By Chito Chavez
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday stressed that there is nothing wrong with student activism but insisted that it is Communist recruitment in schools the government is focusing on.
Citing it as a security threat, the DILG explained that militant student organizations in “UP are missing the point when they claim that the government is planning the “militarization” of the university when in fact all they wish to address is the issue of communist recruitment in schools’’.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya assured that student activism should be welcomed and encouraged in any democratic society as long as it is exercised within the bounds of law.
“We have no problem with student activism. In fact, there are many in government today who are former student activists and therefore understand the need to have youth who are critical thinkers,” Malaya said.
Malaya maintained that student activism is not wrong as it is constitutionally protected.
However, Malaya said using youth idealism and dynamism to encourage armed rebellion against the State is completely unacceptable.
“When you use the democratic space provided by the Constitution as a front or excuse to recruit, train, and wage armed struggle against duly constituted authority, then that becomes a criminal act and must be prevented by the State,” he added.
“Criticism, protest, and resistance is part and parcel of democratic politics,” Malaya said. “Public space is provided for all dissident voices, particularly from a critical youth sector. But when the democratic space is used to wage war against our democratic way of life in order to impose a totalitarian Communist system on an unsuspecting public, that’s when the State needs to act,” Malaya noted.
Malaya said the alleged militarization and martial law in UP is a figment of the imagination gone overdrive.
“This is again classic Communist propaganda: using the politics of fear to portray the government as a repressive monster to earn political pogi points from students in order to ‘arouse, organize, mobilize’ the youth sector,” he said.
Malaya added “government is not the evil monster that you portray us to be. We are your parents, siblings, friends, and countrymen who love our country as much as you do. Government was elected by the people and we have a responsibility to the public. We just want what’s best for the nation.”
He said that they are alarmed by the intensification of Communist recruitment in schools given that the CPP-NPA-NDF has now been targeting minors who are in Senior High School.
The DILG issued the statement following last week’s public hearing by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs which revealed that the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) have intensified their efforts in recruiting new members from state universities and private colleges in Metro Manila and other urban areas.
During the hearing, parents of five senior high school students from different universities lamented that their children have dropped out of schools to join leftist groups, such as Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), and Kabataan Party-list.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano said that some student organizations, including those from the University of the Philippines and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, have been infiltrated by communist rebels.
Año said a dialogue with state university executives, along with the police and student organizations, would help enlighten students about their rights as part of the awareness campaign against NPA’s recruitment strategies.
Malaya said freedom is not absolute; thus, it has to be exercised with great caution regardless of one’s political ideology.
“Whether you are from the Left or the Right, freedom to express one’s belief is different from armed extremism under the guise of speech and freedom of assembly,” Malaya said.
“If the issue is freedom of speech, we will fight for their right to do so because we are in a democracy but when it becomes armed rebellion, that’s where a line has to be drawn,” he noted.
“Freedom should neither be abused nor weakened by deception,” Malaya concluded.