despite super efforts to hide it, president arroyo was visibly pissed and will probably think a zillion times before accepting another invitation to speak in any graduation rite. her chief of staff mike defensor was, of course, on the defensive. he had the gall to invoke his ‘student activist’ days, that they had ‘more decorum’ then. crap, crap, and more crap. he even mentioned former UP student regent jerry barican’s similar protest in his graduation rites during marcos’ martial law days. no surprise there. barican after all seems to be his, ehem, ‘idol’.
according to defensor: “What Barican spoke out against was martial law. This is just Charter change-it’s a different issue which could have been conducted in a different place and different time.” if he truly believes this, he was not much of a student activist at all.
i am posting the editorial article i wrote for the debut issue of NOYPI (News Outlet of the Young Pinoy), timely ngayong panahon ng mga graduation marches. at sa mga susunod pang graduation marches, notwithstanding defensors and baricans and other former student activists who have acquired a twisted sense of ‘decorum’ through the years.
Last weekend March 31, Cris Hugo, a 20-year-old student activist, was brought to his final resting place.
He was supposed to have graduated with a degree in journalism at the Bicol University this March. But march he did not. He was assassinated last March 19 in Bagumbayan, Albay as he walked home with his professor-friend from an outing.
At the time of his death, Hugo was the newly-elected Grand Chancellor of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity chapter in BU. He was also a National Council member and regional coordinator of the League of Filipino Students, a student group popular for being critically vocal of the Arroyo government. LFS, incidentally, is one of the numerous groups tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Arroyo government as a communist front organization.
Ironically, a day after, Major General Jovito Palparan was decorated anew with the Distinguished Service Star for his ‘exemplary performance’ in the military. Numerous accolades were lavishly thrown at him by no less than President Arroyo herself, particularly for his latest stint in the Samar regions. Palparan’s major achievement – he took command over a methodical and ruthless liquidation campaign of activist leaders, members and sympathizers of progressive organizations and party-list groups.
The death of Hugo earned the ire not only of his comrades but even of ordinary citizens who would not accept any justification that he deserved to be silenced simply for his convictions. The police and military were quick to divert allegations that Hugo’s death was an addition to the countless cases of extra-judicial killings under the Arroyo administration. They insinuated frat-related violence. They even later suggested that Hugo’s fellow LFS members were responsible for the murder, an idea so preposterous to his fellow activists that they did not bother at all to engage it.
It does not make it less preposterous that the AFP and the government actually believed that the public would accept such insinuations. It could not be less obvious who the culprits in the killings are. We, after all, have a government which honors and promotes officers like Palparan, while on the other hand consistently turning a deaf ear on numerous accusations of human rights violations hurled at him.
As Hugo’s death caused considerable alarm to civil libertarians and concerned citizens in the country and internationally, the government continues to appear nonchalant and unaffected. Countering accusations with childish impertinence – that the death of Hugo and 34 others killed within this year were purely incidental, “Why are they always quick to lay the blame on us?”
The way we see it, the government’s casual indifference is a clear indication of the cold-bloodedness imperative for it to even concoct, much less implement, a campaign as shadowy as ‘enemy annihilation.’ We are impelled to ask the question of who dictates who the so-called enemies of the state are. What threat does a bright-eyed youth like Hugo pose to this government that he deserved to be silenced by an iron-fisted regime?
We now find ourselves in danger of being politically persecuted, gagged, stripped of our freedom of speech and killed for exercising our right to dissent in perfectly legitimate arenas. Progressives and so-called leftists are denied democratic space. Journalists are gagged, kept under close watch Civil libertarians are tagged destabilizers. Under her very own chain of command, President Arroyo went so far as to announce to newly-graduated military and police officers that they are only mandated to do as they are told, shut up or risk being court-martialed.
The way we see it, these do not water down rebellion at all. It is an open invitation to insurgency, a challenge to defend democracy when a government is continuously, against all odds, denying it.
If they persist, so shall thousands like Hugo in schools, universities, urban poor communities, in the impoverished countryside, and even in impressionable ranks in the AFP.
President Arroyo will have to reconcile and accept foolproof lessons in history – it will take more than an iron fist for the youth to desist. ###
*foto courtesy of PDI
**also posted at the youngradicals blog