Youth group slams AFP’s continued red-baiting of activists

By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY – Anakbayan-Cordillera slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) because of its continuing red-baiting of progressive youth organizations in the region.

“They continue attacking the progressive organizations even if many people have already complained about it,” Niño Joseph Oconer, Anakbayan-Saint Louis University (SLU) spokesperson, said in an interview.

Oconer himself has been a victim of red-baiting since 2010’s National Service Training Program (NSTP) symposium held in SLU. A certain Agnes Lopez Reano tagged him as an alleged member of the New Peoples Army (NPA) who supposedly enrolled only to recruit youths to carry arms. This, Oconer said, is a violation of his right to security.

Until now, Oconer said his name and that of his organization are being used as examples of NPA in academic symposia and even at the summits held by Sangguninang Kabataan (SK) leadership.

Recently, Anakbayan members in Benguet State University (BSU) reported that during their NSTP symposium, Reano, who introduced herself as a former NPA, warned the freshmen students not to join progressive organizations including Anakbayan because these groups will allegedly just poison their minds and eventually persuade them to join the armed struggle.

Reano was reportedly telling the students that the leaders of that student organization are members of the NPA.

Oconer said this threatens the security of their members and the organizers. “Moreover, this is a violation of our rights to organize freely,” he added.

If the AFP believes that they are indeed members of the NPA, Oconer challenged them to charge them in court.

Continuous red-baiting on Oconer

Oconer said that until now, soldiers from the AFP are still tagging him as a member of the NPA. Last April, one of Oconer’s fellow students from the SLU attended an SK leadership summit organized by the AFP where the soldiers warned the students to avoid Oconer because he is allegedly a recruiter of NPA.

Also, in a leadership seminar held at Camp Allen, Oconer’s name was included in a list of alleged NPAs showed to other youths. The said NPAs supposedly operate in the cities of Baguio and Benguet.

As a result, one SK posted as comment in one of his group pictures in Facebook: “…Is that Oconer? An NPA recruiter?”

“It means, the soldiers are not just mentioning my name but also showing my picture,” Oconer said, adding that he does not know the person who posted the comment.

Oconer also recalled an incident when a student of BSU asked to interview him. The interview was about student activism. The student reportedly told Oconer that somebody referred him to her and even gave Oconer’s number. Similar in the case of the student who posted a question about Oconer on Facebook, the person who recommended Oconer to the student-interviewer told her that Oconer is allegedly an NPA recruiter.

Role of the school administration

Oconer criticized the school administrations for allowing such programs of the AFP to be integrated in the curriculum. Allowing the AFP to demonize the progressive student organizations and its leaders means “even in school campus, students are not safe,” he said.

He believes that some of his personal information was taken from his school records. “Schools are one of the places where we lodge our personal information,” he reasond. These records, he said, are apparently being made accessible to the AFP.

Oconer even fears that his NBI record may have been tainted already. “If I get an NBI clearance, do I have a record on rebellion?” he asked.

The Anakbayan-Cordillera and other youth organizations in the region who have been subjected to red-baiting are now documenting these cases of surveillance and other harassment against their organizers and members.

Oconer said they may seek legal remedies to solve these violations of their human rights.

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