Climbing the mountains and immersion in hard-to-reach communities were nothing new to 21-year-old Myles Albasin.
But the mass communication graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu was never in any rebel activities, contrary to what was portrayed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), her mother Grace said on Thursday.
“My daughter is not a member of the NPA (New People’s Army). She was in Negros Oriental for an immersion program with the farmers there. What’s wrong with that? She is neither a drug addict or a drunkard,” said Grace in a press conference at the UP Cebu on Thursday, March 8.
Grace and husband Lloyd, who was also present during the press conference, asked for the immediate release of Myles and her five co-accused whom they said were allegedly set up by state forces in an attempt to silence student activists from criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies.
Jimmylisa Badayos of Karapatan Cebu, speaking during the same press conference, said Albasin and the other suspects went to Negros Oriental to meet with the Negros Farmer’s Association and to get data about the predicaments of the farmers.
“The six of them were sleeping in a house at around 2 a.m. last Saturday when someone from the military threw stones at them while saying “Surrender na mo (Surrender now),” she said.
Badayos said the government troopers immediately went inside the house and arrested the six.
“No encounter ever happened contrary to what was reported by the military, and there were no firearms or explosives that were recovered from them (activists),” she said.
Myles Albasin was among six persons arrested by the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army following an alleged encounter in a hinterland village in Mabinay town, Negros Oriental, last Saturday, March 3.
Four M-16 assault rifles with M-203 grenade launcher and two M-4 assault rifles were allegedly seized from them when they were captured.
Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were filed against the six at the Negros Oriental Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Dumaguete City.
Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ Central Command, maintained that there was basis to arrest the suspects.
“Saying that the suspects are not members of the NPA are nothing but their claims. Let them prove that they know better than our troops who were in the area,” he told Cebu Daily News on Thursday.
“The cases are now with the prosecutor, let them (suspects) present their evidence,” he added.
Joisa Cesista, chairperson of Anakbayan Cebu, said they strongly condemn the illegal arrest and filing of trumped-up charges against Myles and her companions.
“This is a desperate attempt to deal a big blow to the protest movement now aimed at the fascist Duterte regime which has been so shaken by massive nationwide youth protests,” she said.
“The mercenary Armed Forces of the Philippines must be really desperate now to quell the ever growing student movement,” she added.
Cesista said President Rodrigo Duterte’s ploy to get rid of activists, however, will not stop them from criticizing the current administration.
“This latest crime by the cowardly, power-crazed, fascist dictator-wannabe Duterte will only push the Filipino youth and people to meet his repressive rule with even bigger protests, mass organizing and resistance,” she said.
Nice Marquez of the Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Cebu lashed out at the military for fabricating charges against activists.
“The military and police are claiming to be the protectors of the people, and yet these are the same persons who put the lives of many citizens in danger,” she said.
Regletto Imbong of the All UP Academic Employees Union opposed the plans of the Central Command to meet with officials of the different schools in the region to help them monitor the students.
“It’s pointless and useless to talk with the AFP. We don’t need the military to be the best university,” he said during the press conference.
Grace said Myles was already a student leader even when she was still in high school and has since helped mobilize students, farmers, fishermen, union workers, and indigenous people to stand up for their rights.
Last Tuesday, Grace and Lloyd visited Myles for the first time at the Negros Oriental Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center since the latter was arrested.
Grace said her daughter expressed concerns over her safety while she remains in jail.
“She was scared. She’s just a human being. While she is at the hands of authorities, the tension is there,” she said.
The 45-year-old feisty mother also revealed that she received a death threat sent through private message on Facebook.
The message read: “Kamong mga NPA, animal mo. May the bullet find you.”
“We won’t take the threat lightly,” said Grace, who spoke in behalf of her family.
She said they might seek assistance from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) or other agencies to ensure the safety of her daughter.
Myles’ dream of reaching out to the marginalized sectors of the community began when she was still a teenage girl, Grace said.
“Back when she was in high school at the Xavier University–Ateneo de Cagayan, she was already molded to become a person for others,” she said.
“Immersions are nothing new for Myles. She grew up with a lot of questions like why are there beggars on the streets? Why are there poor people? No
one thought her what radicalism is. There actually was no need to teach her about that. She experienced for herself what is going on in daily life,” she added.
Albasin was offered full scholarship programs by Xavier University–Ateneo de Cagayan and De La Salle University, but the native of Bukidnon opted to take up Mass Communication at UP Cebu — the same course as that of her mother Grace, a journalist and who was the former editor in chief of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro and a contributor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer-Mindanao Bureau.
While she was in college, Myles joined Anakbayan, a mass organization of the Filipino youth that aims “to arouse, organize and mobilize youth for national democracy with a socialist perspective.”
She eventually became its secretary general in Cebu, visiting fishermen, farmers, labor unions, and other groups to learn about their conditions and help address their respective concerns.
Grace said Myles’ exposure would help her daughter if she would decide to become a journalist.
“I told her, you’re taking up Mass Communication. If you eventually become a journalist, it’s hard if you do not have critical thinking. And so I did not disagree to whatever immersions she had,” said Grace.
Albasin graduated in June 2017 and was planning to pursue law studies.
“My daughter is just a typical millennial. Her music is so millennial. As parents, we only guide our children. We don’t own them. They came through us, but not from us. They will really follow their dreams,” the feisty mother said.
“We are only guides. Whatever she believes in life, then that’s it. She has her own life,” she added.
Aside from Myles Albasin, also arrested and charged by the military were Carlo Ybañez, 18, and a resident of Mandaue City; Ajomar Indico, 29, and Randel Hermino, 19 — both natives of Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental; Joel Baylosis, 18, of Mabinay town; and Bernard Guillen, 18, of
Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
They were given 15 days by the prosecutor to file their respective counter-affidavits.
If there are sufficient evidence against them, charges will be elevated against them in court. Otherwise, the cases will be dismissed.