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Press Statement by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines - Southern Tagalog Chapter
June 20, 2011
Members of the campus press in Southern Tagalog expressed their dismay on the continued illegal detention of 7 individuals collectively known as the “Calamba 7” saying this act by the state is but a “direct insult to the life and death of our national hero, Jose Rizal.”
“It is ironic that 150 years after the birth of Rizal and in his very own hometown of Calamba, the youth and people experience the same political persecution that the Spanish colonial rulers imposed upon the Filipino people hundreds of years ago,” College Editors Guild of the Philippines – Southern Tagalog (CEGP-ST) Chairperson Rogene Gonzales said.
‘Freedom of expression’
Yesterday, during the commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rizal in Calamba, Laguna, protesters registered their dissent to Noynoy Aquino who was present in the ceremony. The militants scored Aquino for his anti-people policies on education and land reform that continues to haunt the Southern Tagalog region. 8 protesters were nabbed by police forces.
Until now, the 7 individuals including 5 youth, who are members of Kabataan Partylist and students of U.P. Los Baños, remain detained at the Calamba Police Station despite petition for recognizance filed yesterday to grant their release. The other 2 detained are members of Anakpawis Partylist.
“We urge the local government of Calamba to drop the trumped-up charges of the Calamba 7 since they have only practiced their freedom of expression which is a vital cornerstone to a democratic society,” Gonzales stressed.
Last academic year, CEGP-ST recorded around 170 cases of campus press freedom violations (CPFVs) from 40 publications throughout the region while the CEGP National Office has recorded 187 CPFVs during the recent national convention. 22 publications registered they have experienced censorship from their advisers or school administrators.
“If inside their schools, students are already repressed for speaking and standing up for their rights and welfare, what more outside the academic realm?” he asked.
‘Inheritors of our country’s future’
Meanwhile, CEGP-Cavite Chairperson Rose Sugar Velarde stressed that it is not through the construction of a huge monument that we truly commemorate Rizal’s teachings, but through respecting the rights of the youth and people - whom Rizal sacrificed his life for.
“The youth are the inheritors of our country’s future. But do we still need to be exiled and jailed to Dapitan just like Rizal before the government realizes that it is not living-up for the people’s interests?” Velarde said.
She added that if Aquino only gave in to the calls of the people such as higher state subsidy for education, genuine land reform and just wages, then the people would not have anything to protest about in the first place.
In Cavite, for example, farmers have no choice but to evacuate their lands because of the landowners’ rampant land-use conversion of agricultural lands to subdivisions granted upon by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms (CARPER).
“What the 7 has shouted in front of Aquino are legitimate calls of the people. But does the Aquino administration even listens to us – whom he claims as his boss?” she stressed.
‘Rise in human rights violations’
Yesterday, student journalists in Palawan joined multi-sectoral groups in the province in showing their disgust to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ ruled on the case of slain journalist Dr. Gerardo ‘Gerry’ Ortega absolving former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes and five more accused personalities from their crimes.
“We understand that the state has always retorted to nothing else but political persecution to its critics. On June 30, Aquino will mark one year in office, and now we see a rapid rise in the number of human rights violations in the country,” according to Allan Jay Javier, chairperson of CEGP-Palawan and editor-in-chief of The Pioneer of Palawan State University.
Javier stressed that the Calamba-7 is not an isolated case of state violence, but roots from the systematic abuse of power from the government no different from what former president-now-congresswoman Gloria Arroyo did when she was in office.
In less than a year of Aquino’s presidency, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog accounted 11 cases of extrajudicial killings in the region. In addition, the number of political prisoners continued to rise to 54. Last May 18, trumped-up charges of “murder and frustrated murder” were re-filed in San Pablo City, Laguna for 72 leader activists of Southern Tagalog.
‘Release the Calamba-7 now!’
Different groups stormed in front of the Calamba City Hall starting 2pm today, setting-up a protest camp to call for the immediate release of the detained. The protesters vowed not to leave until the 7 individuals are released and all charges have been dropped.
“We call on the youth and the people, most especially campus journalists, to show their support in calling for the freedom of the Calamba-7. Sama-sama nating ipanawagan ang pagpapalaya sa mga tunay na pag-asa ng bayan!” Gonzales stressed.