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Terrorist tagging of major universities a military project to “flatten the curve” of protests

Statement on the tagging of 18 universities as recruiters of terrorists

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. has named more universities as hotbeds of rebel recruitment, including the University of Sto. Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. He made this statement after the abrogation of the UP-DND accord purportedly due to the same reason. The AFP has also identified former UP students who are now working in various civic, academic and government institutions as NPA members who were killed or captured; these personalities are now contemplating the filing cybercrime charges against the AFP.

Last year Parlade was forced to apologise for red tagging popular celebrities which caused a public uproar. He never had the evidence to justify his claims. In 2018 the Department of Justice admitted it could not verify military intelligence which tagged 600 personalities including journalists and a UN expert as terrorists. Government’s terrorist tagging earned worldwide condemnation including those of United Nations human rights experts who issued a joint statement against the government’s recklessness.

Terrorist tagging of universities is the latest attempt of government to obliterate civic spaces which are supposed to enable an active participation of the citizenry in social development and nation building.

The Office of the President, whose budget, including confidential and intelligence funds (P8.28 B) along with the intelligence resources of the armed forces and the Department of National Defense were never dedicated to the protection of Philippine interests in the West Philippine Sea, nor the strengthening of national security post-Marawi siege, nor against COVID’s entry into the country; rather these were fully utilized in the targeting, surveillance and persecution of government critics and political opponents.

The targeting of universities followed after months of escalated red tagging against progressive organizations and human rights defenders who consistently raised criticism over government policies which have resulted in political repression, worsening poverty and a disastrous response to the global pandemic. When the NTF-ELCAC decided to randomly include prominent universities in its hit list, not only did it expose a gross failure to properly assess real threats to the Filipino people, but more importantly, it confirmed its sole purpose to serve the authoritarian agenda of President Duterte to rid his regime of any and all criticism.

Duterte’s despotic ambitions are increasingly being challenged by the growing protests of the people who are coming to realize that his strongman posturing had brought them nothing more than obscenities and sexist outrages amidst widespread impunity, ineptitude, corruption, police brutality and double standards. While some of these protests can be seen in universities where students engage in critical learning and are free to express and exchange ideas, the larger Philippine society can be seen in protest in the picket lines, rural communities, ancestral lands, hospital grounds, and even online. Their voices can only grow louder as they continue to unite in the common cause for justice and accountability.

As people rise in dissent, Duterte, expectedly nervous about a potential loss in next year’s elections, will undoubtedly employ the most violent means to stay in power along with his allies in all the branches of the government. When the military finally enters the universities to end academic freedom, a new wave of repression- violent dispersals, arrests, detention, enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killings- will descend upon the student body. Thus, we must elevate our actions to be ready to respond in the most appropriate manner. We must stand our ground and ever more vigorously defend our rights and freedoms against the butchers of democracy, until this tyrannical regime is finally brought to its fitting end.

Resist campus repression and militarization!

Defend academic freedom!

#EndtheAssault on Human Rights!