Youth activists from the province of Bulacan found themselves vulnerable even in their own homes, following waves of red-tagging under Terror Law.
Three student activists from Bulacan State University (BulSU) were red-tagged in their homes by state forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on three separate occasions.
One such being last August 28. Kabataan Partylist BulSU and Anakbayan member Kristel Asilom was visited by a barangay police officer, with her parents being instructed to attend a seminar on the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL), as well as the topic of Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terorismo (KKDAT) at a nearby church.
Asilom said that the seminar only showed black propaganda against youth organizations including Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), and Gabriela Youth (GY), accusing them as terrorists.
“Sinasabi nila ‘yung Anakbayan daw, Kabataan Partylist, ‘yung mga LFS, Gabriela Youth ay affiliated sa NPA, so parang ang naging dating, ‘yung mga NDMO na ‘yun ay panimula lang na hakbang para ma-recruit sa NPA,” said Asilom.
The police and barangay officials showed photos and footage of slain rebels with blurred out identities and unfamiliar names who they claimed were UP alumni. Asilom later commented that similar seminars such as this one were also held regularly in the area.
Two other activists, whose names were omitted for privacy purposes, also encountered similar instances of state harassment
One on August 25, an unnamed student volunteer for the Norman Bethune Brigade, an organization raising donations for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, was forcibly linked to another progressive organization named the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) by elements of PNP Bustos, Bulacan.
The other, which also took place on August 28, involving a Meycauayan, Bulacan-based GABRIELA member, when state forces approached her boyfriend for her whereabouts as a means to finally interrogate her.
In all instances, all three were branded as alleged members of the armed rebellion faction New People’s Army (NPA), with state agents citing a supposed “terror list” as reference.
According to Asilom, red-tagging is nothing new to her, as she has been receiving attacks and threats online since 2018.
She added that there are existing anonymous social media accounts that spread disinformation across BulSU, which involves a message that lists the names of suspected terrorists that include professors, alumni, and students.
“Noong February, may isang anonymous Twitter account na nagpapakalat ng message sa iba’t ibang students ng BulSU and naka-list doon mga names ng students, prof, at ibang alumni ng BulSU and nakalagay doon na pinadala daw kami ng NPA para makapag-recruit,” said Asilom.
She said she also received a death threat not long ago.
“Last year, October, naka-receive ako ng death threat na ang sabi doon ay nasa paligid lang daw sila, nagmamasid, babarilin daw ako sa dibdib, sa ulo, tapos gigilitan daw kami,” said Asilom.
One such being an alleged state-run Facebook page called The Right Bulsuan, which regularly released posts that red-tagged progressive individuals.This page functioned similarly to another Facebook page: Abaka Kugon, which red-tagged the likes of Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) spokesperson Kyle Salgado.
“I think binuo siya hindi lang para i-red-tag ang mga taga-BulSU, kasi may mga ilang posts din siya na ni-rered-tag niya ang mga activists at mass leaders ng Central Luzon, so hindi lang siya BulSU-centered,” said Asilom.
Asilom found herself being constantly hounded by the page, with five different posts this year being dedicated to calling her out as a terrorist.
In an August 8 post, featuring the deaths of alleged rebels, the page called-out Asilom for leading them to their ends.
“Isang ordjnaryong magsasaka, mamayan, intelekwal, petiburgisya at estudyante na hinikayat nyo na sumama sa grupo nyo. Nagwakas ang kanilang buhay dahil sa maling pakikibaka, sinira nyo buhay sibilyan nila, pinuno nyo ng galit at nilason nyo ang kaisipan 😔,” the page said, followed by asking how would the country progress with what they are supposedly doing.
Invasion of privacy
The most recent being a June 11 video containing a compilation of photos of Asilom, along with her personal and college-related details, including the names of her parents and a photo of their family as well.
The post’s caption only read “Hello Kristel Lawsin Asilom I’m back. 🤡 #FreeBulsu #CleanBULSU #FightForBULSU.”
Photos of her with Atty. Chel Diokno and Congresswoman and Kabataan Partylist representative Sarah Elago were included. There was also a screenshot showing her being Facebook friends with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, who goes by the username “Joma Sison.”
That, an Instagram post featuring Sison, and a Tweet that discussed Asilom in a Maikling Kurso sa Lipunan at Rebolusyonaryong Pilipino (MKLRP) (described as where one studies the “Communist doctrine”) were used as basis for branding her as a terrorist.
“Siyempre, may mga nakakita doon na ibang tao na hindi namin kilala, ‘yung mga pulis mismo makakakita ng video.’Yung red-tagging pa kilusya para sa pagpaslang ng mga aktibista kaya sobrang hindi talaga safe,” said Asilom.
Asilom confirmed that some of her photos shown in the page were taken by state forces, during their rally at Bulacan Provincial Capitol.
“Malaki talaga ang chance na pulis talaga ‘yung may hawak and state-funded siya, of course. Actually, may mga ibang page rin ‘yung pulis mismo na lantaran sila nang-rered-tag tulad ng page ng PNP Pampanga. Hindi talaga malabo na sa kanila ‘to,” she said.
Asilom stated that this possible state propaganda is part of a “psy-war” against activists.
“Implikasyon ‘yun na mas lalala talaga ‘yung atake ng estado pero kasabay noon, kaya lang naman nila ginagawa ‘yun, dahil alam nila na mas masikhay at mas lumalawak ang kabataan at ng anakpawis na magpapabagsak ng rehimen ni Duterte,” she added.
Paint the town red
Asilom stated that the red-tagging incidents became worse when the draconian Terror Law took effect.
According to a member of Anakbayan Bulacan, there is an operation taking place in the area known as “Oplan Dalaw sa Barangay,” and claimed that it is spearhead by elements of PNP Bulacan and the 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company.
“Nitong mga nakaraang mga araw after mapasa ang Terror Law, mas lumala [the red-tagging], kasi ‘yung laman mismo ng Terror Law ay napaka-vague ng pagkaka-describe niya sa terrorist. Sobrang daling mag-red-tag kasi doon pa lang sa loob ng batas, mismong mga activists gusto nila tulisin, hindi ‘yung mga tunay na terorista,” said Asilom.
She said that under this, authorities are now given power to red-tag, harass, or illegally arrest activists, especially since they are now given more funds.
“Kahit noong wala pang Terror Law, ginagawa na nila ‘yun. Lalo lang nagiging legal ngayon dahil batas na siya,” she added.
Despite the attacks, Asilom affirmed that the fight for genuine change must continue.
“Pinakamataas na panawagan at laban natin ay ‘yung pagbabagsak ng pasistang rehimen ni Duterte at ang pagsusulong ng rebolusyon na siyang tunay na magbibigay ng kaunlaran at kalayaan sa bawat Pilipino,” she said. [P]
Photo from Barangay Cofradia/Facebook