"Are you an activist?"
As an alumnus of the University of the Philippines, I am often asked by many one question: "Are you an activist?"
I do not blame them. Mainstream media and social media in recent years seem to have painted a portrait of the Iskolar ng Bayan, both students and faculty members, as hardcore left-wing partisans in the eyes of the general public. The down side of it, however, is that I have to always explain myself to them that I am not a left-wing partisan and an activist.
Believe it or not, left-wing partisans, composed by members of groups like the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, Gabriela Youth, and student political parties such as UP Diliman's STAND-UP and UP Los Banos' Sakbayan, are a minority in my alma mater. Most UP students, especially during my days as a student from the late 1990's to the early 2000's, are more concerned about attending our classes, passing the exams and graduating with a UP degree, while most faculty members are busy doing their work at the university, and, for some, consultancy and project work outside. From time to time, students and faculty members get involved with social and political issues but not to the same extent as the hardcore left-wing partisans.
Although they are in a minority, the left-wing partisans of UP are masters of propaganda and attention-seeking tactics. Thanks to them having ties with journalists, many of whom have partisan left-wing ties dating back to their participation in far left-wing organizations and parties or through their membership in groups with partisan tendencies like the College Editors' Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), they get the necessary amount of coverage on print, radio and media in order to get the attention and also fulfill their propaganda-related targets. They took advantage of advancement in Internet technology and social media by bringing their propaganda and attention-seeking ways to Facebook and Twitter despite the fact that Facebook, Twitter, computers and mobile phones are products of capitalism and the left-wing partisans of UP claim themselves as "anti-capitalism." Their attention-seeking and propaganda tactics seem to be effective that they are able to create an image of UP as a center of activism on the basis of "academic freedom" and "promotion of critical thinking."
However, the left-wing partisans of UP, as well as those who operate in other senior high schools, colleges and universities; and those in the labor sector, media and the political arena, seem to be stuck in the late 1960's to early 1970's in terms of their advocacy, politics and proposals, believing that their Maoist ideology will still work at a time when the rest of the world are looking at things through a pragmatist capitalist approach. Their proposed solutions, in particular their endless calls for an increase in subsidies such as free education, free health care and free housing; and "nationalist approach" to economics, are sorely lacking in sense, not applicable in real life, and will cause more harm than good to the Philippines and the Filipino people. Since the Marcos era, the left-wing partisans continuously oppose the government despite it enacting and implementing measures that are full of sense and are acceptable to the majority of Filipinos, which is the main reason why many are fed up with them, and see them as pathological partisan obstructionists who are up to no good, and use UP and other educational institutions as a operating base for ideological indoctrination and subversive activities.
Despite them being in a minority, the left-wing partisans of UP will always be entitled to their own opinions, and the freedoms of speech and expression. Their rights and freedoms are guaranteed by the laws of our country, as well as the rules and regulations of UP. Their right to express their opinions, stage rallies, and even invoke academic freedom and freedom of speech are all promised protection by President Rodrigo Duterte, whom, ironically, they brand as a "fascist, dictator and tyrant."
Activism is part of UP life, and many of us who came from the university can attest to that. However, activism should be more based on constructive criticism and realistic application instead of consistent and persistent partisan and seditious obstruction that hides behind the academic freedom of the academe. The left-wing partisans of UP, as well those from outside of my alma mater, should evolve from being pathological Maoist obstructionists who are stuck in the 1970's because, frankly speaking, the Filipino people, whom they, by invoking the words, "Serve the people," swore to serve, have lost faith, confidence and trust in them.
So, the answer to the question, “Are people from UP really activists?” is this: No, not all of us are activists and not all of us approve of the political positions, ideology and pathological partisan obstructionism of the noisy and attention-seeking left-wing minority in our university.