12 cases in a span of three months. Twenty three student leaders and journalists. Four cases in a week. The spate of human rights violations among the youth is alarming, and the military, the sworn protector of the people, was the primary suspect.
From CEGP National
January 21: Three UP Diliman students conducting their course practicum at an Aeta community in Porac, Pampanga were detained, harassed, and assaulted by members of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division. They were made to stand under the midday sun for an hour while they were accused of being members of the New People’s Army, and verbally and physically abused by the soldiers.
February 5: Eight UPLB students who were immersing at a farmer/fishing community in Calatagan, Batangas were accosted by members of the Philippine Air Force’s 730th Combat Group and the local Philippine National Police. The said soldiers said that the videos being taken by the students would be ‘anti-government’, and demanded that the students give their names.
February 13: Arjhay Astudillo, a member of the College Editors Guild (CEGP) national secretariat, was reportedly chased by a suspected intelligence personnel to his house in Marikina.
February 26: Four officers of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, including National Deputy Secretary General Gidget Estella, were accosted by man wearing military clothes while commuting in Catarman, Samar. They were then followed by men aboard motorcycles all the way up to their destination. The next day, the same men asked the residents in JP Rizal street, Catarman whether or not they knew the CEGP officers.
February 26: Suspected military intelligence agents repeatedly put the Laguna residence of campus journalist Ma. Luisa Purungganan under surveillance. Purugganan was a staffer of the Warden, a member publication of the CEGP.
February 27: Men on motorcycles, one of which was identified as one of the men who tailed Estella and her companion, were found in front of the The Pillar publication office. The Pillar is the student publication of the University of Eastern Philippines in Samar.
March 18: PUP Student Regent Rommel Aguilar received SMS messages accusing him of having links with the NPA, and that he would be detained by the military. He received another SMS message four days later, telling him that he would be killed if he participated in their school’s Student Council elections.
March 20: Jebri Sida, contributing editor of UP Vista, publication of UP Tacloban, was harassed by the military while covering a Municipal Peace and Order meeting. He was subjected into outright and extreme surveillance.
April 2: A suspected military intelligence agent went to the house of Cleve Arguelles, former UP Manila University Student Council chairperson, and asked for an unspecified ‘Nikki’. The incident was deemed suspicious because the house was located at the very back of a residence compound in Manila, and is known only to a few residents of the said area. Furthermore, there was no ‘Nikki’ residing in the house, but Nikki Gamara, a member of Anakbayan-UP Manila, was visiting the residence at that time.
April 3: Reynante Gamara, father of Nikki Gamara and a campaigner for the Bayan Muna partylist group, was arrested by a joint group of soldiers and police at a mall in Las Piñas. He was arrested because his name was inserted in a warrant of arrest for members of the New People’s Army.
April 3: Cleve Arguelles was tailed all over Manila by two suspected military intelligence agents after he escorted Nikki Gamara to her family home. After taking refuge in a fastfood restaurant, one of the two, who was also armed with a handgun, went after him and repeatedly asked Arguelles to escort him to ‘Nikki’s house’.
April 3: Christian Tuayon, regional chairperson of Anakbayan in Negros, was arrested by a joint group of soldiers and police at a rally in Bacolod. He was arrested because his name was inserted in a warrant of arrest for members of the New People’s Army.
Prepared by:Tanggulan Youth Network for Human Rights and Civil Liberties, ANAKBAYAN Human Rights Desk, College Editors Guild of the Philippines Campaign and Alliance Committee
‘AFP denies allegations of human rights violations despite overwhelming evidence’
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is “forever denying” its involvement in the many cases of military surveillance and other forms of human rights violations, as seen in its statement on the harassment of campus journalists, said College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).
“Remarkably surprising, how the AFP has managed to keep a straight face while claiming innocence. Despite overwhelming evidence, the AFP is still acting like it knows nothing of these violations and that it is trying to protect the Filipino people,” said Pauline Gidget Estella, national deputy secretary general of CEGP, the widest and oldest alliance of student publications nationwide.
Estella, with other officers of CEGP, was trailed by suspected elements of military intelligence last February 26. Two days after the incident, Ma. Luisa Purugganan, another campus journalist, reported that alleged military intelligence personnel went to their house and were asking about her whereabouts.
In a GMANews Online article, the AFP said that it is never their policy to tolerate such cases of surveillance and that the military offices can help the CEGP.
“Based on accounts of eyewitnesses in hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings, surveillance, enforced disappearances and torture, the recurrence of allegations of military involvement cannot be simply dismissed as coincidence. We have a wealth of experience from which we can safely say that the military is involved in the recent incidents of trailing and surveillance on campus journalists,” explained Estella, adding that in cases such as the enforced disappearance of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, there is more than enough basis to establish probable cause.
Estella added that Benjaline Hernandez, former CEGP vice president for Mindanao, was killed by elements of the military while she was on a fact-finding mission in Arakan Valley in 2002.
“In fact, many members of legal progressive organizations have considered trailing and surveillance as part of the job, a common phenomenon, because of the countless times that military and police intelligence personnel have tried to pry into our activities and watched our actions even in our respective homes,” said Estella.
“Does the AFP really expect us to file complaints before their offices? Filing a complaint before the office of the perpetrators of human rights violations that we are exposing? We would just waste our time, given that the AFP cannot even come up with a good alibi and instead denies everything without a convincing explanation,” said Estella.
“If the AFP is really sincere in protecting the Filipino people, then it should make sure that no civilian, journalist, student, or member of progressive organizations will be a victim of human rights violations, especially now that around 2,400 US troops are set to join the Balikatan exercises in the country this April. Of course, we’re not expecting anything from the AFP,” said Estella.
From CEGP National Office
Campus journalists slam oil ‘overpricing’
Gov’t must junk Oil Deregulation Law – CEGP
As a form of protest, youth organizations and students walked out of their classes today and joined the other sectors in the “national day of action against oil price hikes.”
The youth, with organizations of workers, drivers, and women, staged a program about the monopoly of pricing of petroleum products. Transport groups, led by Piston, also staged a protest “caravan.”
“Instead of regulating the prices of petroleum products, what this administration does is provide the biggest opportunities for the Big Three companies, namely Shell, Petron and Caltex,” said Pauline Gidget Estella, national deputy secretary general of College Editors Guild of the Philippines, an alliance of student publications.
“There is a difference of around $75 between the actual amount needed to produce a barrel of crude oil and the published price. The reality is that oil companies have fixed a bloated price for the sake of super profits,” explained Estella.
Estella contradicted the statement of Edwin Lacierda claiming the government’s inability to control the growing petroleum prices. “Actually, the Aquino Administration can junk the Oil Deregulation Law (ODL) to lessen the impact of monopoly pricing on the poor majority. However, as expected from a pro-cartel administration, and as the nephew of Danding Cojuanco who owns a portion of Petron, the government turns a blind eye to the 400 percent increase in prices of petroleum products within the 14-year implementation of the ODL,” she explained.
“The government has even tried to discredit the people’s protest against the oil price hike by declaring the protest as a strike and not a caravan. If the modes of transportation continue to operate, they would declare the action as a failure. Fairly predictable,” Estella stated. “Too bad, the action is not a strike, but a caravan. And there is a big difference between the two,” she ended.
From CEGP National Office