By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) expressed openness on Friday to “any discussion” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding the possibility of having schools as breeding grounds or venues to recruit communists.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a message relayed by DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla to the Manila Bulletin, said that “DepEd is open to any discussion on this with AFP.” Earlier, the AFP announced that that it will seek the assistance and cooperation of education agencies particularly the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
The AFP has earlier released a list naming 18 schools where claim communists are allegedly recruiting members for the alleged “Red October” plot – a move to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. The AFP said that they will also reach out to the school administrators of these higher education institutions (HEIs).
Meanwhile, a growing number of universities, school administrators, students, youth groups and other concerned organizations decried the “red-tagging” of the AFP and urged the military to retract its statement so as not to endanger students’ safety.
Earlier, AFP AFP assistant deputy chief of staff for operations Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. accused the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of inciting “students to rebel against the government” using film showings on martial law. The identified the schools are the University of the Philippines (UP) -Diliman and Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), Adamson University (AdU), Far Eastern University (FEU), University of the East (UE) – Recto and Caloocan, Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC), Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST), San Beda University, Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), University of Makati (UMak), University of Caloocan City, University of Manila, and the Philippine Normal University (PNU).
Most of these schools, in separate statements, have denied AFP’s allegations. They also cautioned on the possible implications of the AFP’s allegations – not only on the students but on the entire academic institution.
“There is no present evidence to even suggest that the Ateneo is exposed to any grave risk in that regard,” said ADMU President Jose Ramon Villarin. In separate TV interviews, De La Salle System President Br. Armin Luistro and UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan also expressed concern on the “red-tagging” of schools.
“It is definitely a Red scare and that again is not something new to us in terms of how they would be handling opposition against the government,” said Luistro. Tan, on the other hand, noted that showing anti-Martial Law videos to students “does not mean they are being recruited to be communists.”
For the UST community, being included in the so-called list “is a big allegation on the University.” UST Simbahayan Community Development Office Director Mark Abenir noted that universities should not be red-tagged for “standing up for human rights [and] for standing up against the return of any form or dictatorial rule.”
UST Central Student Council President Francis Santos also noted that this allegation is “outrageous, inappropriate and questionable.”
UE, in a statement issued by its President Esther Garcia, condemned the tagging of the university. This accusation, she said, “runs counters to the truth and reality on UE’s grounds” as “there have been no screenings of Martial law-related films on campus” and “no incidences or reports of entry into our campus by suspected members of communist groups.” She added that “there have been no incidences of activism on campus for the longest time.”
While it has no “knowledge of any participation nor recruitment of students” to the CPP, the LPU Manila noted that it “respects the rights of all students to freedom of expression and assembly.”
FEU, on the other hand, reiterates its full commitment to nation-building and noted that it does not promote or condone “any on-campus movement to destabilize the government.”
Meanwhile, an education lawyer cautioned the AFP on including names of schools on the said list. Lawyer Joseph Noel Estrada, in a statement, said the AFP statement should be “rectified immediately” because it “undermines the safety and security of students” as they are “now looked upon as possible communists or rebels.”
Estrada, who also serves as a legal counsel of EAC, said that the College “vehemently denies” the allegations of AFP noting that the school and its students “have no record of participation in any political activity.” EAC also appeals to AFP for “circumspection and care” in making public allegations to “shield the educational institution and its students from any political activity.”
Despite the announcement of the AFP, youth groups claim that they will not be “deterred” by the tactics of the government.
Issuing a statement, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) condemned what it called a “blatant attempt” by the government through the AFP “to scare fellow progressive youth from learning the struggles of ordinary folk.”
The AFP, SPARK said, is “repeating the same tactics” employed by the Marcos dictatorship of the 70’s. “The youth have seen this movie script before, and contrary to what they think, this tactic only exposes them further and confirms the repressive character of the Duterte regime,” the group added.
UP Rises Against Tyranny and Dictatorship also strongly condemned AFP’s recent accusations and red-tagging of the military on UP’s Manila and Diliman campuses.” This is a grave violation of our democratic rights and is clearly intended to redtag us, the students, in an attempt to discredit and pacify the growing dissent among our ranks against the atrocities of this regime,” the group said.