Youth groups condemn military’s ‘systematic’ red-tagging

KABATAAN Partylist and its member organizations, including Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, and the National Union of Students of the Philippines

condemned the Philippine Army’s facilitation of “counterinsurgency campaign symposiums” in elementary and high schools in the Cordillera Administrative Region, citing various reports that the military has utilized said events to tag progressive youth organizations as “communist fronts.”

“It is alarming that the military is teaching young students the wrong notion that the legal democratic movement and the communist insurgency are one and the same. Such act imbues upon young minds that to be an activist, or to simply be a member of a progressive organization, is tantamount to rebellion,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.

In a memorandum issued on June 26, Baguio City Division Superintendent Mary Lang-ayan instructed school heads in Baguio City to coordinate with the Philippine Army in conducting several “one-hour counter-insurgency symposiums” in elementary and high schools every Saturday of the month of July and August.

“This is to enhance students’ consciousness about the lies, deception and clandestine operations of the Communist Terrorist Movement,” the memorandum read.

The said symposiums targeted high school students and Grade VI pupils. Symposiums for high school were held during Saturdays, while elementary students were given lectures during the social studies period.

However, reports from chapters of Kabataan, Anakbayan and several other progressive organizations such as ACT Teachers Partylist reveal that the military instructs students in said symposiums to avoid joining progressive organizations, calling them “communist fronts” and its members tagged as “rebels.”

“This is what the military does not understand – legal progressive organizations and rebel groups are very much different, both in leadership and style of work. Organizations like Kabataan Partylist are legal by all means and should not be portrayed to students as communist fronts,” Palatino said.

Schools in other parts of Cordillera have also reportedly conducted similar symposiums in partnership with the Philippine Army.

“The military claims that they are teaching children ‘clandestine operations’ of the armed revolution. What is ironic is that these symposiums are clandestine projects by themselves, which aim to discredit legal democratic movements,” Palatino said.

“Such acts not only serve as a smear campaign for progressive groups, but also teach children the wrong notion that fighting for your rights is against the law,” Palatino said. “Meanwhile, in such seminars, the Philippine Army hails itself as the hero of the nation, and refrains from discussing the tainted human rights record of the military,” he added.

“We call on the Department of Education to investigate such botched symposiums, and stop the military from corrupting young minds into believing that joining legal democratic organizations is a criminal act,” the youth solon added.

Palatino explained that in conducting such symposiums, the military might be “twisting historical facts” to conform to their agenda.

“As the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law nears, we have to remind students that for many years, it was the military that suppressed the rights of the Filipino people. At the same time, we have to emphasize that the legal progressive movement has played a major role in toppling the Marcos dictatorship. This is the history that we have to teach our students,” Palatino said.

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