Baguio youth activists confront AFP, PNP in a dialogue in Duterte’s EO 70, red-tagging of militant students

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Baguio activists as they march down Session Road to express their sentiment with the current administration. (Photo courtesy by Northern Dispatch)

BAGUIO  CITY, Philippines — Activists from different progressive groups in Baguio City had a round-table discussion recently with representatives of government agencies, the City Council, and some uniformed men, to tackle concerns with human rights violations in the City in lieu of Duterte’s Executive Order 70, as well as the allegations of “red-tagging” of militant groups and students.

The group Tongtongan Ti Umili (TTU) initially requested a talk with Mayor Benjamin Magalong following his recent statement that “activists are safe in Baguio.”

Main talking points of the discussion were cases of red-tagging and the AFP and PNP’s massive smear campaign against progressive groups in communities, barangays and government meetings, and in schools.

Christian Dave Ruz, Kabataan Partylist Cordillera Coordinator and youth representative to the discussion,  cited “5 cases of red-tagging fora in schools” in Baguio alone, where uniformed men tag legal and legitimate organizations such as League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist among others as “terrorist groups” and stressed that “the PNP and AFP come in schools in full-battle gear, spreading nothing but hate, false information, fear, and intimidation.”

The Mayor  earlier called for a panel consisting representatives from the City Council, Commission on Human Rights-CAR, Commission on Higher Education-CAR, Department of Interior and Local Government-CAR, University of the Philippines Baguio, and high-ranking officials of the Baguio City Police Office, Philippine National Police-Cordillera, and Philippine Army’s 503rd Infantry Brigade (503rd IB PA) Commanding Officer BGen. Henry Doyaoen.

However, due to a conflict of schedule, the Mayor was not present.

“We were actually surprised with the composition of the people we sat with. Nonetheless, we seized the opportunity to raise all our concerns head on,” said Ruz.

Aside from Ruz, the panel of activists in the discussion included Baguio Outstanding Women: Leader for Human Rights Awardee Jeannette Ribaya-Cawiding, Gwangju Prize for Human Rights laureate Joanna Cariño, Tongtongan ti Umili Chairperson Geraldine Cacho, and award-winning Baguio journalist Kathleen Okubo.    

Meanwhile, Brig Gen. Henry Doyaoen denied the allegations, and even pledged to “sanction military men who vilify youth organizations,” even after solid evidences such as photos and personal accounts were shown.

CHR-CAR Director Atty. Rommel Daguimol however reminded the panel that the entry of armed men in schools is a direct human rights violation and is prohibited as prescribed by the International Conventions and the Child Protection Policy.

“We encourage our students to be critical, and being critical doesn’t make them terrorists… If we support red-tagging [in schools], we will not be the UP that is used to be known as a bastion of critical thinking,” added Dr. Charita Delos Reyes, Director of Students Affairs of UP Baguio.

City Council representative and SK Federation President Levy Orcales stated that “as the representative of the youth, I assure to protect the safety and integrity of all youth in the City… if need be, propose legislative measures.”

“We are grateful of how the discussion turned about and the commitment and support we have gained. We ultimately hope for the immediate passing of the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Ordinance in the City. We will stand relentless in pursuing genuine peace and prosperity in the City and our country,” Ruz added. (Stacy Ang/JGo/CurrentPH.com)

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