By LYN V. RAMO
BAGUIO CITY – With the oath taking of Pres. Benigno Aquino III on June 30, college students here called on him to veer away from his predecessor’s practice of favoring the military in budget allocations and to prioritize education instead. The students also condemned the worsening campus repression.
The school year has just begun but students belonging to Anakbayan found it fit to raise issues of red baiting, slander and human rights violations within campuses, as one of their leaders filed a complaint before school authorities.
Niño Joseph Oconer, a political science student of Saint Louis University (SLU) and spokesperson of Anakbayan-SLU, filed a complaint against a certain Lt. Adriano dela Cruz, who reportedly maligned his person in front of a class of National Service Training Program (NSTP) in March this year.
Cruz was speaking before students as he showed the now infamous power point presentation “Knowing thy Enemy” and directly maligned Oconer by saying a student leader whose surname begins with an “Oc” and ends with an “r” is an example of a “pronta” (front) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Several groups have criticized the military for red-tagging. Legitimate organizations of youth and students; professionals, including the church; indigenous peoples; workers and peasants were similarly tagged as communist fronts under the previous administration’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2.
“OBL 1& 2 does not differentiate the rebel groups from legitimate people’s organizations,”said Arthur Allad-iw, a teacher and journalist, who received death threats when he ran as city councilor.
Oconer declared these attacks as “aimed solely to sow intrigue and division among youth and students and to demonize youth organizations and leaders [who are] critical of anomalies in government.”
Along with his letter of grievance, Oconer demanded for a public apology from the Armed Forces of the Philippines so that both his and the organization’s name be cleared from allegations.
“The propagation of these defamatory campaigns and the slander of our organization and members only give proof to the Arroyo regime’s continuing indifference to human rights,” Anakbayan Metro Baguio chairperson Paula Pamintuan said.
“We shall intensify our calls to administrations like that of SLU to provide a certain amount of protection for their students, especially student leaders who only strive to exercise their rights to free assembly and freedom of thought. Our schools should not be made instruments of state terror but become free venues for critical thought. We likewise appeal to the future Aquino government to veer away from its predecessor’s favoritism of the military and make education its priority,” Pamintuan said.?
Anakbayan will take these demands to the streets on a nationally coordinated action on July 16 with other student and youth groups, according to Oconer.
According to Anakbayan, Oconer filed the original complaint in March before the university’s Student Affairs Office (SAO), NSTP office and with the university president. No response from school authorities has yet been given to Oconer.
Anakbayan members denounced this indifference as the school administrations’ concession to the Arroyo regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya campaign. (Bulatlat.com)