi pa nakararanas ng face-to-face setup dulot ng COVID-19. Mananatiling sa online gaganapin ang pagsisimula ng klase sa panibagong akademikong taon, na ikinalungkot ng ilang mga Tomasino.

“Hindi katulad kapag [n]asa school ka, you’re set kasi na magtrabaho sa school, hindi katulad sa bahay,” ani ni Angela Atejera, isang mag-aaral mula sa BS Medical Technology, sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Dagdag pa niya, iba pa rin ang pakiramdam kapag siya ay nasa loob ng paaralan dahil kasama niya ang kanyang kapwa mag-aaral na mayroon ding gawaing pampaaralan at maaari niyang pagtanungan kapag siya ay nalilito sa isang aralin.

Sa isa pang panayam, ang kawalan ng sapat na pisikal na interaksyon ang nagiging dahilan ng pagka “drain” o pagkaubos ng lakas ng mga mag-aaral.

“Totoo nga ‘yong sinasabi nila na nakakasira siya ng mental health kasi before diba we have our friends to vent out—[ka]pag example mababa nakuha sa quiz or may kahit anong problema—pero ngayon parang all we have is ourselves,” ani ni Rein Bernadette Del Rosario, isang mag-aaral mula sa AB Journalism.

“Iba pa rin talaga ‘yong feeling na nasa university talaga then you meet your classmates and professors personally,” dagdag pa nito.

Gaya ni Atejera, pangalawang taon na rin ni Del Rosario sa kolehiyo. 

Ayon kay Therese Pellejo, isang sikologo at dating propesor mula sa College of Science, malaki ang negatibong epekto ng pagkawala ng pisikal na interaksyon sa loob ng klase sapagkat nakakadagdag ito sa “anxiety” at “stress” ng mga mag-aaral.

“Ngayon na naging online, there’s that illusion that teachers have na students have more time, so we therefore should give more workload—which overwhelms the students,” sabi ni Pellejo.

Dagdag nito, dahil sa mga patong-patong na gawain at stress, maaaring magdulot ito sa mas kaunting impormasyon na matututunan ng mga mag-aaral. 

“It really feels isolating, especially as students working alone [sa activities o schoolworks]. So feel mo na if there’s actual learning ba talaga, may na-absorb ka bang relevant for your future work?” sabi ni Pellejo.

Pagsalubong ng isang freshman

Gaya ng Baccalaureate Mass, ginanap sa UST Minecraft ang taun-taong Thomasian Welcome Walk na tradisyon ng Unibersidad.

(TINGNAN: Naghahanda ang mga freshmen na tumawid sa Arch of the Centuries sa loob UST Minecraft ngayong Thomasian Welcome Walk.)

Ibinahagi ni Marie Bernadine Pascua, isang AB Legal Management freshman, ang lungkot at panghihinayang na hindi niya mararanasan ang mga tradisyon at pagdiriwang na isinasagawa tuwing idinaraos ang freshmen week nang face-to-face.

“Kahit na nagawan naman ng paraan upang mapagdiwang ang mga ito sa birtwal na pamamaraan, iba parin kasi ang pakiramdam at ang karanasan kung magaganap ito nang pisikal,” ani ni Pascua.

“Gayunpaman, eenjoy-in ko pa rin ito dahil sigurado akong lubos itong pinaghandaan ng iba’t ibang mga departamento at organisasyon sa UST,” dagdag pa nito.

Binigyang-diin din ni Pascua ang pagbibigay ng solusyon sa mga problemang naranasan niya noong Senior High School, tulad ng “communication at learning barrier,” para sa panibagong akademikong taon.

“Sa kadahilanang iba’t iba ang sitwasyon ng mga guro at mag-aaral sa ganitong panahon, ine-expect ko rin ang pagkakaroon ng konsiderasyon sa bawat isa ngayong may pandemya,” aniya.

Noong Biyernes, ika-30 ng Hulyo, inanunsyo ni Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque sa isang press briefing na isasailalim muli sa enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) ang Metro Manila mula ika-6 hanggang ika-20 ng Agosto. Dahil dito, ipinagpaliban muna sa ika-12 ng Agosto ang pagsisimula ng klase upang magbigay ng sapat na oras ng paghahanda sa bagong paghihigpit na ito.

Matatandaan din na noong Marso, binanggit ni Commission on Higher Education chair Prospero de Vera III na malabong maibabalik sa tradisyunal na face-to-face classes ang mga paaralan at ipagpapatuloy na ipatupad ang flexible learning. Kasama ng mga ulat mula kay Ian Patrick Laqui

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Persecution, not activism, besets student leaders

Since last year, several student activists have been red-tagged, and they were either in the student councils or were vying for the positions. 

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Ian Patrick Laqui/TomasinoWeb

A student leader’s affiliation with a human rights organization resulted in his non-readmission in the next academic term, igniting suspicions of a university administration-led witch hunt among Thomasians. 

Since last year, several student activists have been red-tagged by the school administration, along with the right-wing organization “The Right Thomasian.” The red-tagged students were either in the student council or were vying for the positions. 

The hunt first plagued student activists at the University of Santo Tomas, but at present, even student leaders are no longer exempted. They are also primary targets. 

Witch hunt, defined as an attempt to find and punish a particular group of people who are blamed for something, often because of their opinions and not because they have done anything wrong.

Shoti Ampatuan made headlines in January after being persecuted for “joining unrecognized organizations.” The show-cause order released by the University barred him from enrolling in the next academic year. 

Ampatuan was also removed from his head council position in the Senior High School Student Council (SHS-SC) , and was denied his certificate of good moral character, which is an essential requirement for admission in some schools.

“I became worried about my safety, knowing that it became rampant [and] that even my former school and teachers knew about this,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

Ampatuan revealed that his mental health deteriorated due to threatening and intimidating social media comments, which overwhelmed him, having almost five months left to serve in the student council. 

I feel like may pagkukulang ako knowing na I still have four to five remaining months to prove myself, to prove that the council prepared a lot from the body and the constituents,” Ampatuan said.

‘I never felt safe’

Avery Alo, another SHS student and a presidential candidate in the SHS-SC elections, also faced charges from the SHS administration, and a parent accused him of recruiting students to join Anakbayan. 

Alo almost had the same fate as Amputan but was acquitted on Feb. 15 due to a “lack of sufficient evidence.” He “never felt safe” after the incident and receiving threats and intimidation through SMS. 

Nandoon pa rin po ‘yung threat of being sent a show cause letter or being red-tagged, and I think ‘yon po ang isa sa mga effects sa akin ng red-tagging, like I never felt safe anymore in our university,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“Honestly, I was scared na baka matulad po ‘yung nangyari kay Kuya Shoti na mangyari din sa akin, because alam naman po natin na tinanggal po siya sa council then ‘di po siya bibigyan ng good moral […] I feared for my stay in the university,” he said.

He expressed concern that UST is being used as a tool for the witch-hunting of progressive groups and called for the administration to change specific provisions to prevent further incidents.

I think po it’s high time po para baguhin ‘yung mga provisions na ‘yon kasi it does not do anything [good] to the students,” Alo said.

“It does not help them to improve upon themselves which is lagi nila pong sinasabi ng aming admin na tutulungan daw nila po kami na mas maging better students, which in that case, it only endangers students and it does not even help us in any way,” he added.

Unwarranted labelling

Jeric Mataga, a second-year IICS student, was in the middle of his virtual miting de avance speech on April 30 when the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) ordered him to change his background showing a protest. 

“I’m literally going to talk about red-tagging here and they’re going to red-tag me because of my background,” Mataga said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

When asked about his thoughts on OSA’s alleged red-tagging, Mataga said the students deserve fairness and justice rather than unwanted labelling.

“There are many things much worse than student activism. Keep that in mind. The students deserve fairness and justice, not unwarranted scrutiny and red-tagging,” he added.

As a student activist himself, Mataga advocated for the formation of the student’s code to amplify students’ voices.

He has also been red-tagged The Right Thomasian, which is no stranger to committing such acts. It notoriously labeled student leaders, ordinary students, and even professors in the university.

Nagalit ako. Sa dami-daming pwedeng gawin sa buhay, mangrered-tag ka pa. ‘Di ka na nga nakatulong, nakakapahamak ka pa ng tao,” he said in an interview.

In facing the threats and labelling, Mataga “did not even flinch,” saying that he would probably stop doing his advocacies if he is scared.

Bakit ako matatakot? Kung sa simpleng troll page lang natakot ako e ‘di matagal na akong tumigil sa mga pinaglalaban kong advocacies,” he said.

Mataga “chose to ignore” the threats and red-tagging, saying that they should receive less attention. 

Dr. Mark Abenir, a Development Studies Faculty from the Ateneo de Manila University and former Professor from the UST Department of Sociology, warned that red-tagging the youth and student leaders is dangerous.

Kapag ang bata may napansin siya kung anong mali, sasabihin niya kung anong mali. Ganun din ang kabataan because of what they’ve learned in school [or] university [which] are the things that should be done ideally,” Abenir said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“Once we red-tag the youth, we tell them to shut up. We tell them to stop contributing to critical progress. We tell them to stop telling what is wrong in society. And if the youth stop telling us that, it will be a dark future,” he said.

Abenir strongly believes that institutions should be bastions of academic freedom.

“As institutions, we should be bastions of academic freedom kung saan ang tamang paniniwala natin ay pwede nating iexpress. Because nagnu-nurture ka ng future generations and you want [those] future generations to speak out,” he added.

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