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PUP students unfazed by threats from Facebook dummy accounts: ‘Silence will cost more Filipino lives’

/ 02:02 PM June 09, 2020
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Image: AFP/Oli Scarff

As Facebook users in the country have been spotting blank profiles bearing their names, students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) saw a more sinister side to the proliferation of these accounts.

The Catalyst, the official student publication of PUP, posted on Sunday, June 7, screenshots of messages that students had reported to them. In an interview with INQUIRER.net, The Catalyst stated that over 15 students have been harassed by the empty profiles. The publication told INQUIRER.net that this harassment of students could be linked to the anti-terror bill.

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“The PUP community has been very vocal about its demands and its opposition to the impending Anti-Terrorism Bill,” it said.

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Posted by The Catalyst on Sunday, June 7, 2020

“PUP is known as the bastion of activism, there is a long history of PUP where Iskolars have bravely asserted and fought for our rights, we are not scared to voice out our concerns and dissent,” it added.

One student received messages that mocked online protests such as #OustDuterte and #JunkTerrorBill.

“Online protest ka pa ah himas rehas ka ngayon,” the message said. (You keep doing online protests, now you’ll be in jail.)

Others were dubbed “terrorists” or associated with the rebel group New People’s Army because of the organizations they were a part of, such as the PUP chapters of the groups League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan. Besides being cursed at, there were also threats of rape and death.

The rise of blank profiles — and harassment from them in some cases — come after an online movement against the anti-terrorism bill. Rallies were held on June 5 and June 6 in the University of the Philippines campuses.

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The bill supposedly aims to strengthen counterterrorism measures, though human rights advocates argue that it could be used to punish dissent.

‘Everyone is subject to be a terrorist’

Regarding its opposition to the bill, The Catalyst told INQUIRER.net, “Everyone is subject to be a terrorist under [the] Anti-Terrorism Bill. It is not just those ‘who would not follow the law.’”

“The purpose of the bill is to label dissent as terrorism, so they can hinder the masses from taking actions for their rights,” the publication explained.

When asked about the importance of dissent to Filipinos in their daily lives, it explained, “Without dissent, one ruling voice will continue to rule over the majority, and nothing would be subject to criticism.”

“Dissent [against] the government is a vehicle for learning more about the masses and it’s a vehicle for action as well. Action taken after dissent has always freed the oppressed and it will continue to free the oppressed.”

“Silence will cost more Filipino lives and more oppressive policies, and it will affect more people in the long run,” it said of those who would prefer to stay silent as freedoms are curtailed.

Filipinos continuing to be silent and choosing not to speak up about their concerns or opposition tend to enable government policies that are anti-people and anti-democracy, The Catalyst explained. It pointed out that these policies affect not only people’s basic rights but also their livelihood.

The students affected and harassed by the dummy accounts also appeal for support from the PUP administration, which has yet to make a stand on the issue.

“Nanawagan po kami ng aksyon at statement mula sa PUP admin. Nanawagan po kami kay President [Manuel] Muhi na pangalagaan ‘yung mga estudyante nito at maging kaisa sa panawagan laban sa tahasang intimidation at red tagging,” appealed Robert Owen Ganado, chair of the League of Filipino Students PUP. “Hindi po kasi isolated case ito. Maraming estudyante na ang nakakaranas.”

(We call for action and a statement from the PUP administration. We call on president Manuel Muhi to care for students and be one in the call against outright intimidation and red tagging. This is not an isolated case. Many students have experienced this.) JB

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TAGS: activism, Anti-Terrorism Bill, dissent, Facebook, harassment, PUP
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