by Hon. Krissy Conti, UP Student Regent
June 23, 2011
The UP community this week has been steadily reminded of the perils of political repression. On Sunday, five UPLB students were detained for causing tumult and public disturbance in Calamba after they shouted “education is a right”, among other slogans. Today, we launched the campaign to free Maricon Montajes, a UP Diliman film major, held in Batangas for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. This Sunday, we will mark the fifth year of the disappearance of UP Diliman’s Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Earlier this month also, the legal team for former UP Collegian editor Ericson Acosta filed a motion for reconsideration of the information filed against him. Last June 6, we marked the 1000th day of disappearance of UP Baguio alumnus James Balao.
These are five cases of political persecution of UP students who have physically moved outside of the confines of the university but carried on with the spirit of the Oblation. They are students who embody the true ideal of service to the people. What the state has given in turn, is grief.
The Student Regent condemns political repression of legitimate expressions of dissent and acts of public service, and more so the apparent persecution of UP students and alumni. While our school vigorously trains us to be social agents of change, while the basic sectors welcome us warmly into their homes and their communities, the state meets us with distrust, harassment and downright repression.
The Student Regent lauds the UP administration for extending support to our causes. UP President Alfredo Pascual in a statement today said that the university will press for the release of the two UP students who are in the custody of the military, as the Supreme Court has believed. The UP administration will closely monitor the cases involving our political prisoners, where he will defend the right to due process and other human rights.
UP Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Marion Tan have committed legal assistance and support services for Maricon Montajes. UP Diliman, represented by Vice Chancellor Tan, will make an official visit to the Batangas provincial jail. The Diliman Legal Office will also participate, whether as an adviser to the legal team or as collaborating counsel, in the crafting of Maricon’s legal defense.
True enough, the UP community – students, faculty, the administration, and other community stakeholders – have shown resilience and tenacity in the face of adverse conditions. We will work for a more solid commitment to all UP community members who have been victims of political repression. We will further strive to curb impunity in the country, so that the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arrests and other acts of political tyranny will be held accountable.
UP students call on the Aquino administration to reassess its harsh counter-insurgency program, which has made victims out of five among us. We call on the administration to seriously reposition its priorities in favor of democratic space, public participation, and social services.
When the former Student Regent stood up at the graduation rites in Diliman last April, she tellingly made a point that perhaps, the “daang matuwid” is one where we cut budget to education, where the policy is to stifle speech, and where there is a mission to make enemies out of iskolars ng bayan.
There will be a community activity organized by UP Kilos Na on Sunday 26 June 2011 at 9:00 am along the academic oval. “Run/Walk for Karen and She and All Desparecidos” will mark the day with a jog/walk around the UP Diliman campus to call for the surfacing of Karen, She and all the desaparecidos and in support of the court cases filed by the parents of Karen and She and by other families against military officers involved in their disappearance.
DETAINED: Mikel Mozo, Ynik Ante, Ruffa Solano, Bhen Aguihon, Cathy Gigantone (UP Los Banos)
The five UPLB students, all who have been part of the student council, were arrested by around 25 members of the Presidential Security Guard and local police forces on 19 June 2011 for disruption of peace, grave alarm and/or scandal.
They were protesting at President Noynoy Aquino’s speech on the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal. They chanted “Walang pagbabago sa ilalim ni Aquino!” “Edukasyon karapatan ng mamamayan!” and “Tunay na reporma sa lupa, ipaglaban!”
The students are all members of Kabataan Partylist – U.P. Los Baños chapter. Two others from Anakpawis Partylist-Southern Tagalog were also picked up by the police, Joefrey Barreto and Rodel Badayos.
The so-called “Calamba Seven” were detained for two days at the Calamba City jail. They were released on bail so that they could go back to school, but the police say they will still press charges for tumult and serious public disturbance (Art. 153 of the Revised Penal Code).
DETAINED: Maricon Montajes (UP Diliman – College of Mass Communication, Film and Audio-visual Communications)
Maricon C. Montajes, female, 21 years old, figured in an alleged encounter between the military and the New Peoples’ Army on 3 June 2010. She was wounded in the forehead and was brought to the PAF Hospital. Two other youth were arrested together with Maricon, namely Ronilo Baes, 19 years old, from Batangas and Romiel Cañete, 22 years old, from Diliman, Quezon City.
The youth were charged with frustrated murder and homicide, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and violation of gun ban. Although the first charge was dropped, they are still being held for the non-bailable offense of possession of explosives. Since then, they have been detained at Batangas Provincial Jail.
DETAINED: Ericson Acosta (UP Diliman – College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Political Science and later the College of Arts and Letters)
Ericson L. Acosta was arrested on 13 February 2011 in Barangay Bayang, San Jorge, Samar. In reports it released to the media, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that Acosta was a verified member of the NPA and that he attempted to resist arrest by trying to lob a grenade against arresting soldiers.
In his sworn statement, Acosta denied both allegations. He was not holding a grenade or any explosive at the time of his arrest and he was subjected to torture while in the custody of the military. Acosta is a freelance journalist doing research on human rights violations and the protection of the environment in Samar for the Alliance of Concerned Samareños (ACOS) and the peasant group Kapununguan Han Gudti Nga Parag-Uma Ha Weste Han Samar (Kapawa.)
He is detained at the Samar Provincial Jail in Calbayog City.
MISSING: Karen Empeno (UP Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy – Sociology) and Sherlyn Cadapan (UP Diliman College of Human Kinetics)
At around 2:00 AM on 26 June 2006, Karen Empeno, Sherlyn Cadapan, and Manuel Merino were taken from the house of Hagonoy resident Juling Halili. Burly-looking men took the three, who were volunteers of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (Alliance of Peasants in Bulacan).
Farmer Raymond Manalo, who was taken by the military shortly in 2008 but has since escaped, has testified in court that Karen and Sherlyn are in the custody of the military and that the two have suffered torture. The Supreme Court has granted the writ of amparo, but it has not been satisfied. In an en banc decision promulgated last May 31, 2011, it ordered Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson, Gen. Jovito Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Arnel Enriquez, and Donald Caigas to “immediately release” the two UP students, and farmer Manuel Merino “from detention.”
The mothers of Karen and Sherlyn filed in May 2011 a criminal complaint for arbitrary detention, torture, rape against Gen. Palparan et al.
MISSING: James Balao (UP Baguio)
James Balao disappeared on 17 September 2008 in La Trinidad town, northern Philippines. Witnesses have said that they saw him being abducted by armed men, who claimed that they were from the police. The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, which James co-founded, has also said that they had been informed that he is still alive and is being held by state security forces at an unknown location. He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
The writ of amparo for James was granted in September 2009, but has been unsatisfied.
James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in chief of the campus paper, Outcrop. Even before graduating in 1983, he had already started working full-time in research and education on Cordillera issues, as part of the implementing staff of the Cordillera Schools Group’s Cordillera Studies Program. In 1986, he served on the staff of anthropologist Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the Constitutional Commission, assisting in the work of securing provisions for the rights of indigenous peoples in the 1987 Constitution.