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Students groups slam ‘red-tagging’

Posted by Abi Kwok on February 26, 2009

By Abigail Kwok

MANILA, Philippines — Youth groups in the Southern Tagalog region condemned what they called an “intensified demonization campaign” against youth activists, some of whom have been openly tagged communists.

In a joint statement on Thursday, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP)-Southern Tagalog, Anakbayan-ST, and Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) said a group identified as SAY ACT (Save the Youth Against Communism and Terrorism) had circulated statements that labeled some activist youth leaders members of the Communist Part of the Philippines.

The statements were allegedly distributed on Tuesday, at the height of the student council elections at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, the groups said.

Among those tagged communists were University Student Council (USC) chairperson and Youth Act Now-Southern Tagalog spokesperson Charisse Bañez; former USC chair and SAKBAYAN chairman Leo Fuentes; UPLB Perspective editor-in-chief Christian Ray Buendia; SAKBAYAN standard bearer Pamela Angelie Pangahas; and NUSP-ST deputy secretary general Rayan Brozula.

SAY ACT also allegedly distributed copies of another statement last February 1 at the Regional Youth Summit, which detailed how progressive student organizations allegedly recruit students to become members of the New People’s Army. The group also urged school administrations to stop sending students to activities of the NUSP, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and other progressive organizations.

“We are student leaders merely serving our duty to uphold and protect the rights of the students and the people who are supporting our education. Calling us communists because we are exercising our right to freedom of expression and our right to dissent is a desperate and under-handed tactic to discredit us,” Banez said.

Last week, a statement was also released by another group, identified as the UPLB Student Movement Against Communism, tagging SAKBAYAN as a communist party.

SAKBAYAN is an alliance of 54 organizations opposed to the commercialization of education, which has also involved itself in various issues in and outside of the campus.

“The heightened red-tagging and campus repression comes at a time when students are actively campaigning against the increase in tuition, massive corruption, and are widely calling for Arroyo’s ouster. It also comes at a time when the national elections is nearing and the Arroyo camp is seeking to silence the discontent of the youth against her administration in a desperate attempt to cleanse the name of the upcoming administration candidates,” John Paulo Bautista, ANAKBAYAN-Southern Tagalog chairman, said.

NUSP national secretary general Henrie Enaje said the labeled groups intend to file cases against the groups that have labeled them and are also seeking a dialogue with Chief Justice Reynato Puno to seek his advice on the legal remedies available to the student groups concerned.


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