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Thomasians, progressive youth groups welcome Lakbayan delegates

The University will host a Lakbayan satellite camp at the Central Seminary Gym from Sept. 11 to 21.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Various groups of indigenous peoples and cultural minorities trooped to Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio last Thursday for the third year of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya.

Under the banner of Sandugo, the groups marched through the streets of Manila despite scattered rain showers to demand an end to the attacks on their communities and to lobby their right to self-determination

“Kami ay pagod, gutom, at pinipigilan sa aming pagpunta dito [sa Maynila],” said Windell Bolinget, leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regarding their struggle.

Several students and progressive youth groups welcomed and joined the protest of more than 3,000 members of national minorities as contingents marched from Blumentritt and Vito Cruz before converging at Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio.

Progressive groups from the University joined the mass mobilization at Mendiola and led the Thomasian community in welcoming delegates from CPA along España.

They were joined by the UST Yellow Jackets, the Central Student Council (CSC), UST SIMBAHAYAN, various University student organizations, and progressive student groups from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in front of the Arch of the Centuries, where they held a short program.

Bolinget expressed gratitude for students that welcomed their delegation.

“Kapag may sumasalubong tulad ninyo at may maalab na pag-welcome sa amin, nakakatulong ‘yun para matagumpay naming maisulong [ang] Lakbayan 2017 para sa makatarungang kapayapaan at sariling pagpasya ng pambansang minorya,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“We are happy at nagagalak na may kumikilos na kabataang estudyante sa loob ng University of Santo Tomas,” Bolinget added, “sana tuloy-tuloy ito.”

The Igorot delegation will be hosted by the University in a satellite camp at the Central Seminary Gym from Sept. 11 to 21, where programs and discussions will be held as part of the month-long caravan.

University of the Philippines (UP) — Diliman will continue to host the Lakbayan main camp.

CSC Public Relations Officer Francis Santos said that the satellite camp will be enlightening for the Thomasian community.

“Para sa akin, malaking tulong ito para sa ating [mga] Tomasino para mamulat [tayo sa] kung ano ba talaga ‘yung sinisigaw ng pambansang minorya at kung bakit kinakailangan pa nilang pumunta dito sa Maynila,” Santos stated in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

CSC Secretary Therese Gorospe delivered a solidarity message on behalf of the Council in an earlier program.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Jane Elago, who was present during the program, told TomasinoWeb that she was pleased with the welcome of the students.

“Nagagalak ang Kabataan [na] ang University of Santo Tomas ay nagbukas ng pintuan para salubungin ang pambansang minorya, partikular ang delegasyon ng Cordillera,” said Elago.

She added, “Malaking bagay na makita ng mga estudyante na meron tayong mga mamamayan na naglakbay pa nang malayo upang mapagtanggol [ang] kanilang isyu at kanilang panawagan for their right to self-determination and just peace.”

Nicolo Bongolan, Tanggulan Youth Network – UST convenor, also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

According to Bongolan, indigenous peoples and minority groups are often red-tagged and harassed by the military for demanding and fighting for their rights.

“[The peace talks are] already part of [the minorities’] struggle for just and lasting peace because, in the first place, all the things they ask for are clearly stated: Land, [fair] salary, work, education and rights,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

However, Bongolan acknowledged that the hope of resuming the talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF “is low right now,” given that Mindanao is currently under martial law.

Nonetheless, Bongolan stressed that the peace talks are a necessity to end poverty in the country, which he deems as “the main root of our nation’s woes.”

Since 2015, national minority groups have conducted and organized the Lakbayan to protest the spate of harassment, killings, red-tagging and intensified militarization in their communities.

Last May, Lumad communities fled to camp in the UP International Center following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 and its subsequent extension until Dec. 31.

The said communities are planning to continue camping in UP beyond the Lakbayan due to intensified military and paramilitary threat in their areas, and threats of bombing Lumad schools coming from the President himself.

They expect to return to their communities by the end of the year, when martial law is expected to be lifted.— A. Ortega, with reports from P. Jamilla and T.D. Aquino

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Red-tagging ‘license to kill’ for law enforcers—solon

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago denounced the continuing red-tagging of activists and academic institutions, emphasizing it endangers the youth and others who are being subjected to the “deadly” practice.

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Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago during the online discussion on campus press freedom yesterday, March 10.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago denounced the continuing red-tagging of activists and academic institutions, emphasizing it endangers the youth and others who are being subjected to the “deadly” practice. 

“Hindi pwedeng trial by publicity, part of public opinion, o sa social media na hinuhusgahan ‘yung mga organizations [at] list of personalities dahil tila ‘yung red-tagging [ay] nagiging license to kill ng mga law enforcement and other rogue elements in our society,” Elago said in an online discussion with campus publications on Wednesday, March 10. 

Elago stressed that the recent tagging of 38 colleges and universities in the country as “recruitment havens” of the New People’s Army violates their right to due process, which deprives them of the chance to defend themselves.

“[R]ed-baiting discredits those who were being targeted, undermine the work they do, and sensationalizes lives […] just to scandalize critics, opposition, and all those who are reporting the trust,” she said. 

According to College Editors Guild of the Philippines National Secretariat Anton Narciso, red-tagging is one of the issues campus journalists continue to face, citing recent attacks on student publications in the University of the Philippines and in other regions. 

“Bagamat nakakatakot po talaga ang red-tagging, kinakailangan na collectively labanan […] dahil wala tayong ibang panghahawakan at wala tayong ibang sasaligan kundi ang ating kolektibong pakikipaglaban,” Narciso said. 

This mirrors the call of various student publications to repeal R.A. 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, and instead, pass a bill that will uphold genuine campus press freedom. 

“It’s high time na meron na tayong solid protection for student journalists, considering that these publications don’t do anything but report the truth,”  Tinig ng Plaridel Editor-in-Chief Cristina Chi said. 

Chi revealed that her publication received death threats, labelling them as “terrorist reporters” through text messages. 

“[T]hey just release stories about the community tapos biglang may red-tagging nang nagaganap,” Chi said.

“At its core, these red-tagging or [similar] actions have no place in our society,” she added.

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Youth most vulnerable to anti-terror law—solon, youth groups

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, along with several youth groups and student councils, condemned the passage of the Anti-Terror Law (ATL), emphasizing it endangers human rights of Filipinos, especially the youth.

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Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago (left) and UST Senior High School Student Council (SHS-SC) representative AJ dela Cruz (right) during an online press conference streamed via Student Christian Movement of the Philippines official Facebook page.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, along with several youth groups and student councils, condemned the passage of the Anti-Terror Law (ATL), emphasizing it endangers human rights of Filipinos, especially the youth. 

“[N]akasalalay dito ang pagpantay ng kinabukasan ng mga kabataang pilipino at ng ating buong bayan, kung kaya’t kinakailangan na tiyakin natin na ang mga kabataan, kasama ng […] sambayanang pilipino, ay nagkakaisa karapatan,” Elago said in an online conference yesterday, Jan. 16. 

Elago stressed that the country is not only in the state of public health emergency, but also in a “state of human rights emergency,” which is why she denounced the controversial ATL. 

“[I]to ay direkta sa House of Representatives na napakarami pang hindi nareresolba na mga kaso ng pamamaslang sa drug war at sa mga human rights violations na natala,” she said. 

Elago reminded the government to prioritize the health sector through free mass testing, intensified contact tracing, and stronger essential health service; and to continue extending help to the citizens who lost their jobs and source of income in this pandemic.


Youth red-tagging

Among the youth groups and student councils who called out the detrimental effects of ATL is the UST Senior High School Student Council (SHS-SC). 

SHS-SC representative AJ dela Cruz said that with the passage of ATL, many students are vulnerable to being red-tagged even if they are just doing their job. 

“[A]ng bagong Anti-Terrorism Law [ay] maaring magtag sa ating mga [student leader] bilang mga terorista kahit ginagawa lang naman natin ang ating mga trabaho,” dela Cruz said.

“[P]atunay ito na ang kalagayan ng mga kabataan na estudyante sa loob ng mga classroom ay hindi hiwalay sa kalagayan ng buong bansa,” he added.

Dela Cruz stressed that student leaders are not just mere event organizers. It is also their responsibility to “amplify issues” such as ATL to the student body. 

“Nakikita natin kung paano tayo nanunumbalik sa ating mga roots bilang mga [student leader] na nanguna sa paglaban kina Marcos at Erap, kung paano natin ginagampanan ang konstitusyonal na mandato bilang nation builders,” dela Cruz said. 

The press conference was streamed virtually in the official Facebook page of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines. 

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Include youth in climate measures, environmental activists say

Environmental activists demanded the government Friday, Sept. 25, for the inclusion of youth participation in measures against the climate injustices in the country. 

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Environmental activists demanded the government Friday, Sept. 25, for the inclusion of youth participation in measures against the climate injustices in the country. 

“[A]dapt the youth agenda. You need to designate spaces for us. Co-power us and include us in plans and decision making,” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Kisha Muana said. 

Muana stressed the need for a formal youth representation in local and national policies, citing the absence of policy actions concerning the youth’s needs in the government executive recovery plan.

According to Philippine Youth Climate Movement Director Ruzzel Morales, the youth can significantly contribute in provoking the system to generate changes. 

Morales called on the National Youth Commission to “genuinely advocate” the Filipino youth in the government. 

“Enough of your lip service. We want action and we want it now,” she said. 

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago urged Congress to take a stand on the environmental affairs of the country.

“Kailangan natin na patuloy ipadinig ang boses na naghuhumiyaw at naninindigan para sa pananagutan sa mga tao sa kinauukulan at para sa tungkulin ng bawat isang lingkod bayan na paglingkuran ang sambayanang Pilipino,” Elago said.

According to Elago, there are seven environment-related bills that are already in the period of debate in the Congress and Senate, while 13 have passed the third reading. 

The “Para sa Klimabukasan Global Day of Climate Action” digital strike and forum was co-organized by Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines, Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, I am Hampaslupa Inc., Living Laudato Si Philippines, Pangasinan Youth for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, STEP Philippines, SUSG Environment Committee, and We the Future PH inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. Wendell Adrian Quijado

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