By Jose Maria Sison

4 August 2001

I would like to extend my warmest greetings to all the officers, members and alumni of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) on its 70th anniversary celebration, with the theme “Celebrating 70 Years of Service to the Campus Press and the People”.

The CEGP has served the people by fearlessly exposing the ills of society and advocating social reform. It has the distinct advantage of having as its constituency the student youth, who are the most receptive to new ideas and most prepared to act and fight for social change. In the hands of progressive and revolutionary editors and writers, campus newspapers have served as a powerful tool for disseminating the truth, raising the consciousness of the studentry and eventually of other sectors of society, and mobilizing them to act in concert in the struggle for national freedom and democracy.

Indeed, many in the CEGP roster of alumni have distinguished themselves as selfless, courageous and militant patriots and revolutionaries. Most outstanding among them are campus editors like Wenceslao Vinzons, Antonio Tagamolila, Liliosa Hilao, Lorena Barros, Eman Lacaba and many other martyrs who offered the supreme sacrifice in the struggle for freedom and democracy. I join the student masses and the broad masses of the Filipino people in honoring their memory today, and looking up to them as inspiration to overcome all difficulties and persevere in the struggle.

The CEGP started out as a traditional gathering of campus editors and writers. But while it preoccupied itself with holding conferences, skills training and even such trivial activities as beauty contests, it also bore from the beginning the seeds of social activism. In December 1932, barely five months after the CEGP was founded, its incumbent president Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr. and its first president Wenceslao Vinzons led students from UP, UST, NU, FEU, UM, and Manila Union Theological Seminary in protesting a rider in the appropriations bill granting additional allowances to congressmen.

This would be followed over the years with similar protest actions and rallies on national issues led or participated in by the CEGP. In the late 1950s, the CEGP participated in rallies protesting US bases and against unequal US-Philippine treaties. This led to its being accused and investigated by the Congressional Committee on Un-Filipino Activities (CUFA) as a “communist front”.

But it was amidst the social ferment of the ear1y 1970s that the CEGP transformed radically into a militant and revolutionary organization of campus editors and writers. The crisis of semifeudal and neocolonial Philippine society had then reached a critical stage, manifesting itself in the resurgence of massive people’s protest actions against the increasingly exploitative and oppressive ruling order. It was then that the CEGP shed the bourgeois notion of “journalistic objectivity” which ultimately and effectively serves the status quo. Going by its dictum, “To write is already to choose,” the CEGP firmly and decisively took the side of the broad masses of the people and committed it to fighting for national liberation and social emancipation.

Under the leadership of Antonio Tagamolila, the CEGP fearlessly propagated the national democratic line by publishing revolutionary articles in campus papers, publishing Struggle for National Democracy, and calling on the broad masses of students and other sectors of society to join the struggle. Hundreds of campus newspapers and hundreds of thousands of students all over the country heeded these calls. The “League of Editors for the Advancement of a Democratic Society” (LEADS) was born as an offspring, so to speak, of the militant CEGP.

The closure of all student newspapers and the banning of the CEGP when martial law was declared in September 1972 were meant to muzzle the campus press and stifle student protest. But just as the printing presses were being shut off and the machines were grinding to a halt, hundreds of campus editors and writers were fanning out to the countryside to join the New People’s Army in revolutionary armed struggle. They quickly distinguished themselves as competent and dedicated propagandists, organizers and fighters.

It was through the determined and concerted student demands for campus press freedom and the resurgence of the democratic student mass movement in the late 1970s that the campus newspapers and the CEGP were restored. Once again, the CEGP led the campus press in pursuing and defending students’ democratic rights. It championed student issues such as opposition to increase of tuition fees and the democratization of schools and universities, and linked up with other democratic and militant student organizations such as the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo (KADENA).

More importantly, the CEGP continued to link student issues with national issues, and called on the studentry to integrate with and join the struggles of the broad masses of people for freedom and democracy. In the early 1980s, it joined the broad anti-fascist alliance, Coalition of Organizations for the Restoration of Democracy (CORD) and the anti-imperialist National Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. It joined the national democratic alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) from its establishment in 1985 and had become an active participant in its activities since.

The CEGP thus played an important role in the struggle to overthrow the US-Marcos dictatorship, helping to arouse and rally not only the hundreds of thousands of students and youth but other sectors as well. This role was repeated in the recent struggle to overthrow the US-Estrada regime, where once again the CEGP figured prominently in exposing and opposing the corruption, brutality and immorality of the Estrada government and its fawning and self-serving subservience to the US and other foreign monopoly capitalists.

It is clear to the CEGP that the ouster of the most tyrannical and corrupt regimes is not equivalent to the overthrow of the oppressive and exploitative social system. The difficult tasks of raising the people’s consciousness, organizing and mobilizing them to effect revolutionary social change remain. Thus the CEGP has continued tirelessly to expose the basic problems of Philippine society — imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism — and espouse the national democratic line.

Today, the CEGP firmly stands as a dynamic, democratic and patriotic alliance of student newspapers all over the country. It is at the forefront of the students’ struggles for campus press freedom and other democratic rights. This was not achieved overnight. Rather it is the result of your long history of struggle and of upholding and defending the interests of the studentry and of the broad masses of Filipino people. Your history teaches you important lessons, and I am confident you have been learning them well.

I am sure that you will continue to perform your tasks militantly and selflessly as propagandists and fighters. You must take your place among the masses of our people, and with them write the history not only of the CEGP, or of the student democratic mass movement, but also of the glorious struggle of the Filipino people for national liberation and democracy.