Those who merely promote and pursue human rights are apparently terrorists in state forces’ eyes as John Peter Garcia, the 40th UP student regent (SR) third nominee, was accused of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 by the 59th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) yesterday.
Jean Bajar, one of the complainants from IBPA, indicated in an affidavit that Garcia went on a “tour of visit” to the New People’s Army in 2021, and even went by the name Tango. He allegedly violated sections 4 (a) and 4 (d) of the ATA, which states that offenders have caused death or bodily injuries to another person and are armed with weapons.
Bajar also accused Garcia of violating section 4 (c) of the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, which points out that Garcia had intentionally directed attacks on civilians or objects uninvolved in armed conflict.
These allegations, however, were baseless, as the IBPA did not show any evidence against Garcia.
Before the 59th IBPA filed a complaint, Garcia was already the chairperson of the Youth Advocates for Peace with Justice (YAPJUST), a social justice-based group in Los Baños. He is also the Los Baños convenor of the Defend UP Network, a campaign network that forwards the concerns and initiatives of all members of the UP community.
This comes only nine days after UP Mindanao’s Red Masacupan, the 40th SR second nominee, received an unsigned letter saying that they were being followed by intelligence forces.
At 9 p.m. on August 22, four men were seen to have surveilled Masacupan's dormitory, reported Himati, the official student publication of UP Mindanao. But when they left their dormitory, the man stationed in front of the dormitory also left the premises.
The letter reads, "Masacupan, komunista! Nakamasid kami sa iyo at sa mga kasama mo."
This also comes after jeepneys carrying student leaders and journalists to a protest action were intercepted by Davao City Police during the 55th General Assembly of Student Councils in UP Mindanao on August 15.
The UP Office of the Student Regent on Saturday released a statement condemning the string of attacks inflicted on the second and third student regent nominees.
“The threats on our safety and security, the unjust filing of trumped up charges, the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, the overall systemic attacks on individuals will not be enough to silence the youth,” the statement read. ●
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