THE League of Filipino Studens (LFS) in Northern Mindanao claimed that government soldiers have already infiltrated universities and have long been using students to monitor the activities of activists in schools.
LFS said surveillance is being conducted by the Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in the guise of an information education campaign on public safety and security in universities.
The Army, in a statement, said the group was '”overreacting” when they encouraged school teachers and administrators to “look out for recruitment of students in the universities and schools in Northern Mindanao.”
The 4ID said the recruitment of minors is alarming especially in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.
"Recruitment of minors in schools and universities are also being looked into. That is why, school administrators and principals should open their eyes on the possible recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in schools and universities," the 4ID statement reads.
"There were many cases of recruitment and radicalization of youths that started in universities and schools. You would not want to know that your student or child was found in the mountains captured, carrying firearms and explosives or worst see them die in an encounter with the operating troops," 4ID commander Major General Ronald Villanueva, said.
The 4ID explained that soldiers cannot gain access to schools as these have been declared zones for peace based on a Department of Education order.
LFS-NMR said the military has been using students through the Student Intelligence Network (SIN) to spy on students who actively involved in social and legitimate issues.
"The SIN is tasked to monitor different student leaders and activists when the Geneva convention clearly states that the military are not allowed to conduct operations involving civilians," LFS said in a statement.
LFS-NMR chair Kristine Cabardo said the existence of SIN inside the schools is a violation of student's rights.
"We have had members confessing that they were part of the SIN and directly submitted reports to AFP camps in the region. Some were even given exclusive cellphone lines to text their handlers coded messages,"the group said.
"In the 4ID statement that we overreacted and they have not made any moves to gain access to universities, this is a clear deception and lie as they have already started it,"the group said.
The group said some military troops have encamped inside the Mindanao State University in the cities of Marawi and Iligan even before the Marawi siege erupted to conduct regular patrols and rest and recreation activities.
Cabardo reiterates that the LFS does not 'brainwash' the minds of students but they present situations of the youth and of the sectors in society that are affected by anti-government policies.
"We encourage the students to judge what is right and just. We do not hinder them from researching and listening to what the government has to say as we encourage them to be critical to its policies and pronouncements, unlike the AFP who want the youth blind and apathetic," Cabardo said.
"Red-tagging of activists impedes critical thinking and aims to blind the youth to issues activists fight for and tirelessly explain to the people. We will continue to arouse, organize, and mobilize the broadest number of youth and students for the national democratic aspirations and true liberation of the people," the group said.