PROTEST Student council leaders and members of campus organizations stage a protest rally at the University of the Philippines Baguio on Tuesday to denounce a retired Army official who Red-tagged different groups at a National Service Training Program lecture. —VINCENT CABREZA
BAGUIO CITY—The student council and different student organizations at the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio on Tuesday denounce a retired military official who reportedly linked them to communist rebels during an online lecture as part of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) held for students.
Peale Jon Bondoc, a former major general in the Philippine Army Reserve Command, presented a list of several groups, which he labeled as “communist fronts” when he spoke via Zoom to some 400 freshmen about the state of the country’s national security. NSTP is the government’s civic education and defense preparedness program for college students which replaced the reserve officers’ training corps.
READ: Red-tagging: It’s like ‘living with a target on your head’
Bondoc asked the students to help the government defeat propaganda from leftist groups, which he also tagged as “terrorists,” according to the students and faculty members.
Under UP rules, NSTP lessons are given by faculty members, and Bondoc should not have been listed as a speaker that day, said former UP Baguio teacher Ruel Caricativo, another NSTP resource person.
Speaking at a rally on Tuesday, UP Baguio chancellor Corazon Abansi took full responsibility for a bureaucratic error that allowed Bondoc to participate in the lecture, saying the campus would fight all forms of abuse and harassment that victimize students.
Abansi said a UP Baguio crisis management committee had put up measures to protect the students against Red-tagging, including the provision for legal assistance.
“We learned about the Red-tagging immediately on Monday when students shared Bondoc’s lecture over social media. On Monday night, we held a social media rally to condemn the incident,” said Patricia Joan Daloria, a student council ex-officio member.
Abansi has reached out to the student council and other organizations to address the matter, said student council chair Iya Trinidad.
Nico Ponce, a former student leader and convener of UP Rises Against Tyranny and Democracy, asked the UP faculty to help students “dig deeper” into the incident.
Some faculty members, who spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity, said Bondoc was endorsed by another office in a letter that was sent to Abansi’s desk.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the UP Baguio Office of the Director for Student Affairs (Odsa) and the Student Relations Office (SRO) denounced Bondoc, describing his lecture as “malicious labeling of student organizations.”
Among the groups that were allegedly Red-tagged during the NSTP lecture were the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Free Legal Assistance Group, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers, which has members from UP Baguio.
According to the Odsa and SRO, LFS-Metro Baguio and Anakbayan-UP Baguio are duly recognized organizations in the university, and categorizing them as “fronts of communist terrorist groups” could “compromise the safety and welfare of our students.”