Last February 26, 2012, Pauline Gidget Estella, spokesperson and National Deputy Secretary General of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) together with other officers were trailed by suspected military men in Catarman, Samar. Estrella was attending a CEGP convention in Samar held in the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP).
Estrella, was leaving UEP at around 8pm together with Mica Rubenecia, secretary-general of CEGP-Samar; Angelo Karl Doceo, chairperson of CEGP-Samar; and Darrel Tibre a staff of The Pillars, official student publication of UEP. They were approached by a suspicious-looking individual who insisted that they tell them where they were going and when they refused, demanded that he escort them to wherever they were heading.
Estrella and her companions at that moment had plenty of reasons to fear for their safety. Estrella already noticed that men were following her when she arrived a few days before. They were in Samar: an island where the military men are known for record of rights violations, abductions and extrajudicial killings. In 2005, the notorious “butcher” Jovito Palparan was the commanding general of the military’s 8th Infantry Division operating in the island.
Estrella and her companions fleed immediately and went to the house of a friend nearby. Later, they noticed men in scooters surveilling the area they were in and asking neighbors regarding the whereabouts of fellow members they knew. The men were reportedly heard telling each other “to prepare” and look for the students the next day.
“Buti na lang nagkamali ng bahay. Ano kayang nangyari kung tamang bahay ang nakita nila?” she said, terrified by what happened. She and her companions texted updates to the national headquarters of CEGP, PinoyWeekly and National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) based in Manila. The next morning, Estrella was escorted by the NUJP-Samar to the airport to board her scheduled flight back to Manila.
Meanwhile in Metro Manila, Ma. Luisa “Issa” Purugganan, Associate Editor of The Warden, student publication of Pamantasang Lungsod ng Muntinlupa and a member publication of CEGP also reported that military spies were also harassing her.
On February 26, at around 1:00am, two men riding a motorcycle, aged between 35 to 40 years old with military-like built stopped on the street near their house. The two men asked the bystanders where Purugganan lives and then left. The same day, around 2:00pm, the two men came back and again asked some bystanders where she lives and if she goes home regularly. The bystanders asked the men why they are asking, they said they were her “friends.”A few days after, Purugganan noticed that a man on motorcycle were consistently roving around their house.
Purunggan is an active organizer of CEGP-National Capital Region and also a member of the Regional Executive Council of Anakbayan-National Capital Region.
These incidents happened a few weeks after three University of the Philippines (UP) students were harassed in Pampanga and a student leader was attacked inside the office of the University Student Council in UP Diliman. A cultural activist-organizer was also attacked a few weeks ago on his way home.
The CEGP and other youth organizations condemned the harassment against its members and said it expects intensifying human rights abuses under President Noynoy Aquino’s “Oplan Bayanihan.”
“The recent attacks on campus journalists show that the Aquino administration is insincere in ending the culture of impunity. His administration tolerates harassment and killings of journalists and cause-oriented groups,” said CEGP in a statement.
CEGP-NCR promised to continue its activism and said that they will not be cowed by “repression” and “state fascism.”
“We have battled the worst in our 80 years of existence, CEGP has survived 13 presidents, Martial Law, Oplan Bayanihan 1 and 2 and a long list of multi-faceted forms of harassment and repression. We will not bow down,” they said.
They called on the people to be vigilant amidst the “psy-ops” being done by the military and warned of heightened military terror as American “anti-terror” troops set military exercises and trainings in the country in the next few months.