BAGUIO CITY (updated February 9, 2020, 7:00 pm) - Students from the University of the Philippines Baguio protested the continuing crackdown against progressive groups, with the recent illegal arrest and filing of trumped-up charges against five activists in Eastern Visayas.

The University of the Philippines Baguio University Student Council (UPB-USC) and Innabuyog Gabriela Youth (IGY)-UPB led the demonstration inside the campus on February 7. The group condemned the attack as a means to silence legitimate calls and criticisms on the government’s anti-people policies.

According to Abi Taningco of UPB-USC, the council firmly stands against all forms of attacks to the Filipino people, including political vilification.

“Ito ay patunay ng nangyayaring crackdown sa ilalim ng EO 70 kung saan patuloy na dinadahas ang mga aktibista, human rights activists, at iba pang progresibong tao. […] Kasama ang buong UP System sa panawagan na palayain ang political prisoners, itigil ang atake sa mamamayan, at pakinggan ng gobyerno ang lehitimong panawagan ng mamamayan,” Taningco said.

Among those arrested during the 2:00 am simultaneous raids in Tacloban City, Leyte on February 7 was Eastern Vista Executive Director and Aksyon Radyo Tacloban anchor Frenchie Mae Cumpio. The military accused her as the secretary of the Regional White Area Committee – Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

Also arrested were Alexander Philip Abinguna, Karapatan National Council member for Eastern Visayas; Mira Legion of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Eastern Visayas; Marissa Cabaljao, spokesperson of People Surge Network, and her one-year-old baby; and, Mariell Domanquill, a staff of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas.

The raid was a joint operation of the 8th Infantry Division and Philippine National Police. They accused them of being members of “communist terrorist groups.” In particular, the military tagged Cumpio as the secretary of the Regional White Area Committee – Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

Cumpio was the former editor-in-chief of UP Vista, the official student publication of UP Visayas. Legion, Abinguna, and Domanquill were also former student leaders from the same university.

In her speech, IGY-UPB Chairperson Shannen Dela Cruz emphasized the worsening situation of their sector under the current political climate in the country.

“Lahat na lang ay ginagawa ng pasistang rehimen para supilin ang aming hanay. Inaasahan mula sa AFP-PNP na protektahan at pagsilbihan ang mamamayan, pero one out of three rape cases ay state-enforced pa,” she said.

Dela Cruz pointed out that state agents are even tagging the One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and children as a communist-led activity.

Meanwhile, the People’s Alternative Media Network condemned the arrest of Cumpio and her four companions.

“Cumpio is not a member much less a leader of a “communist terrorist group,” but a legitimate community journalist reporting on human rights abuses in the Eastern Visayas, including military attacks against peasant communities in the region,” said Altermidya National Coordinator Rhea Padilla.

Padilla recalled that a few days before the raid, Cumpio reported that the Eastern Vista office was the subject of surveillance. Men on motorcycles believe to be military assets also tailed.

Cumpio’s former outfit, the UP Vista, also castigated the authorities for the incident. It echoed a similar sentiment about the arrest being a means to silence dissents and criticism against the administration.

“Journalists and activists should not be subjected to repressive acts just to silence calls and criticisms on the government’s fascist and tyrannical state policies,” UP Vista Online stated.

Other groups conducted similar protests in different regions of the country on the same day. They demanded the release of the five activists, now collectively known as Leyte 5, and the junking of Duterte’s EO 70. # nordis.net

(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article erroneously dated the arrests, and the subsequent protest actions against them, at January 8. We apologize for the oversight.)

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