WHILE it failed to monitor and hold accountable its rogue elements alleged by the peasants to be harassing and attacking their communities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command plans to venture into an endeavor that would potentially disregard basic democratic rights of students.
The Central Command announced that it would closely monitor students in Cebu to prevent them from being recruited by communist armed groups. This plan came days after MylesAlbasin, a UP Cebu alumna, along with five others were arrested in the hinterlands of Mabinay, Negros Oriental. State authorities, through the 62nd IB, alleged that the six were members of the New People’s Army.
The timing and intent of such a plan, however, reveals how the military undermines the basic legal processes and democratic rights of students. Without having been proven otherwise, Myles and the five others are already being implicated by the military to be armed militants unworthy to be emulated by the students and the youth.
The announcement of such a plan (to monitor students from being recruited by armed groups) helpfully laid the basis for a prejudiced opinion against the six. The military seemingly orchestrated a hype that blatantly discredits not only the accused but above all our cherished processes. What is obvious here is the trial by publicity that in no way shows respect and recognition to the due process of law.
To monitor the sudents, we should be reminded, is primarily the task of civilian authorities in colleges and universities. In no way should the military or the police make monitoring of students a part of their job description lest we accept that, similar to the days during Marcos’s martial rule, we and our students were likewise subjected to the same military measures.
The universities are not spaces for the cultivation of fear but bastions of critical and creative thinking. In this regard, the students, especially at a time when our dearly cherished democratic ideals are slowly being emasculated by a self-professed dictator, must be given the space for free and critical thinking, and practice their constitutionally provided right to peacefully assemble and join organizations.
Without an inch of prejudice, we urge the military to respect these fundamental rights of students. In the end, the task of safeguarding our youth’s welfare is a communitarian and not a mere military endeavor. Most importantly, this endeavor must comprehensively take into account issues that may potentially spark radical sentiments among the youth.
These are socio-economic issues that have been plaguing the nation and depriving the best and the brightest of our youth from having a bright future: high cost of education, contractualization, depressed wages, forced migration, political repression, among others. Only by a comprehensive treatment amd a genuine concern of these issuescan we really guarantee our youth from being safe.
(Signed by Prof. Regletto Aldrich Imbong, Dr. Leny Ocasiones, Hes Mailo Capangpangan, Niño Olayvar, Prof. Januar Yap, Prof. Melanie Patino, Dr. Phoebe Zoe Maria Sanchez, Prof. Noe Santillan, Prof. Daryl Mendoza, Prof. Jenneth Borlasa and Dexcem Pantinople)