Youth Under Siege

Youth organizations have been targets of the government���s counter-insurgency campaign. Besides killings and enforced disappearances, other forms of political repression are hurled against young activists.

BY JEFFREY OCAMPO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributed to (Bulatlat.com)
Volume VIII, Number 32, September 14-20, 2008

Youth organizations have been targets of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign. Besides being targets of killings and enforced disappearances, youth activists also suffer from other forms of political repression.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, out of the 910 killings, 23 victims come from the youth sector.

In 2006, Karapatan documented the most number of cases of extrajudicial killings. Three of its most distressing cases had young activists as victims. Students Rei Mon Guran and Cris Hugo, both from Sorsogon, Bicol, were victims of summary execution during that year. Guran and Hugo were both regional coordinators of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) when they were shot by their assailants in separate incidents. Guran sustained four gunshot wounds after a gunman fired at him inside a bus, which had a stopover at Bulan, while Hugo was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men while walking home with his professor. In Negros Occidental, Anakbayan organizer Peter Angcon was killed allegedly by military agents.

These young activists were youth leaders known for their sharp criticisms of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The national leadership of Anakbayan and LFS held Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the military directly responsible for the killings. The groups say that all evidences point to the military as the perpetrators, and Arroyo is the commander-in-chief.

Recent reports of various youth groups indicate that the efforts of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in quelling dissent among the people, including the youth, have not ceased. State agents are employing surveillance, harassment and other tactics against young activists.

Executive order 731: of “hideous intentions”

Last June 10, an executive order (EO) was publicly announced by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration but only after the president had signed it three days earlier. Entitled “Activating and Reorganizing the Energy Operations Board into a Contingency Task Force Under the National Food and Energy Council”, EO 731 aims to monitor the national security situation amid continuous oil price surges within the past months and the people’s active response against it.

The task force has Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as its head and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes as its operations officer. Both retired military men are close allies of the president. Meanwhile, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) is directed to “issue timely intelligence assessments of political and security developments” and “provide advice on matters affecting national security.” Its current commander Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza is known to be a former member of Military Intelligence Group (MIG21), a special military unit for technical intelligence.

Critics of the administration point out the “hideous intentions” behind the EO 731. For the members of progressive youth organizations, this is but a camouflage that legitimizes military intelligence operations within academic institutions. The ulterior motive is to spy on student activities, instill fear among the youth and discourage students’ active involvement in national affairs. Further, they question the inclusion of the Commission on Higher Education in the task force.

Anakbayan National Chairperson Ken Ramos links recent cases of military presence in school premises and the series of political harassments experienced by students to the issuance of EO 731.

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