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Rights group decries surveillance of UP students by La Union cops

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 7/16/2017 Artemio Dumlao

STA. CRUZ, Ilocos Sur — University of the Philippines Manila students were tailed as rebels in La Union, an Ilocos-based rights group said.

Human rights group Ilocos Human Rights Alliance said students Patricia Andrea Angeles, Glelil Charlotte Cabalitan, and Aries Raphael Pascua were tailed by Sudipen, La Union policemen. The three are students of the Development Studies Program of UP Manila doing research and advocacy work as part of their 2017 summer practicum.

The students supposedly coordinated their research with the left-leaning farmers' group Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation and the North Luzon Amburayan Conference of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Despite going through regular protocols, like informing the local chief executives from the provincial to the barangay level, and formal introduction by Reverend Nieves Sixto of UCCP San Francisco, policemen

still reportedly placed the students under surveillance. 

Mary Ann Gabayan, deputy secretary general of the IHRA, said the police also went to the house where the students were staying and told the owner that the students were members of the New People's Army.   

A retired police colonel also even reportedly informed the barangay chairman of San Jose, Sudipen that the students belong to the "kabila" (the other side) that made the village official apprehensive towards the students.

Gabayan expressed alarm that even guests of a religious institution like the UCCP are not spared from such violations.

"The actions made against the students, whose presence in the area was co-facilitated by NLAC-UCCP, are not just [an] attack against civil liberties but to the institution and beliefs that NLAC-UCCP represents," she said.

She added: "[S]ince the students are officially undertaking an activity that is part of UP Manila's program, the policemen's action can also be viewed as an affront to the university."

Gabayan said there seems to be a similar pattern of "vilification and surveillance" in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Just last month, soldiers stationed in Ilocos Sur conducted surveillance at the offices of IHRA in Candon City, Ilocos Sur. Members of Anakbayan and STOP Exploitation in Barangay Bugnay in Candon City were also tagged by soldiers as members and supporters of the NPA.

Troops under the 81st Infantry Battalion were also quick to accuse residents and officials opposing their encampments in communities and public places as NPA supporters, Gabayan said.

The Ilocos Human Rights Alliance demanded that the cops issue an apology to the three students of the Development Studies Program of UP Manila doing research and advocacy work in a La Union village. STAR/File photo © Philstar.com The Ilocos Human Rights Alliance demanded that the cops issue an apology to the three students of the Development Studies Program of UP Manila doing research and advocacy work in a La Union village. STAR/File photo

But Lt. Col. Julio Osias, commander of the Sta. Cruz-based 81st Infantry Battalion belied any militarization taking place in Ilocos Sur.  He argued that an encampment in a private property of the town mayor away from the villages could not be tagged as militarization. 

Gabayan though urged the local government of Sudipen to "rectify these iniquitous and illegal actions, and reprimand all those who were involved in the incidents."  

She also demanded that the cops issue an apology to the students and the host organizations.

She also challenged the Commission on Human Rights to take action against the "validation" and surveillance against civilians.

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