Red-tagging incidents toward UP students and organizations increased last year with some of the accusers state forces themselves, student councils revealed during the 50th General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) Monday.
Reports from the university student councils of UP Diliman, UP Baguio, UP Cebu and UP Visayas showed a similar pattern of red-baiting in their campuses, with most victims usually student leaders and campus journalists.
Most of these incidents took place on social media, where names and photos of students or organizations were posted with false claims of connection to underground leftist groups.
Tarpaulins were also displayed in public places accusing specific students and alumni of being in cahoots with communists.
Red-tagging is the act of publicly branding individuals or organizations to communist or leftist groups, according to the International Peace Organization.
This has been used by military officials to allege, among others, communist infiltration in universities like UP — an unsubstantiated claim that has been echoed by the president himself.
It is unknown if instances of red-tagging across different campuses were coordinated by a single group.
The dangers of red-tagging go unspoken in many progressive circles, some of whose widows and orphans know all too well the threats of being labeled a communist sympathizer.
Some well-known activists killed last year by masked assailants had been previously tagged by state forces as members of underground organizations.
These include Jory Porquia, Zara Alvarez and Randall Echanis — whose daughter Amanda Echanis was arrested months after for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
In UP Diliman, student publication Philippine Collegian was accused of being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) “propaganda platform” in a Manila Times column by Rigoberto Tiglao.
Tiglao also red-tagged members of the UP Diliman University Student Council with the same unverified claims in his column.
Meanwhile, the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) branded College of Social Sciences and Philosophy student publication Sinag a front organization of the CPP-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) on several Facebook posts after the publication reported the increased militarization in Lumad communities.
Sinag has since decried this in an article of their own, writing that student publications have the “indispensable right to be a critical press.”
The NTF-ELCAC also accused the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP Diliman (UJP-UP), an organization in the College of Mass Communication, of “exploiting the recent shutdown of ABS-CBN as a front for communist agenda” when UJP-UP posted a statement condemning the ABS-CBN shutdown.
The task force’s claims of the student organization’s alliance with communists were “unfounded and malicious,” said the Union.
The UP Baguio University Student Council (UPB USC) also reported that at least 11 formations and 20 students in their unit were tagged as terrorists on social media, according to its October 2020 data.
Tarpaulins were spread out across Baguio City and the Cordillera region brandishing student leaders’ names and faces along with their alleged affiliation with communist groups, the council said.
“The constant fear of going outside knowing that you are not safe has crossed my mind both in academic and council performance,” UPB USC Chairperson Leandro Enrico Ponce said.
While the Baguio City mayor has pronounced that “activists are safe” in his city, Ponce added that a full investigation is necessary to ensure their safety.
“Ang challenge sa kanya is panghawakan ang ganoong pronouncement by conducting an investigation on who is behind the tarpaulin,” he said.
Since tarpaulins red-tagging students were first put up in June, the city-led investigation has yet to be completed.
Facebook accounts impersonating UP Visayas students also red-tagged a professor and several other student leaders and alumni last year, UP Visayas University Student Council said in their unit report.
This was followed by posters spread around their campus in November calling for justice for the “victims of the CPP-NPA-NDF” after the university was tagged as a “breeding ground” for rebels, the student council added.
UP Cebu University Student Council also reported similar social media posts red-tagging alumni and students in June. Posters targeting people’s organizations were also posted along Mandaue City and Cebu City, among others.
All three university administrations in Diliman, Baguio and Visayas have pledged their assistance in addressing the rampant red-tagging in their campuses, with Baguio administration promising legal aid for the red-tagged students.
Outgoing Student Regent Isaac Punzalan said that the increasing number of red-tagging incidents show the need for the university to respond as a collective.
“Ang clear sa atin ay ‘di na tayo makakapayag sa ganitong mga atake. In this kind of political climate, we know who to organize: our fellow students and fellow youth,” he said.
During the assembly, student councils unanimously resolved to conduct a “systemwide action to defend the university and the Filipino against red-tagging, intensified militarization and fascism by the government.”
In discussing the resolution, student leaders from UP Los Baños College of Agriculture and Food Science said that rampant red-tagging across the board endangers the lives of the peasant sector and others as well.
UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences Student Council added that posters red-tagging progressive organizations like Katribu and Kabataan Partylist have long been a problem in UP Manila.
The resolution, which serves as the basis for the councils’ systemwide response to the issue, was filed by the university student councils of UP Cebu and UP Mindanao.
Ponce said that the rampant red-tagging should not prevent student leaders from fulfilling their mandate to their constituents.
“Red-tagging serves as a distraction from addressing the ills of the nation. Patuloy pa rin na lumalaban despite the attacks dahil may mga kampanya pa tayong ipapanalo,” he added.
The GASC is the biannual convention of UP system student councils where they present their end-of-semester reports and forward campaigns meant to address various issues, among these red-tagging.
With reports by Jezreel Ines and Geraldine Santos