Photo by Mark Kevin Reginio
Text by Red Carao and Franchesca Persia
University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman students held back-to-back protests yesterday denouncing President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody War on Drugs, a campaign which left thousands of alleged dealers and users dead since Duterte’s term started.
The two protests were spearheaded by Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) and the UP Law Student Government (UP LSG) respectively, which both called for the administration to stop the killings under the pretense of battling illegal drugs in the country.
These protests were sparked by the recent peak of the death toll after more than 50 civilians were killed in one of the PNP’s anti-illegal drugs operations, including 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.
The Duterte administration’s War on Drugs has already killed 3,451 suspected drug personalities according to the Philippine National Police (PNP); if the deaths by vigilante killings were to be included, the death toll would rise to more than 7, 000.
The call for due process
UP LSG President Jules Herrera-Lim said that the College of Law students were awakened from their quiet after visiting Delos Santos’ wake. Their anger has sparked the flame in them to mobilize and forward their calls to the legislation, she claimed.
“[Ang nangyari kasi is] nung lumabas yung story about Kian, bumisita yung ibang members ng UP College of Law student body and nakita naman talaga yung reality that exists beyond hashtags [and] beyond anything else you see,” said Herrera-Lim.
She added that they planned meetings with lawmakers to forward their concerns as students and promised that they will continue to call for accountability from the government for those who fell victim to the drug-related killings under the present administration.
Various organizations in UP Diliman attended the protest held by the LSG, such as the University Student Council (USC), UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP Alyansa), Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA UP), and the League of College Councils, among others.
Herrera-Lim also expressed the law students’ disappointment with the widespread injustice especially since the president is a lawyer.
“Gusto namin paniwalaan na maganda yung idadala niya sa bayan natin pero recently kasi hindi talaga. Kung anong mga natutunan namin from the classroom hindi yun yung ginagawa niya and sa’min nag-aral din siyang maging abogado so sana lang ay dinggin niya yung mga panawagan naming ngayon…,” she said.
Students from the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) and Miriam College (MC) joined the LSG’s ranks in a candlelighting ceremony at the UP Sunken Garden Grandstand.
Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila President Ia Maranon said more united protests will be staged in the future to ask for accountability and justice from the government.
“Bilang mga Atenista, meron kaming mga prinsipyo, meron kaming mga pinaglalaban at dapat nakikita din to sa mga isyung panlipunan, hindi lang pwedeng nasa ere lang kami na nag-uusap pero dapat talaga naka-root siya sa mga experiences ng mga tao, ng mga isyung panlipunan,” she said.
She wants to remind the administration to respect due process and democracy, and recognize the power of the student movement.
“Dapat hindi talaga niya minamaliit yung kakayahan ng mga kabataan,” Maranon said.
A network of Katipunan Schools is already being created between ADMU, MC and UP. The student leaders are hoping this will help strengthen student mobilization and help forward their calls to the legislative body for legal probes and justice.
UPD USC Chairperson Benjie Aquino said the council was planning on creating their own statement to consolidate efforts from organizations both inside and outside UP, but the council reconsidered.
“We were supposed to create our own mobilization. I told them hindi, huwag muna, marami kasing nag-momobilize. Mas maganda siguro, mas magiging malakas yung boses natin kung sama-sama tayo,” he said.
Students against state fascism
Youth groups in UP such as Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), Alay Sining, and Student Christian Movement also demanded accountability from the government for Delos Santos’ death, as well as for all who have died because of Oplan Tokhang.
Furthermore, these groups also condemned continuing violence under the current administration, such as the militarization of indigenous people (IP) communities, counterinsurgency operations revolutionary forces, and the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
JP Rosos, spokesperson of LFS National, said that constant fascist attacks of the state towards its citizens have desensitized the Filipinos to violence. He cited not only the daily reports of deaths of alleged drug suspects, but also deaths of peasant leaders and indigenous people in the countryside.
He also added that because of Delos Santos’ death, the Filipino people have started to gain awareness once again of the violence perpetuated by the Duterte administration.
“Ang kaso ni Kian ay hindi hiwalay na kaso sa mamamayang Pilipino na araw-araw niloloko, pinapasista’t pinapatay ng rehimeng ito,” Rosos said.
From putting Php 100, 000 bounty per head on the New People’s Army (NPA) to pushing for schools to implement mandatory ROTC and mandatory drug tests, the youth groups said they see these mounting “anti-people policies” to be the pillars of a “de facto Martial Law” in the whole country.
“[Makikita ang de facto Martial Law ni Duterte] sa unti-unting pagpapaupo ng mga militar at mga kaalyado sa kongreso, paglalagay ng Suggestion Box sa mga komunidad ng mga pinaghihinalaang NPA o adik, pagpapatupad ng National ID System, pagbuburador ng Federalism Charter Change, at pagpapatindi ng kanyang tatlong gyera: Oplan Tokhang, Oplan Kapayapaan, at Martial Law,” said Anakbayan UP Diliman in a statement.
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy council member Edmer Martinez lamented that the institutions that were sworn to serve and protect have turned against the people.
Martinez emphasized that in these times that the police and the military are the ones needed protecting from, it is up to the Filipino people to secure their rights and safety.
“Ang mga kondisyon ay hinog na para ang mamamayan ay magising na mula sa kanilang natutulog na diwa. Sa panahong ito ng pandarahas at pagkamatay, tayo at tayo lamang ang mapagpasyang tatangan ng ating kaligtasan,” said Martinez.
College of Arts and Letters representative to the USC Isaac Punzalan urged the students to remain steadfast in their support for the struggle of the Filipino people.
He asked the students to look beyond the deaths in Duterte’s War on Drugs, and to remember that previous administrations have also enacted policies that have led to the death of many other innocent lives.
“Sa panahon na tayo ay sinusubok, sa pahanon na tayo’y ginagawan ng paraan para manahimik, upang matakot, at upang umatras— ito mismo ang panahon na tayo ay patuloy na lalaban,” he added.