On May 2, 2021, by 4am, around 40 state forces from the Philippine National Police violently raided the residence of youth activist, student leader, campus journalist, and humanitarian worker Justine Mesias from Bicol University, Albay, Bicol Region, Philippines. The policemen planted guns, ammunition, and explosives as supposed pieces of evidence, and caused damage to the house.
On the same day, student leader Sasah Sta. Rosa from Anakbayan and progressive pastor Dan Balucio from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines were both illegally arrested in the same region and were accused of trumped-up charges.
Attacks against the youth and progressives in the Philippines are not new and have been part of the intensifying crackdown by President Rodrigo Duterte on critics and other ordinary Filipino people.
In order to quell dissent towards his bloody war on drugs, US-backed counterinsurgency programs, worsening socio-economic crisis, and a failed pandemic response, Duterte uses military might under a de facto state of martial law. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), have been very active in terror-tagging Filipino students and their legitimate democratic demands as terrorism. Last April 19, 2021, agents of NTF-ELCAC and other state forces abducted Anakbayan youth community organizer Alicia Lucena and her companion under the guise of randomized swab testing in Manila.
As the ones who will inherit society, we are enraged by the attacks of the Duterte administration against democratic sectors, including leaders from our own ranks. The youth have been very active, especially under the pandemic, in organizing communities, conducting socio-economic livelihood activities, and setting up alternative learning schools amidst the failed militaristic and opportunistic response by the Duterte regime on Covid-19 pandemic.
Coming from the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte last July 26, we, the Filipino youth refute the lie of the president saying that the country is on the way to economic recovery from the pandemic. On the contrary, joblessness, poverty, and hunger have reached record-high levels, while the state imposes militaristic solutions. On the same date of the SONA, two artists from Bicol, Jemar Palero, 22, and Marlon Naperi, 38 were murdered in cold blood by the police while they were trying to spray paint the phrase“DUTERTE IBAGSAK” (“Down with Duterte”) in a bridge in the same region.
The ILPS Commission 8 demands the immediate junking of cases against youth leaders, the freedom of our incarcerated youth leaders, and end of attacks against the youth. With the outgoing International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda seeking the advancement of the ongoing investigation into the bloody war on drugs of Duterte, we also encourage youth leaders and other sectors and their organizations around the world to condemn these attacks, issue statements in support of the victims and against the murderous regime, and provide other forms of support to stand with the Filipino youth against the intensifying crackdown and worsening socio-economic crisis.
Hands of Justine Mesias!
Free Sasah Sta. Rosa!
Stop the Attacks!