Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Terrorizing the campus press. On the harassment of and military surveillance on CEGP officers

Time and again we have been the subject of repression not only in our respective campuses but outside as well. Throughout our history, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, true to its advocacy and its orientation as patriotic and democratic alliance of tertiary publications, has always been at the fore front of the battle and with this, the price we get is threats to our lives.

Young as we are, we are devoting our talents and skills to serve the underprivileged and the voiceless, defending press freedom and democracy in the process, and like the mainstream press, we too are threatened for speaking the truth and serving the people. Not surprisingly, the peril comes from the state forces who consistently label every progressive organization such as CEGP as its enemy.

In a country where most in power use fascism to suppress freedom of expression and where the culture of impunity is prevalent, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemns the surveillance and harassment of the alleged military forces to Pauline Gidget Estella (CEGP National Deputy Secretary General), Angelo Karl Doceo (chairperson of CEGP Samar Island), Micah Susana Rubenecia (secretary-general of CEGP Samar Island Chapter and editor of The Pillar, official student publication of University of Eastern Philippines) and Darrel Tibre (staff writer of The Pillar).

Surveillance and trailing

Estella and her companions have been trailed by suspected military elements since their arrival in Catarman to attend the Samar-wide CEGP convention from February 23 to 26 at the University of Eastern Philippines. At around 8 PM on February 26, the last day of the convention, a suspected intelligence personnel approached them at the terminal, asking where they are going, if they are going to University of Eastern Philippines or Brgy. Jose Abad Santos. One of the speakers in the convention, who is a member of Kilusang Mayo Uno, lives in Brgy. Jose Abad Santos.

The suspected intelligence personnel said he was lost and asked them if he could come with them until they have reached their destination. They told him to ask for directions from the barangay tanod and started walking away from the terminal. The man shouted after them and demanded to know their destination.

They walked briskly toward the house of one of the staffers of The Pillar, who lives near the terminal and refused to be named for security reasons. A tricycle driver and his two passengers were staring at them as they walked. Several pedicab drivers were following them as well and aggressively asking them to take a ride.

While they were inside the house, the staff member went outside to purchase cellphone load. He said he saw a man on a scooter near their house. The man was having a conversation over the phone. The staff member said he stayed at the store for 15 minutes. When he was walking back to his house, the man was still waiting at the same spot and staring at him.

At the same time, Doceo’s friend called him using a different number and asking whether or not he was at Farmer’s Hotel, the venue for the convention. Doceo asked her why she was asking but she refused to answer.

About an hour later, another person parked his scooter beside the house and stayed there for at least 20 minutes. Why would someone park his scooter in an unlikely place and an unlikely time? The staff member then saw a group of men riding scooters near the house. “Maupay. Hain si Micah? Kay an gamit n’ya nga nabayaan (Tao po. Nasaan po si Micah? Kasi ‘yung gamit n’yang naiwan),” said one of them to the people who live in the house beside the staff member’s residence. After a while, he heard another one say, “Basta buwas hanapon ta hanapin sila. Magpreparare (Basta bukas nang hapon hanapin sila. Magprepare).”

It seems that the intelligence had failed to pinpoint the right house, but it was almost correct because they inquired at the adjacent residence. What would have happened if they were accurate enough?
It appears to be very timely that these men have followed the CEGP officers after the Samar-wide convention, in which the discussions featured progressive and critical analysis of national issues.

Estella and her companions opted to stay inside the house until 6 AM. They left the house in a private vehicle and went to the airport for her scheduled flight.

All night, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and Pinoy Weekly monitored their status, wherein NUJP-Samar accompanied Estella and the others to the provincial airport to ensure their safety, risking their lives in the process as well.

Human Rights advocate KARAPATAN, student publication Philippine Collegian of UP-Diliman, workers’ union All-UP Academic Employees’ Union, media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and other concerned organizations, also extended their help by sending SMS and posting their support through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

State fascism

CEGP condemns the lame government of Aquino for failing to acknowledge and address the involvement of military officials in media violence. Aquino administration should put an end to its desperate attempt of protecting its own personal interest, instead this government must start delivering justice to all that have been abducted and killed.

The military, as defined by the constitution, is an organization with the authorization of the greater society allowed to use lethal force, including weaponry, in defense of the country by contesting actual or perceived threats. They are designed to protect the people and the state and ensure their safety. Ironically, the military has always been the primary suspect of human rights violations across the country, and early this January, students from University of the Philippines who were conducting academic field work experienced acts of fascism in Pampanga and Batangas.

The acts of harassment and surveillance on Estella and her companions only show that the military does not distinguish between civilians and members of the armed rebel movement. It shows that even student journalists have become targets of neutralization in the government’s counterinsurgency scheme. In fact, Doceo and Rubenecia have reported that they took possession of an Order of Battle file in Samar. The Order of Battle is a military document in which people who are targets for neutralization are listed. Doceo, Rubenecia and other members of the publication were included in the list.

Philippines is haunted for its culture of impunity and lawlessness. Noting the circumstances of the past where 64 victims of extrajudicial killings and 9 enforced disappearances with strong military evidences has been recorded since June 2010 to October 2011, and where 182 journalist were killed since 1986, of which 123 were killed in line of duty, only 10 cases resulted in conviction but no master mind brought to justice, excluding the Maguindanao Massacre.

We will not be cowed by these fascist attacks by the state to intimidate us and sow fear among our ranks. We are no strangers to this “psy-war” (psychological warfare) designed after the Oplan Bayanihan which is nothing new from its original name Oplan Bantay Laya aimed to attack progressive organizations.

These recent attacks on campus journalists show that the Aquino administration is insincere in ending the culture of impunity. Clearly, his administration is only posturing as an administration that prioritizes human rights because it tolerates, invites and perpetrates harassment and killings of journalists and cause-oriented groups.

With our pens held up-high, once more we will move forward for this country’s future. And we will not back down.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

The Diary Archive