UP Baguio student leaders receive death threats, vow to continue activism

BAGUIO CITY β€” A threatening note left at a youth center on April 6 accused three student activists in this city that they are terrorists and should be careful.

The note, found at the doorstep of the Cordilleran Youth Center, was addressed to Khim Abalos, Ned Tuguinay and Maria Cleo Cuya, student leaders from the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB).

The three are members of the Alliance of Concerned Students (ACS) and active campaigners of Kabataan Party-list. Tuguinay served as the University Student Council chairperson during the Academic Year 2017-2018 while Cuya is the current spokesperson of the College of Arts and Communications in the student body.

In a text message, Abalos said that he fears for his safety. β€œ(My family and friends) fear for me because they are aware of what the government does to activists,” he said.

β€œWhile these terrifying attacks of threat and terrorist-tagging really affect our daily function, these will never put us down. These threats fortify our reason to courageously fight back. We are not backing out,” the student
leader declared.

Since January, Abalos has been receiving death threats via text messages.

β€œThis is one of the many attempts of the administration to silence the ever-growing youth movement,” said Kabataan Party-list Cordillera spokesperson Christian Dave Ruz.

According to Ruz, while the red-tagging and harassment of their organization are not new, there has been an observable rise and brazenness in recent months.

In October 2018, the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) shared a post on its social media page tagging the Kabataan Party-list, Anakbayan and other progressive youth groups as terrorists and recruiters for the Communist Party of the Philippines. The post called on parents to prohibit their children from joining the said youth groups.

The BCPO took down the post after the youth organizations filed complaints before the Baguio City Council and the Commission on Human Rights. Acting on the matter, the city council called for an inquiry and dialogue.

Senior Superintendent Eliseo Tanding issued an apology during a city council session. However, he maintained that the post did not mean to harm the youth but to warn parents to protect their children from being recruited into the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

Despite the intensified threats and red-tagging, Ruz and Abalos said their organization and the youth movement are not deterred and are finding ways to fight back. ACS-UPB also sought a dialogue with the UPB Office of the Chancellor to address the threats against the student leaders. The university administration committed support to the beleaguered student leaders and offered to provide sanctuary and counseling assistance.