After more than a month, the branded legal fronts of the communist movement, Kabataan Partylist Batangas, Gabriela Youth Batangas, Anakbayan Lipa, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), and College Editors Guild of the Philippines Southern Tagalog (CEGP-ST) debunked the accusations made by the state-sponsored task force in the Campus Peace and Development Forum held in De La Salle Lipa (DLSL) via Zoom last Sept. 22.
“Hindi armas ang hawak naming mga aktibista, kundi mga placard na may panawagan ng mamamayan, at ang talim ng aming paninindigan,” said the spokesperson of Gabriela Youth Batangas, Eya Atienza.
Atienza also stressed that their activism is not an armed conflict but rather a marching demand for people’s rights which was in contrast to the narratives of Steve Alejandro, one of the peace forum speakers, stating that members of mass organization’s primary “motive” is not to bring change but to wield weapons against the country.
“Recruitment sa CPP-NPA ang kanilang pakay at hindi ang mabago ang ating lipunan […] ineexploit nila ang mga estudyante para sa pagsulong sa armadong pakikibaka,” said Alejandro during the webinar.
Anakbayan Lipa Chairperson Kie Niebres, however, also shared the same sentiments as he pointed out that reaching provincial campuses like DLSL are among the targets of the government’s red-tagging spree to which she also concluded as a desperate move to suppress the voices of the youth.
“Ang garapalang panghihimasok ng militar sa ating mga paaralan at walang habas na nagpapakalat ng maling impormasyon at pangre-red tag sa mga progresibong indibidwal ay isang desperadong hakbang upang supilin ang boses ng mga estudyanteng nakikibaka,” Niebres stated.
On the flip side, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) speaker Eric Almendras said that the activism of these progressive groups is based only on resentment that would eventually lead to rebellion against the government.
“Ang kanilang attempt lagi ay kailangan na itanim ang galit sa damdamin ng mga bata at kabataan para udyukan na sila ay lumaban sa gobyerno,” Almendras stated during the webinar.
Moreover, criticizing the counter insurgency beliefs that activism is a form of a rebellious uprising, Aldrich Macatangay, spokesperson of Kabataan Partylist Batangas, expressed that this claim is contrary to the revolution our national heroes exemplified.
“Framing youth activism as a kind of rebellion against one’s own family and the country is so historically impoverished and offensive towards what our country has been built on,” said Macatangay.
For SCMP Spokesperson Kej Andres, the country’s hard-fought democracy is founded on dissent and human rights are achieved because of activism.
“Lahat ng karapatan ay nagbunga [dahil] sa activism because rights are never granted by the powerful people. Rights are always asserted. Ito ay iginigiiit,” Andres stated.
CEGP-ST, in their posted statement, also stood in union with DLSL students who boycott the webinar, noting that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) deserved censure for its attempt to stifle dissent.
“PAF deserves nothing less than the utmost condemnation from the La Sallian community and the Alliance in their desperate attempt to silence criticism by instilling a culture of fear for the youth in exercising their democratic right to organize and assemble,” the statement said.
Although they did not spearhead the webinar, the DLSL Student Government (SG) and the Council of Student Organizations (CSO) issued a joint apology statement last Sept. 23 for disseminating the event’s publicity materials.
“We apologize for disseminating the event publicity materials and encouraging students to participate […] as well as for any moral and emotional damage the event may have brought upon the participants.”
On the other hand, hours after the webinar, Air Education Training and Doctrine Command (AETDC), the event’s organizers, proclaimed the event’s “success” through their official Facebook page.
The post explained the course of the three-hour forum, and enumerated the management whom they collaborated with.
“[The] said forum was conducted by AETDC in collaboration with De La Salle Lipa, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), Hands Off Our Youth and NEDA Region 4A,” the post said.
The webinar was attended by over 450 college students of DLSL.
DLSL still silent
After attempts to secure an interview with DLSL offices, Lavoxa has yet to receive any response regarding the issue.
The Director of Student Services, who requested for the SG to distribute the webinar publication materials, and the Chancellor for College Department, who “warmly welcomed” the webinar attendees, as per the AETDC’s post, both declined to speak with Lavoxa.
DLSL SG sent a rationale to the Chancellor, last Oct. 1, urging the administration to release a statement regarding the webinar.
According to SG, the proposal is based on the reasons that both parents and students are concerned about.
This involves clarifying the school’s stance about what happened on the webinar, reaffirming that the institution is still a safe environment, and intervening for the emotional distress caused by the webinar.
Seven weeks since the webinar has concluded, DLSL has not released its official statement, leaving students clueless as to whether or not the institution’s stance is in solidarity with them.