OFFICIALS of four universities have decried their inclusion in the military's list of higher education institutions (HEIs), where communist rebels are allegedly recruiting members through the screening of films about the Marcos-era martial law.
The University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas (UST), De La Salle University (DLSU) and the University of Makati (UMak) were among the 12 universities and four HEIs that a military official alleged have been penetrated by the New People's Army (NPA), which is recruiting new members as part the "Red October" plot.
Two youth groups have also slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for "maligning" the schools while Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago described the allegation as "outrageous."
Elago, who represents the youth in the House of Representatives, said the AFP seems fixated on red-tagging student movements as part of its "Red October" martial law scare.
She lamented how the government, instead of addressing the demands of the youth is using its armed machinery to quell youth movements.
“The demands of the student movement that the AFP is fixating itself on are legitimate - free education, genuine agrarian reform, industrialization, increasing prices of basic goods," she said.
"The government's reaction, instead of addressing these pressing issues, is to use its armed machinery to quell the growing resistance of the youth - through normalization of fear and threats, warrantless arrests, harrassment of students and student organizations, and faking an ouster conspiracy to declare martial law," she added.
At the UST, Secretary General Father Jesus Miranda said the military must prove its allegations first.
“Baka naman stereotyping lang nila ‘yan or because we are a Catholic university and there is a perception that we are against the present government. Is that why we are being tagged?” Miranda said.
Mark Anthony Abenir, director of UST Simbahayan community development office, said they must have been included in the list because of their recent participation in protests and the conduct of activities aimed at addressing the concerns of marginalized sectors.
“All student mobilizations undergo proper screening and approval. We do not work with CPP-NPA for that matter, nor have we discussed any concerns with the government,” he said.
Former Department of Education (Deped) secretary now DLSU President Brother Armin Lusitro said that if the military had verified its claim, they should have conducted a dialogue with the schools instead of immediately releasing such information through the media.
UMak President Tomas Lopez said the university “strongly adheres to the principles of democracy as enshrined in the constitution,” but denied that such activity is being conducted under their watch.
Other universities in the list have yet to comment on the allegation.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), through spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim, said the government fabricated the whole “Red October” plot in order to “vilify” students who criticize the administration’s “tyrannical rule and anti-people policies.”
“The state uses the old and ineffective red scare tactics to create a climate of fear and insecurity, portray itself as a victim of destabilization and justify Duterte's imposition of a fascist dictatorship,” he said.
“He fears university and college students who criticize the rottenness of his regime and forge solidarity with the rest of the Filipino people to attain education, employment, agrarian reform and human rights,” he added.
For its part, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) said the military is not only maligning the entire academic community but they are also “endangering” the lives of those in the university by accusing them of being a part of a “fictitious destabilization plot that may embolden further repression of their rights to protest.”
“Their scare tactics distract from the real issues faced by the masses. Contractualization, low wages, runaway inflation, regressive taxation and the state abandonment of social services abound under Duterte's regime. It is not a crime for the youth to learn about these issues inside or outside their classrooms as members of our society and future workers,” it said in a statement.
Brigadier General Antonio Parlade Jr., AFP assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, said on Wednesday that students of 12 universities and four other schools in Metro Manila were being recruited through screening of films about the martial law years in an alleged bid to incite rebellion. (With Keith A. Calayag/SunStar Philippines)