In a CEGP presscon, the draconian Terror Law is the primary suspect in different cases of red-tagging and illegal arrests on campus pubs.
Red-tagging was cited as a prevalent threat for campus press, said student journalists in a February 17 College Editor Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) virtual press conference.
There, speakers exposed their terrifying experiences with state agents who pushed the narrative that they were all involved with recruiting for Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
For Marco Magdangal, associate editor of Holy Angel University’s The Angelite, he had to endure military forces surveying his home and reportedly threatening his father. He later said that an unknown agent of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) outright accused him of being a rebel.
He then recalled an instance when Magdangal’s father met with military forces under the pretense of a rental van deal.
“Nakipag kita sila sa Jollibee. It turns [out] na ang pakay pala nila ay siraan ako […] Yun yung first time na ni-red tag ako,” Magdangal narrated, later mentioning that his and their editor-in-chief’s personal picture and information were posted in an unnamed troll page that described their publication as a “propagandist for the NPA.”
In the Angelite’s September 23, 2020 report on Facebook’s decision to shut down troll pages, Magdangal mentioned that the page in question was Samahan ng Kontra Makakaliwa, known for red-tagging Central Luzon progressive youths. They later referenced the incident again in a January 27 statement from the publication, after Holy Light University was listed among universities by NTF-ELCAC as possible places for “radicalization and recruitment” by communsit parties.
In light of other issues in their area, including campus militarization and land aggression from projects such as the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program and from other private corporations exploiting their lands, Magdangal asserted that their publication will remain critical in their reportage no matter what.
“Kami ay ka-isa sa [laban] sa pag-kokondena, sa pag e-expose o pagtutol sa mga ganitong nagiging taktika ng rehimeng Duterte sa kanyang mga kritiko, sa mga oposisyon, lalo na sa mga kabataang aktibista at maging mga [journalist],” Magdangal added.
The Angelite was far from being the only student publication to face the fury of the state itself in the yearlong lockdown.
From SINAG’s problems with online trolls to bigtime publications such as the Daily Tribune and Manila Times playing to the tune of the regime and limiting student journalists’ allies, the campus press, as a whole, remains threatened in the time of Duterte.
United we stand
Even alliances of campus publications were not safe from red-tagging, as Ralph Tumaneng and Nicole Duarte of Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag ng PUP (AKM-PUP) would testify.
According to Tumaneng, the alliance was branded also as an NPA recruiter. In a January 29 statement from the alliance, they explained that NTF-ELCAC and state-sponsored group SAMBAYANAN addressed them as “KA ELCAC”, a group that recruits the youth into joining the armed struggle.
“Imbis na primaryang pagtuunan ng estado ng pondo at atensyon ang lumalalang krising pangkalusugan at pang-ekonomiya ng bansa, mas pinatitindi lamang ng rehimeng US-Duterte ang pagsupil sa mga kritiko ng kaniyang administrasyon,” AKM-PUP criticized.
Duarte, meanwhile, explained that the official twitter account of AKM-PUP was suspended last December 2020, believing that their last Tweet at that time led to their suspension.
“Siguro dahil ito sa pag re-release namin [nung] December ng panawagan para palayain si Ate Frenchie Mae Cumpio, kasi yun yung huling post. Tapos bigla nalang kami na-suspend,” Duarte explained.
Their last Tweet prior to it being activated again, however, was a call to free Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem, who was among the seven arrested last Human Rights Day, alongside six other peasant leaders (READ: Labor center blasts ‘Search Warrant Factory Queen’ judge for HR Day 7 arrest).
In light of these and other incidents mentioned in the poress conferences, CEGP Deputy Secretary General Regina Tolentino called to assert the press freedom, students democratic rights, free and quality education.
“Hindi dito natatapos sa unang bugso ng ating kampanya yung pagsasalita, tuloy-tuloy nating pagsalita, at paglaban … Pakita natin ang determinasyon natin na makamit itong mga panawagan natin at paglaban din sa mga represyon na nararanasan natin,” Tolentino said.
UP Solidaridad, an alliance of UP student publications, was also not spared, when they were red-tagged (and even erroneously identified them as ‘La Solidaridad’) in an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) press conference following the abrogation of the UP-DND Accord. (READ: UP strikes back against Accord “termination”)
“Kriminal na dapat sugpuin ang tingin nito sa bawat mamamahayag na siyang nagpapanagot sa kanilang mga kapabayaan. Kakabit pa ng red-tagging ang panganib na basta na lamang itumba o sapilitang pagkawala, lahat sa ngalan ng pag-iwas sa pananagutan,” they said in a January 24 statement.
The press strikes back
In light of these attacks, Tolentino assured that CEGP was looking into these cases, though acknowledged that the pandemic made processing difficult, in addition to forwarding these concerns to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). It was mentioned, however, that the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) does not cover publications in filing charges on press attacks. Also, unless individual campus journalists have valid press IDs, physical coverage at the time of the discussion was restricted.
Tolentino also mentioned that last July 25, 2020, CEGP filed a formal complaint to the CHR following several violations being committed against Campus Journalism Act of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7079) since the cases with Molo and Today’s Carolinian (READ: CEGP files compaint to CHR over increasing campus press violations).
“Kahit sa kasalukuyan nating panahon na may mga batas na, na dapat pumo-protekta sa ating mga campus journalist, lalong lalo na doon sa mga [critical] na mga issue, tayo pa rin ay constantly under-attacked ng iba’t-ibang entities katulad na lamang ng mga administration and even ng state.” Tolentino said.
As such, Tolentino asserted the need to uphold press freedom.
“Kaya naman sa mga ganitong kagustuhan ng mga institusyon na ‘to na pigilan ang ating mga student publication na mag publish ng mga kritikal na mga balita, mga analysis, higil sa mga school policies natin,” she continued.
Likewise, Tumaneng joined the call to intensify the unity of campus journalists despite the attacks.
“Ang paghigil sa ating kalayaang pang akademiko ay pumapatay rin sa ating malayang pamamahayag sa pormang inilalabas ng ating mga balita, mga opinyon […],” he added.
Meanwhile, John Paul Borito of The Democrat, student publication of University of Nueva Caceres also echoed their sentiments.
“Our call to defend the campus press have [spreaded] across the archipelago. And with 753 publications nationwide bearing the same idea as a College Editor Guild of the Philippines, this is more than enough manifestation and acknowledgment of the repression that funds the campus press,” Borito said. [P]
Photo from College Editors Guild of the Philippines