Youth groups decry rising harassment of student activists

FILE PHOTO: Youth groups at the March 8 International Working Women’s Day rally (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Collegian)

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat

MANILA – Progressive youth groups denounced the recent spate of cases of harassment on their ranks, specifically, on leaders and members of Anakbayan.

Attacks on activists by police and suspected state security forces increased after the Sept. 21 anti-tyranny rally, when youth and student groups mobilized scores of protesters in major state universities nationwide, and comprised a bulk of those in Luneta, Manila.

Anakbayan National condemned the “fascist attacks” against its members, linking these to the youth’s strong opposition against the Duterte administration’s War on Drugs, War on Terror and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

Calling the Duterte administration a “fascist government,” Vinz Simon, chairman of Anakbayan-De La Salle University chapter, said the youth will not to be intimidated. One of their members was “visited” by two police men at her home in Caloocan City on Sunday, Oct. 1.

On Sept. 28, an Anakbayan leader in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines was attacked and robbed by suspected military agents. This was amid the PUP administration’s moves to take over the campus publication, The Catalyst and replacement of the elected student regent.

In an interview with Bulatlat, Simon said their colleague preferred not be named as her family is deeply worried over her safety. According to Anakbayan’s account of the incident, the female student leader was visited in her house in Caloocan last Sunday by two men, both in plainclothes and unarmed, who introduced themselves as members of the Caloocan City Police District.

The police men talked to the youth leader in front of her parents, pulled out a log report and cited her detailed whereabouts including her route going home. The police told them they had reports that she is an activist and they are instructed to “take down” Anakbayan in Caloocan which they called “subversive.”

“They chuckled as they mentioned Ferdinand Castillo, 57-year-old Bayan-National Capital Region officer arrested in Caloocan earlier this year, being jailed as a result of their ‘intel work,’” the report read.

One of the policemen said they knew where activists in Caloocan live and told her that she is under surveillance. They advised her to cooperate for her own safety and to dissociate from Anakbayan to clear her name out of their “watch list.”

Simon said that the Anakbayan-DLSU leader is a convenor of the anti-fascist network, Tanggulan Youth Network-Vito Cruz.

“But she was not disheartened to carry on her tasks in the youth movement, although as of now, she has to consider her safety and that of her family,” Simon said in a telephone interview with Bulatlat.

On Sept. 28, another female Anakbayan leader, of PUP this time, was attacked by two suspected state security forces. She was walking near the PUP College of Engineering when two men on a motorcycle blocked her. The men told her that she was being monitored and their accomplice is also tailing her inside the campus.

“The youth leader told them she didn’t know what they were talking about. But when she motioned to leave, the two tried to snatch her bag. She forced her way out of the clutches of the two men and ran towards a computer shop where there were people gathered,” the Anakbayan report read.

The men followed her, and stayed by the door of the computer shop. She had to ask help from the shop custodian so that she could escape the two men.

“This only shows the fascism of the Duterte government and how we need to stand up against it,” Simon said.

He said history would show how the youth and students have contributed in the mass movement for change. They were arrested, tortured, detained and many were also killed. But the youth rose against fascism from the Martial Law of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and continues to do so under the Duterte administration, he said.

“Di kami patitinag bagkus ay kikilos para sa pagpapabagsak ng rehimeng US-Duterte (We will not be cowed, and will instead act to oust the US-Duterte regime),” he added.

League of Filipino Student spokesperson JP Rosos, meanwhile, said that attacks on student leaders and the repression of organizations and campus publications show that the Duterte government is threatened.

“State forces going on the extra mile to visit homes of activists is a sign of desperation. Their threats of including citizens in the ‘hit list’, especially those who actively participate in mass demonstrations, are nothing but an attempt of a rotting system afraid of its eventual decay,” Rosos said.

He said the collective mobilization of the masses and the youth to attain their legitimate demands is a threat to the ruling elite, comprised of big businessmen and landlords.

“(The ruling class) resorts to further imposing its power through state-controlled institutions such as media networks and schools, and even utilizing state-forces, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to harass and terrorize the people,” Rosos said. (http://bulatlat.com)

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