Days of disquiet: Students bare 'harassment' under Duterte admin

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Oct 03 2017 05:59 PM

Some students hold a press conference on Tuesday calling on President Duterte to resign. Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A mass organization of Filipino community youth and students on Tuesday, Oct. 3 called on President Rodrigo Duterte to resign, citing the persistent killings of minors and largely poor suspects in his drug war. 

“Itigil na ang pagpatay! Duterte, resign!” leaders of the 40,000-strong organization chanted at a press conference highlighting cases of government intelligence forces threatening student activists and their families. 

Vinz Simon, chair of Anakbayan’s De La Salle University chapter, said youth are also protesting martial law in Mindanao, the attacks against children and schools as part of the state’s anti-insurgency campaign, and the intrusion of superpowers, like the United States and China, in national affairs. 

Citing new war games between the US and the Philippines, and China muscling into the government's ambitious infrastructure program, Anakbayan said Duterte's posturing as a "progressive leader" has been unmasked as "a sham".

Anakbayan presented five cases of harassment of student activists in late September and October. 

Most of the victims requested for their names to be withheld. All five, however, have vowed to continue organizing and mobilizing students and community youth.

Student says soldiers paid her parents' home in Batangas a visit. Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

Eden (not her real name) said soldiers in exercise uniforms dropped by her parents' home in Nasugbu, Batangas on September 20, around noon and demanded to know her whereabouts. 

They also asked the family if they had knowledge of the 18-year-old senior high school, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) student’s involvement in activism.

Eden, an officer of the school's League of Filipino Students chapter, blinked back tears as she narrated her mother's panic and appeal for her to migrate abroad for safety's sake.

Her mother, a farmer who has also been involved in peasant campaigns, has always supported her activist daughter. 

"Now, she is torn, because those soldiers threatened the security of her child and that of the rest of the family," Eden told news.abs-cbn.com

Threats

Simon said an officer of the Anakbayan chapter in the high-end De La Salle University main Manila campus also reported a visit by plainclothes men to the family home in Caloocan City, which has figured in the killings of youth.

Two men in civilian clothes arrived at 8 am. on Oct. 1

"The were welcomed by my father. They introduced themselves as members of the Caloocan Police District," the student said in a written report to Anakbayan. 
 
"They carried with them a brown envelope containing two sheets of paper with police's logo... They pulled out two sheets of paper containing a log of my whereabouts from 10 p.m. onwards," including where he got off the main road, said the student. 

The police claimed they have "a policy to profile all people who do not follow the city's prescribed curfew."

The visitors also told the parents they have instructions to "take down" the organization's city chapter "for being subversive." 

The police even mentioned the arrest on February 12 of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) campaign officer Ferdinand Castillo to show they mean business, the student added. Police filed illegal possession of firearms and murder and attempted murder charges against the 57-year-old Castillo, who reportedly suffers from malaria, gout, rheumatic heart disease, colon bleeding and hypertension.

Then they told the La Salle student’s parents that "to be with the police is the safest method.”

"One of them suggested that I cast away my affiliations with leftist orgs so my name can be cleared away from the watch list,” the report said. "One of them then exposed that they can know where activists live in Caloocan, and it is not good for me to undergo the same treatment."

"They said that I will be under continued surveillance from now on. The guests also urged that I take immediate action to ‘erase’ my affiliations or else the consequences may be dire for me and my group,” the student said.

PUP students under attack

Carl Paulie Anareta, outgoing student regent of PUP, said an Anakbayan officer and third year Computer Science student was stopped by two men aboard a motorcycle on Anonas St., just outside the university’s engineering college on September 28, 3 p.m.

The two men, also in plainclothes, tried to take away his backpack.

“They told him, ‘we know where you go inside the campus, and outside the school and even in the community,” Anareta told news.abs-cbn.com. 

The student managed to run to a nearby computer shop and the men sped away. He asked the help of “random strangers,” who kept watch until he was safely boarded on a public jeepney.

The following day, a female PUP senior high school student of the humanities and social science track was accosted on a bus along the main Sta. Mesa road as she headed home in the evening of Sept. 28.

The student, Anareta said, was part of a group of 400 youth that protested at the school’s main gate against alleged repressive activities by the student administration.

“She was tired and had gone to sleep. Someone nudged her awake,” Anareta said.

“The man said, ‘kilala kita, baka ma-murder ka mamaya’,” the student leader added.

He said the student was so tired the threat didn’t immediately sink in.

“She even told him, ‘I don’t care; go away, I’m sleepy”,” Anareta added.

Only when she had transferred to another bus did the threat sink in, prompting the student to call Anakbayan officers.

This won’t be the first time students and community youth have faced threats. The youth have always played an important role in major political and social campaigns, Simon said, including the national resistance during Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos.

“We will stand firm. We will resist tyranny,” the student leader said. “We are ready to face the challenges of our time.”

PUP President Emanuel de Guzman last week belied the allegations of repression in the state university.