UP condemns harassment of students undergoing fieldwork in Pampanga

“We will not let it happen just like that. Justice must be served.” – UP President Alfredo Pascual

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA –Three community development students of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman were in Porac, Pampanga to learn about the lives of the Aeta community. They did not expect they would be tagged as New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas for doing so.

Since December, Rafael Antonio Dulce, 25; Marie Gold Villar, 23; and another student who refused to be identified were at the Katutubo village or Tent City in Porac, Pampanga conducting field work as part of their academic requirement. The village is a relocation site where Aetas have lived after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

On January 21, at around12:00 noon, the three students were trekking the mountains going to barangay Camias where they were invited by barangay officials to attend the town fiesta. On their way, a man in civilian clothes called out the group. The man, who introduced himself as Paul from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Region 3 office asked for Villar’s name and started interrogating her. Three more men in civilian clothes came towards them, said Dulce.

The men, said Dulce, kept on asking questions. Dulce then explained the objectives of their integration at the Katutubo village and that they were invited by barangay officials in Camias to visit their community. “Then their line of questioning became different and suddenly they were accusing us of being members of the NPA,” Dulce said during a press conference, Jan. 26.

Dulce texted their colleague who stayed at the Katutubo village, saying that they were being harassed. It was then that a man who introduced himself as Chris started pushing him and challenged him to a fistfight. “He started pushing me and threw out invectives at me. I almost fell because he was pushing me toward the ridge,” Dulce recalled.

The man whom they knew as Chris told the students to stand under the heat of the sun for about one hour. “They were cursing us, shouting at us and accusing us of being NPA guerillas. Another soldier took pictures of me and Marie Gold (Villar) and they tried to get my bag,” said Dulce.

An Aeta passed by and tried to help Dulce’s group but was told to leave. “Then Marie Gold started to break down because of fear,” Dulce said. Then the men let them go, but not before asking for Villar’s cellphone number. According to Dulce, the man who introduced himself as Paul continues to text Villar asking the latter to meet up with him.

Dulce said that a six-by-six military truck passed by while they were being interrogated. Dulce said he then thought about dying. “I thought that our faces would be next in those posters (like Karen and Sherlyn),” said Dulce.

The students reported the incident to the local officials at the Katutubo village. They were told that the men were soldiers of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army who have set up a detachment at the area.

“It is part of our requirement to integrate with the community to practice our skills as future community development workers,” said Dulce. “It was a horrifying experience but it only strengthens my resolve to continue with my advocacy,” Dulce, who is also the vice chairman of Anakbayan added.

UP President Alfredo Pascual condemned the harassment of the three UP students. “We will not let it happen just like that. Justice must be served,” Pascual said during the press conference.

Maria Kristina Conti,UP Student Regent, decried the persecution of UP students who went to the countryside to practice their courses and of students who have chosen to serve the masses.

“Community work is part of our requirement here in the University. In fact it is not only the College of Social Work and Community Development that requires integration with the community be it in the countryside or urban areas. The College of Medicine, for example, also requires its students to go to the community for medical work,” Conti said.

Conti cited the case of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño who were abducted in Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006. Empeño is a Sociology student and Cadapan, on the other hand, is a varsity scholar of the UP College of Human Kinetics.

Aside from Cadapan and Empeño, Conti also stated cases of UP students Maricon Montajes and Ericson Acosta who were illegally arrested while doing community work and are now detained in Batangas and Samar respectively.

In a separate statement, Anakbayan slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines for tagging as ‘terrorists’ and ‘NPAs’ anyone who questions government policies and programs, as well as anyone who tries to assist the rural and urban poor.

“It is programs like that of the Dept. of Community Development which continues to make UP relevant in understanding and addressing Philippine social problems. Yet the AFP itself is directing its violence against such programs. The military has clearly shown that it is anti-development and anti-peace,” Anakbayan said.

“But we will not be discouraged. We will still be of service to the people,” said Conti.

Hunt down Palparan

The UP community has also called on the people to surface Major General Jovito Palparan to give justice to missing UP students Empeño and Cadapan and all victims of human rights violations.

“We are 50,000 students scattered in different parts of the country and we will help in hunting down Palparan and bring him to jail,” Conti said.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino appealed to the government to act and use all its resources to find Palparan. “The President showed how fast he acted on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. He can do the same to immediately investigate and put an end to human rights violations and impunity. If the government has the political will, then they should command different government agencies to find Palparan and other human rights violators,” Palatino said ()

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  1. I am sure there are still proteges of Palparan out there. They should be made accountable for their actions. Else, they will do the same with gusto and impunity. UP should now make concrete and resolute actions on these. It is good we now have UP officials who would NO LONGER call active (progressive) students as doing a disservice to the nation. Remember the Senate UP Charter hearing incident involving an official of the university and a former student councilor and regent? Very un-UP, indeed!

    If I may suggest, UP thru colleges or subject professors should make a systematic and planned coordination with local authorities before students go out on community works. I have done community researches in Ermita, Laguna, and recently in Botolan, Zambales mountainous relocation areas for my Ph.D. class paper on Sociology for Philippine Education. It was the Professor who arranged the logistics including safety and security matters. Other schools like De La Salle U., I learned from the local Aetas, is also doing researches in the area but security precautions are made. UP should not just send out students like stray cows out there in the prairie or wilderness in the name of independence or whatever you call it… then complain or act later when something bad happens. Prevention is better than cure, we know that, right? I have experienced in 1980’s being interrogated by NPA friends in Bataan personal outing with barkadas but they released us upon showing our UP ID’s. Same scary experience but with different antagonistic scarers. – BS Stat, MBA, Ph.D. (Student)

  2. The statement of UP President Alfredo Pascual condemning the harassments of three UP students by Philippine Army troops is commendable and proper.

    Instead of ensuring the health, safety and welfare of students who offered their time and valuable resources to integrate and learn from the culture and living conditions of indigenous peoples, the Philippine Army who are supposed to be the protectors of Philippine citizens are the ones persecuting and harassing them.

    The Philippine government and all its agencies should encourage and allow qualified students to learn and educate themselves by doing investigation, research and writing about the lessons they learn from their experience and integration with the indigenous communities. Perhaps we can all learn from their investigation and research.

    There are valuable lessons students guided by their university curriculum can learn from their integration with native communities. University students, especially from prestigious universities like UP who spend their time integrating, respecting the culture, customs and traditions of our own indigenous people, should be commended and not be punished or harassed by the Philippine Army, Police or other military or quasi-military elements. Let the students study and learn their lessons and let the military do their job in protecting the country from foreign and vested interests like extractive mining corporations and destructive logging firms which are causing environmental damage and floodings all over the country

    There are vital lessons we can all learn from tribal peoples of the Philippines. Indigenous peoples of the Philippines just like other indigenous tribes around the world, their culture, customs and traditions are genuine cultural heritage of the country.

    The Philippine universities are there to produce intelligent, patriotic, environementally conscious Filipino citizens who will ultimately be able to guide the country to a better future.

    I agree with UP President Pascual that these harassments of UP students must not be allowed to continue and justice must be served.

  3. The statement of UP President Alfredo Pascual condemning the harassments of three University of the Philippines by Philippine Army troops is commendable and proper.

    Instead of ensuring the health and safety of students who offered their time and valuable resources to integrate and learn from the culture and living conditions of indigenous peoples, the Philippine Army who are supposed to be the protectors of Philippine citizens are the ones persecuting and harassing them.

    Edwin C. Mercurio
    edmercurio@yahoo.com

    The Philippine government and all its agencies should encourage and allow qualified students to learn and educate themselves by doing investigation, research and writing about the lessons they learn from their experience and integration with the indigenous communities. Perhaps we can all learn from their investigation and research.

    There are valuable lessons students guided by their university curriculum can learn from their integration with native communities. University students, especially from prestigious universities like UP who spend their time integrating, respecting the culture, customs and traditions of our own indigenous people, should be commended and not be punished or harassed by the Philippine Army, Police or other military or quasi-military elements. Let the students study and learn their lessons and let the military do their job in protecting the country from foreign and vested interests like extractive mining corporations and destructive logging firms which are causing environmental damage and floodings all over the country

    There are vital lessons we can all learn from tribal peoples of the Philippines. Indigenous peoples of the Philippines just like other indigenous tribes around the world, their culture, customs and traditions are genuine cultural heritage of the country.

    The Philippine universities are there to produce intelligent, patriotic, environementally conscious Filipino citizens who will ultimately be able to guide the country to a better future.

    I agree with UP President Pascual that these harassments of UP students must not be allowed to continue and justice must be served.

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