Esperon wrongly tags school admins over student calls for walkout

Esperon wrongly tags school admins over student calls for walkout
This undated file photo shows National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson Jr. on Wednesday blamed school administrations for student-initiated calls to walk out of their classes in protest of a projected election win for Ferdinand Marcos Jr., under whose father student activists were arrested, tortured and killed.

Speaking at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay on Wednesday afternoon, Esperon tagged the academic walkout calls as being "dangerous" for the youth, saying these would make schools vulnerable to recruitment by the New People's Army. 

It was student governments of the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University, Far Eastern University and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, however, that issued the call to walkout when the election trends became clear.

No university administrators ever echoed those calls and walkouts, by their nature, are generally initiated by students. Protest actions endorsed or allowed by school administrations are not walkouts.

RELATED: 'Walang papasok': UP, ADMU, DLSU students iboboykot klase vs Marcos presidency

"You are providing the NPA renewed ranks of students vulnerable to recruitment. You allow your institutions to be breeding grounds of recruitment into the ranks of terrorists," Esperon was quoted as saying, in comments directed to the schools.

"You must think of the future of your students. Why encourage them to walk out? They are in your universities to study."

Esperon previously drew flak for red-tagging a number of major universities in Metro Manila, calling them "NPA factories." On Wednesday, he claimed then that the communist movement deceived student activists into thinking their goal was to topple the Marcos dictatorship when their real goal was, he said, to seize power. 

Crackdowns against activists during the Marcos dictatorship led many — including student leader Edgar "Edjop" Jopson of a group considered moderate — to join the underground movement against Marcos.

"Do you have no respect for the voters? Do you really believe you are the only ones who can think, or do other people not have the right?" he said in Filipino, addressing protesters pushing back against the elections results and questioning the conduct and integrity of the polls. 

In a separate statement, Communist Party of the Philippines public information officer Marco Valbuena said it was officials like Esperon who were pushing the youth to join the armed insurgency. 

"The threat of six more years of repression and terrorism by the [National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict] after the widespread and flagrant election fraud convinces the people’s hopes that it is right and that it should be armed and resisted," he said in Filipino. 

The NTF-ELCAC, a composite group created under the Office of the President, has been called out in the past for using fake quote-card graphics on its social media channels, and spreading false allegations against broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp.  

Its red-tagging campaign, according to human rights groups and even the United Nations rights office, has made the practice of stifling dissent "institutionalized" in the Philippine government and has weakened democratic institutions according to think tanks. 

Philippine jurisprudence defines red-tagging as: “The act of labeling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy...by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’” — Franco Luna







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