On Independence Day, Cebu activists lament lack of freedom, persistent red-tagging

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On Independence Day, Cebu activists lament lack of freedom, persistent red-tagging

FREEDOM. Activist groups gather for the Parade for Independence at Metro Colon, in downtown Cebu City, to protest during the 126th Philippine Independence Day on June 12, 2024.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

BAYAN Central Visayas chairperson Jaime Paglinawan says genuine freedom cannot be achieved if people continue to suffer from threats to their livelihood

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu-based groups on Wednesday, June 12, staged an Independence Day marching protest to call out the national government for its inadequate assistance to working-class Filipinos, among other concerns.

The parade held from Plaza Independencia to Metro Colon in Cebu City was led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Central Visayas and was joined by Anakbayan Cebu, Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) Cebu, and Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU), among others.

BAYAN Central Visayas chairperson Jaime Paglinawan said in a speech that genuine freedom cannot be achieved if people continue to suffer from threats to their livelihood.

“Ang atuang mga kaigsuonang mamumuo, ubos ang suholan, padayon nga gigapos sila sa panarbahong kontraktwal. Unya ang atong maguuma pud, padayon nga giulipon sa kawalay yuta nga matikad,” Paglinawan said.

(Our fellow workers, with low wages, continue to be bound by contractual employment. Meanwhile, our farmers continue to be oppressed by the lack of land to cultivate.)

PISTON Cebu chair Gregory Perez told Rappler that the transport sector will be dealt a huge blow by the government’s push for jeepney consolidation

“Ang ginaingon nga kagawasan para namo, peke o huwad nga kalayaan ang matagamtaman nato sa pagkakaron labi na sa pagmasaker sa kabuhayan sa atong mga driver,” Perez said.

(The so-called freedom for us is fake or false freedom, especially with the phaseout of the livelihoods of our drivers.)

Persistent red-tagging, threats

Paglinawan also said that activists continue to face red-tagging threats and legal challenges.

Paglinawan shared that he is among the 27 individuals charged – former and incumbent members of Community Empowerment Resource Network (CERNET) – with violating the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

Paglinawan also mentioned that there were also posters red-tagging progressive groups and labeling them as recruiters of the New People’s Army (NPA).  These posters were seen near the premises of the University of the Philippines Cebu (UPC) and the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

“126 [years] commemorated freedom, but for us in Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, we continue to protest, we continue to push for genuine freedom,“ Paglinawan said. 

‘Genuine’ freedom

On June 11, the military launched a photostatic exhibit entitled “Kagawasan 2024” at the SM Seaside Cebu. 

Philippine Air Force (PAF) First Lieutenant Michael Remo told Rappler that the photo exhibit includes photographs of Medal of Valor awardees. 

We are showing that we are willing to protect our hard-earned independence,” Remo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Cleisteil Cimafranca, the regional coordinator of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) in Cebu, questioned Remo’s notion of “freedom.”

“They are the first to wreak havoc and instill fear, especially in the youth and the student sector because based on experience, a lot of youth are suffering from the chilling effects of red-tagging and militarization of campuses,” Cimafranca told Rappler. 

Cimafranca experienced red-tagging when she was chairperson of the University of the Philippines Cebu University Student Council (UPC USC) in academic year 2022-2023. She was red-tagged in an online poster bearing her full name and cautioning the public against as she was supposedly an NPA recruiter.

The post had been taken down.

“They called me the chairperson of NKE (Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante), which is wrong because I was the chairperson of the student council at that time,” Cimafranca said in a mix of English and Cebuano. – Ian Peter Guanzon/

Ian Peter Guanzon is a Rappler intern from the University of the Philippines in Cebu. He tweets at @AkoSiGuanzon

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