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Geek Talk: Embracing sociopolitical activism

Homar Murillo During my college years, I was one of those who could be considered as politically naïve if not totally apolitical. Politically Naive Student Although I was a literary and associate editor of the official college student publication of Ateneo de Naga, The Pillars, I was merely a nominal member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). I was an inactive and disinterested CEGP member who didn’t care much about the policies of government. I never participated in street rallies nor written any anti-government article when I was a student. CEGP has a long history of student activism that pre-dates the Marcos Martial Law Era. The organization has always been a left-leaning progressive student organization at par with the League of Filipino Students (LFS). The ideological foundation of CEGP was the main reason I was inactive. Leftist views put me off. Back then I considered student activists as rabble-rousers who are negligent of their academics. I thought that student activists were mostly academic underachievers who flunk their subjects because of wrong priorities. My negative views about student activists changed when I met the then newly appointed editor in chief (she out-competed me in the exam for the position). She was an activist but she was also a consistent honor student. She was one of those who were conferred with Latin honors (cum laude) during our graduation. As a student the only activity that I attended that could closely resemble a sociopolitical protest was the nationwide in-school noise barrage protest organized by Jesuit-owned schools against nuclear weapons testing. My First Street Protest For most of my post-college adult life, I was never involved in any sociopolitical activism (specifically street protests against government policies) although I have always been active in various civic organizations. I never thought that I would be involved in a mass movement as one of the leaders and conveners. A spark of sociopolitical activism in me started to be kindled in me when Duterte became president and the widespread killings and impunity began. It soon became a sustained flame of outrage. I have been merely ranting online but I eventually realized that online expression has its limits in terms of effecting positive change. I realized that there was a need to go out in the real world and organize people. With the help of some friends and acquaintances (Noel Regachuelo, Daryl Aguilar, Katherine Chancoco, Miguel Imperial, and Karla Baduria), I was able to co-organize the very first street protest in which I participated. It was the Rise Against Killings (RAK) which was mainly a reaction to the murder of Kian Loyd delos Santos. We have chosen August 28, 2017, National Heroes’ Day, as the date for RAK protest because of its symbolic significance. Mostly Naga City students participated in the event. RAK included a march from NCS gate 1, Peñafrancia Avenue, to Plaza Quince Martires. It was there where we held a short program and candle lighting ceremony for Kian and for all other victims of summary executions of the Duterte regime. The RAK protest was covered by ABS-CBN and Bombo Radio. It was also mentioned in the morning newscasts of various local radio stations. Start of a Movement The key person who can be largely credited for turning a loosely organized simple protest into a formal movement is Atty. Ricky Tomotorgo. Through his support and initiative, a series of meetings with various community leaders and cause-oriented groups eventually led to the formation of the Bicol Alliance for Nationalism Against Tyranny (BANAT). The movement was officially launched on September 21, 2017 in time for the 45th Commemoration of the declaration of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos. The group held its first march and indignation rally at the Plaza Rizal with the support of the progressive organizations like BAYAN and AKBAYAN and various sectors of society such as the youth sector, the religious sector, the labor sector, the agricultural sector, the business sector, the academe, professionals and the middle class. BANAT is an all-inclusive movement that welcomes organizations and individuals who believe in the core principles of the group. Basic Principles For Human Rights BANAT aims to break the culture of violence and impunity that now permeates the various echelons of the government and society in general. The movement publicly condemns the widespread killings of mere suspects and the dehumanization of innocent victims as “collateral damage.” The movement also strongly opposes the martial law in Mindanao, the devastating airstrikes in Marawi and the continued brutality of the Duterte regime against activists and indigenous people. For Nationalism BANAT is against the pro-imperialist policies of the Duterte regime in terms of virtually surrendering the sovereignty of the Philippines over its territories in the West Philippine Sea. The movement opposes the Duterte’s version of federal government because it will only strengthen the local political dynasties and the warlords. Federalism, under the Duterte proposal, will not only politically weaken the national government but will also result in a national economic disaster. Against Tyranny BANAT opposes the fascist tactics of the Duterte regime in eroding the checks and balances of our democratic system. These include the insolent farcical act of the House of Representatives allocating a token PHP 1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights. BANAT also views the impeachment complaints against the Supreme Court Chief Justice and the Ombudsman as dirty legalistic moves to remove the impediments against dictatorial rule. (For inquiries or reactions, you may contact me at this number: 0918-533-2908)

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