Site of oblation

By: JASON BAGUIA March 06,2018 - 11:38 PM


Like many a former student of mine at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, Myles Albasin, whom our military captured with five others in the still of the night in the mountains of Negros Oriental last Saturday was someone I encountered only in class and during university mandated hours for them to consult with me.

Myles sat in four of my classes — introduction to mass communication and principles of broadcast writing during her freshman year, and photojournalism plus thesis writing in her terminal year.

She and her two thesis mates initially intended to study national newspaper coverage of Malacañang’s campaign against illegal drugs and violence against lumads. Eventually, they settled for extrajudicial killings in the context of the anti-narcotics campaign as their subject.

Myles and her classmates’ choice of topic suggested in them that nationalistic heart — so prized in the university — that is not content with being pigeonholed in theoretical speculation in the pilgrimage of learning but that engages reality in the hope of changing it and uplifting human lives.

At the end of Myles and her colleagues’ thesis defense last year, a panelist, my colleague, suggested that they place the manuscript of their study on embargo for some time although they signed it for public access since it was deemed potentially acceptable for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

I thought Myles went off to law school after she graduated. The number of UP Cebu mass communication graduates who proceed to law school is not negligible.

I was much surprised when I heard that she had been captured by soldiers in an alleged encounter with them and had been tagged a communist rebel.

Questions have been raised about whether a shootout really took place. One report states that people in the vicinity of the alleged encounter heard only three gunshots around the time Myles and the others were taken.

On the other hand, the official report recalls a fight that lasted at least 45 minutes. A national organization said Myles does not count among the ranks of the New People’s Army.

Myles has been quoted as saying that her purpose in the place of her arrest was to teach.

Others said she was there to learn from the marginalized. She has been charged, with others arrested, with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

A friend of mine said stories are spreading of the possibility that evidence was planted against Myles and the other youths.

I do not find it logical that a student who learned of the evils of gun violence would end up taking up arms. This is why Myles should be given the benefit of the doubt and the reason I reprint here my statement after learning of her arrest:

“I share the hopes, prayers, and appeals of those who know and care for our dear mass communication alumna, Myles Albasin (UP Cebu Class of 2017), who was arrested by the military in Mabinay town, Negros Oriental morning of Saturday, 3 March 2018, that she may stay safe and be treated humanely as befits her inalienable human dignity, and be accorded due recognition of all her rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

I strenuously condemn the death wish uttered against her by blood-lustful fellow Filipinos and human beings.”

One cannot repeat similar sentiments too often today; especially not when the Chief Executive has — to emphasize his anger — urged soldiers to shoot women rebels in their genitalia.

I hope Myles will be ably defended by counsel and benefit from due process of law. May she be in justice freed, equipped again to wage peace and struggle for progress in favor of those in the peripheries.

I also hope that the military will rework its plan to monitor schools to ensure rebels will not infiltrate them. Such a position plays into the mob hysteria that wants to silence the university that is a forum for peaceful and intellectually robust dissent against wrongful politics and governance. Academia was not built to be turned into a militarized zone.

If there is one thing I love about UP Cebu as a microcosm of Philippine society, it is the relatively peaceful co-existence there of many people regardless of their personal background in politics, religion, gender, socio-economic status and other attributes. This peaceful co-existence came about minus military interference. Now is not the time to sully it.

The university has always striven to be lawful in all its activities. It is not a recruitment point for renegades. Its iconic Oblation stands for the willingness of the university constituent to pour out his or her life for the cause of service to the nation. Its meaning and its irresistible allusion to the Crucifixion are intrinsically opposed to bloodshed.

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