August 21, 2019
Last of three parts
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana believes that student activism should not be quelled because it allows the youth to think and discuss issues that concern them.
He, however, said violent activism should not be tolerated because it is a crime.
“[Students] should be encouraged to ask questions and to raise issues that affect their lives and society. It is when they join groups such as the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front), whose avowed objective is to change our system of government through armed struggle, [that should not be encouraged],” Loranzana said.
“When student activism becomes violent and rowdy, endangering peace and order, that is different,” Lorenzana told The Manila Times. “I consider that as a crime. More so if these students join leftist organizations, whose avowed aim is to overthrow the government, this to me should be considered a treasonous act and a crime.”
Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, agreed that student activism should not stop, saying that activism “does not make one a communist rebel.”
“It is a sign that democracy is still vibrant [in the country],” he said. “Violent activism is a sign of the decay, if not collapse, of democratic systems. It means that people are so gullible and naïve at not knowing the difference of being free and being exploited.”
Lorenzana said the CPP and its armed wing, the NPA, had a “continuous supply of cadres” coming from the student sector. These students, he added, were “indoctrinated” by cause-oriented organizations.
The Defense chief had pushed for the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law, which criminalizes joining the CPP.
While he is for student activism, Parlade said students as young as 13 should not be allowed to join protests or rallies.
“[A]s a responsible citizen, you should know your boundaries. There is a thin line dividing activism and violence. If you don’t know that, what is there to prevent you from going to the extreme?” the military official asked.
“Violence and violent extremism already trample the right of others, safety of society and security of the state, which is mandated to protect all citizens, not only activists,” he added.
Former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said student activism should continue.
“This is for them (students) to further push for what should be done in addressing problems that the country has been facing. Activism can sometimes be the answer so that our government would know what to do and what should not be done,” Colmenares said.
Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, exiled CPP leader, said student activism created heroes — Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto.
“The current student activists are similar to their predecessors in being patriotic and progressive. The differences from the past arise from their being able to take advantage of revolutionary legacy bequeathed to them and from being confronted by new challenges from foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism,” he said.
Sison believes that student activism is “unstoppable.”
“The student activists and the student masses must struggle for better conditions and a brighter future by opposing the rotten ruling system,” he said.
“It is not the fault of student activists that there are oppressive and exploitative conditions that they must criticize, repudiate and overcome.
It is the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation that are driving more student activists to join the armed revolution,” Sison added.
Mariel Marcaida, assistant professor of the University of the Philippines (UP), said students join immersion programs to learn about the condition of the marginalized sector such as farmers, workers, the urban poor and indigenous groups, which is similar to doing research.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple agreed, pointing out that almost all schools have activities such as immersion programs.
“’Yung mga grupong ganyan, gustong makuha talaga kung ano ang sitwasyon ng mga magsasaka at manggagawa, bakit hindi mo payagan? (These groups want to know the real situation of farmers and workers, why not allow them?),” Casiple said.
Sarah Raymundo, a sociologist and director of UP’s Center for International Studies, explained that immersion programs were part of social conscientization or the ability to think critically.
“Being within the confines of an institution like the academe will make it a little bit hard for one to understand why there is exploitation or oppression,” Raymundo said.
She said immersion programs would enable a person to understand other people by looking at things from other people’s perspective.
“It is a scientific way of understanding the world. It’s part of the process of gaining knowledge, you have to first observe, gather data, ask people about their experiences and try to understand why do certain things for example; why they organize, why they are engaged in collective struggles and how they do it,” Raymundo added.
She, however, said some students who join progressive or leftist groups are sometimes tagged “Red” by the government.
She said the government resorts to Red-tagging to warn and scare students from joining these organizations.
Recently, the parents of students who joined groups linked to the CPP such as Anakbayan and Kabataan party-list have declared their children missing.
The two groups, however, maintained that they were “legitimate youth organizations” advocating for the right to education, defense of national sovereignty, and youth and student empowerment.
“Memberships are open to the youth and students aged 13 to 35 years old. Each member has the right to join and leave at any time,” a Kabataan officer told The Times.
She said their activities include organizing educational discussions, monthly leadership training, and mobilization with the workers and the urban poor.
WITH GLEE JALEA
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