Cavite State University under fire after military official red-tags activists at NSTP webinar

The administration of the Cavite State University (CvSU) is under fire after one of the speakers in their National Service Training Program (NSTP) orientation webinar red-tagged activists and progressive groups on Saturday, October 24. 

Colonel Erwin Alea, who represented the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at the webinar, tagged progressive organizations as communist terrorists during the Strengthened Alliance on Fight Against Illegal Drugs and Terrorism (SAFER) Cavite webinar for CvSU’s NSTP orientation.

More than 1,000 students of CvSU's main campus in Indang, Cavite – mostly freshmen students – joined the webinar that was made available to a private Facebook group for the university’s NSTP-1 class. 

During the webinar, Alea showed a video presentation on communist recruitment. He also showed composite images of activists and repeatedly explained how the recruiters prey on students, especially newbies.

He warned the students against engaging with groups such as the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, Kabataan, Gabriela, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP).

“These groups would instigate walkouts and boycotts in their campuses using various issues, ranging from campus and academic freedom and tuition fee hikes, to the national issues like human rights violations, oppression of the poor, and Philippine sovereignty, to spot possible recruits, O, 'di ba, parang nag-sho-shopping lang (See, it’s as if they’re just shopping)?” Alea added. 

Alea claimed that joining protests, such as rallies to junk the anti-terror law, is part of the recruitment process.

“This allows [them] to get the trust of the students, para madala na nila ang mga ito sa mga demonstrasyon on the prevailing issues, katulad ng #JunkAntiTerrorBill,” he said. 

(This allows [them] to get the trust of the students, so they can take them to demonstrations on prevailing issues such as the rally to #JunkAntiTerrorBill.)

'Walang kaliwaan'

Towards the end of his talk, Alea, through a slide in his presentation, warned the students of the fate that awaited them if they took part in these groups, and reiterated that they should stay loyal to the government since they get free tution.

"Walang kaliwaan kung ayaw 'nyong matulad sa mga ibang iskolar ng bayan na maagang namatay dahil sa pangangaliwa (You should stay faithful if you don't want to end up like other state scholars who died early because of joining the Left)," the slide said.

The message echoed the controversial warning of Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, to actress Liza Soberano.

During the question and answer portion, Alea clarified that not all organizations are communist fronts but that the military knows who they are.

'Baseless' red-tagging

Student organization CvSU Kilos Na said the school administration should be held accountable for allowing Alea to red-tag groups and individuals.

In a statement, LFS-Cavite condemned Alea's “baseless” red-tagging. It also scored CvSU university president Dr Hernando P. Robles for allowing the school to be "used" as a tool to muzzle students.

“Hindi nararapat na magpagamit ang mga akademikong institusyon upang maging instrumento sa kaliwa't kanang pagpapatahimik sa hinaing ng mga kabataan sa inhustisya at kapabayaan ng gobyerno (It is not proper for academic institutions to allow themselves to become instruments in silencing the grievances of the youth on the injustices and neglect of this government)," LFS-Cavite said.

"Sa halip ay dapat pagtuunan ng CVSU Admin ang mahirap na kalagayan ng nasasakupan nito ukol sa pagpapatuloy ng klase, walang habas na pagpapatahimik, at kawalan ng tugon sa mga suliraning kinakaharap ng mga estudyante,” the group added.

(Instead, the CvSU admin should focus on the difficult situation faced by its constituents with the resumption of classes, ceaseless silencing, and lack of response to the problems faced by its students.)

CvSU was among the trending topics in the country on Saturday as netizens called out the red-tagging of activists and students who are members of the the progressive groups. They emphasized that "activism is not terrorism."

Anakbayan-University of the Philippines (UP) Los Banos also slammed the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for allowing military personnel to conduct such talks that tag progressive organizations as terrorists. 

“Anakbayan is a legal organization, advocating and fighting for the end of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism. If anything, the real terrorist and enemy of the Filipino people are the AFP-Philippine National Police and Duterte who mercilessly kill the people,” the group stressed. 

Anakbayan-CvSU pointed out that issues of red-tagging do not just happen in academic institutions but all over the country, as seen in how celebrities like Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray, and Angel Locsin have been called similarly red-tagged just for speaking up.

The group reiterated that the military's red-tagging activities increased after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terror law. 

“Ginagawa nila itong scapegoat upang mas mapadami pa ang presensya ng militar sa mga pamantasan, imbis na unahin ang mas mahahalagang bagay kagaya ng edukasyon, kalusugan, at konkretong plano kung paano mawakasan ang pandemya,” Anakbayan-CvSU said. 

(They are using the anti-terror law as a scapegoat to further the presence of the military in academic institutions, instead of prioritizing more important things like education, health, and concrete plans on how to end the pandemic.)

CvSU speaks up

In a statement released on Friday, October 30, the CvSU Office of the University President apologized and clarified that it was not involved in red-tagging any individual or group.

“Ang pamunuan ng pamantasan ay kailanman ay hindi nag-'red-tag' sa sinumang indibiduwal o grupo sapagkat wala ito sa mandato ng pamantasan. Ang pamantasan ay nakatuon lamang sa mga gawaing akademiko at hindi lubhang nakikialam sa isyung politikal.... Paumanhin po ang hingi namin sa anumang idinudulot na agam-agam.)” CvSU said.

(The university administration has never red-tagged any individual or group because this is not part of our mandate. The university is focused only on academic activities and does not get too involved in political issues. We apologize for anything that caused doubts.)

CvSU, however, said that Almera's presentation was based on his own opinion and does not reflect the university's views. It added that it would be up to the students if they would believe Almera or not.

“Nasa mga dumalo ang malayang desisyon kung sila ay maniniwala sa mga inihayag na impormasyon ng “Resource Person” o hindi. Ang pamantasan ay hindi kailanman manghihimasok sa gawain ng ibang sektor na supilin ang karapatan ng mga mag-aaral, guro at empleyado sa loob ng Pamantasan,” CvSU said.

(Those who attended can freely decide whether to believe the information presented by the resource person or not. The university will never interfere in activities of other sectors in suppressing the rights of students, teachers and employees of the University.) 

It also said:  “Ang diumanong nangyaring red-tagging sa isang NSTP Webinar ay patungkol sa pangkalahatang pagsusuri at paglalatag ng impormasyon at hindi tumutukoy sa sinumang indibiduwal o grupo sa loob ng pamantasan (The alleged red-tagging in the NSTP webinar is about the overall examination and presentation of information. This does not describe any individual or group outside of the university)." – Rappler.com