Activists from several progressive groups in the city participated in the first “blood bucket challenge” last Wednesday, September 3, in response to the red-tagging of their respective organizations in a National Service Training Program (NSTP) event held at the Ateneo de Davao University earlier last month.
Among the various red-tagged groups and organizations were the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Kabataan Partylist, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). The blood bucket challenge was a protest against the alleged human rights violations and vilification of progressive organizations, said Althea Amoguis of Bayan Southern Mindanao in an interview. She also added that this was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) counter insurgency program under President Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan.
The red-tagging incident happened last August 23, 2014 at the Ateneo de Davao’s Finster Auditorium wherein a certain Captain Nathaniel Morales of the 10th Infantry Division was recorded in an audio clip saying that the aforementioned organizations were legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).
Moreover, Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez, former CEGP vice president for Mindanao and Atenews staff writer, was tagged as an NPA combatant. Capt. Morales was heard saying that Hernandez was killed in an encounter against NPA rebels in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato last 2002.
Hernandez was on the area for a fact-finding mission about the Tababa massacre that happened in the previous year.
The United Nations has previously condemned the Philippine Government for its failure to prosecute the suspects in Beng’s murder.
As a response, the said progressive organizations staged a street press conference with the blood bucket challenge as its highlight. It was their take on the viral ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ that was started by the ALS Association for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis awareness. Instead of dousing themselves with a bucket of ice water, the activists used fake blood made of dyed water instead.
Among the other organizations present were Karapatan, Kadamay, Bayan, KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas), Kadamay, Panalipdan, Anakbayan, and Alapag.
Juno Vegas, LFS spokesperson for Southern Mindanao, said that the AFP’s statement showed state fascism. He called the AFP berdugos, or butchers, and added, “They are being desperate.”
Andrea Mejos, secretary general for CEGP Davao Region, said that the red tagging incident was tactless because it happened inside the Ateneo whose student publication, Atenews, is a CEGP member publication. She also denounced the statement about Beng Hernandez.
“It’s been 12 years since her death, yet no justice has been served,” Mejos said.
Kabataan Partylist spokesperson for Southern Mindanao Paul Dotollo said that the government should spend more money on social services and education. “It’s baffling how they would spend more money on forums such as that,” he stressed.
Dotollo also said that the government and its armed forces should back their sincerity in maintaining peace up. “If they are truly sincere, we from the youth challenge them to address the nation’s problems,” he said.