‘Activism is not terrorism’: Student groups say after red-tagging incident at MSU-IIT

September 6, 2022 - 7:41 PM
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The photo shows the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology building and logo (MSU-IIT/Facebook)

Various student groups condemned the red-tagging of activists by a guest speaker during a National Service Training Program (NSTP) orientation at a state university in Mindanao

In an update on Monday, College of Arts and Social Sciences – Executive Council reported that during the NSTP orientation at the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) last Sept. 4, a speaker presented photos of former Reps. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Partylist) and Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist) as well as  Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Joma Sison with a text that reads “CPP-NPA terrorista salot sa bansa.” 

“According to the freshmen who attended the orientation, remarks of red-tagging were thrown toward progressive groups, and students were discouraged to exercise their rights to demand accountability and transparency from the government,” the student council said.

The Anti-Terrorism Council designated the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group in December 2020. 

On the other hand, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict last year tagged MSU-IIT as one of the educational institutions that allegedly serves as breeding grounds for communist recruitment.

‘Activism is not terrorism’

Meanwhile, the presentation did not sit well with various student groups. They flagged the act of labeling activists as terrorists and communists.

“We firmly condemn the circulating photos and statements of red-tagging during the orientation. Photos of former Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago and former Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate among others were wrongfully tagged as ‘terrorists,’” College of Arts and Social Sciences – Executive Council said.

In a statement on Monday, Students’ Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights (STAND – IIT) also said that such red-tagging is part of attempts “to stifle progressives and activists.”

“What transpired recently within the grounds of IIT is an indication of the active attempts of the fascist state to stifle progressives and activists from upholding their rights to their political beliefs, and this form of oppression should never be allowed in our schools or anywhere else, for that matter,” STAND-IIT said.

The group also noted that the Anti-Terror Law has intensified the red-tagging, which has been used to “silence critical ideas and dissent.”

In view of this incident, the student groups stressed that “activism is not terrorism.”

“These narratives are harming our constitutional rights to free speech and are an indication of a need to re-assess how we shape the minds of students about the severity and the implications of these matters,” College of Arts and Social Sciences – Executive Council said.

“KASAMA stands with the student that ‘ACTIVISM IS NOT TERRORISM,’ as the office is an advocate of freedom of speech, and student involvement in the community, especially giving voice in demanding accountability for those who commit injustices in our society,” KASAMA (Kataastaasang Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral) said.

The student groups then called on the NSTP office to review its instruction manuals.

“We call upon the individuals who were responsible to address this matter and to review their materials and syllabi to keep such repulsive incidents from happening again,” College of Arts and Social Sciences-Executive Council said.

According to KASAMA, its investigation showed probable causes of misconduct at the event, given the “red-tagging, slurs, triggering explosions, and demoralization of activism, which has caused distaste, and trauma to numerous students.”

The student council, however, assured the students that “the office has thoroughly discussed the appropriate compendiums and has decided the best action to address the red-tagging issue.

Meanwhile, MSU-IIT Chancellor Alizedney Ditucalan likewise assured students that they would discuss the red-tagging with the departments involved.

“The views, let alone presentations, of any of our guest speakers, don’t represent the University. As an institution of higher learning, we value the free market of ideas. We put a premium on the holistic development of students. And we respect their individual and political views,” Ditucalan said in a tweet