By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Increased police and military presence in universities might impinge on the students’ right to free speech and free thinking.
This was raised by Senator Joel Villanueva, who said on Wednesday that he had reservations on the proposal being floated to counter the supposed recruitment of university students in armed Communist groups.
“The point of universities is to encourage free-thinking, freedom of expression and academic freedom. Yes not absolute, but military presence might constrict what we want universities to accomplish,” Villanueva said in a statement.
The chair of the newly-formed Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education also questioned the need to deploy state peacekeepers in state schools.
“Why prioritize and put militaries and police in universities when we need them to solve crimes in other areas? We have illegal occupants in our islands, illegal ships passing through our seas, illegal workers coming in, and we will target students in universities?” he asked.
And if there was concern over peace and order, Villanueva said the government should expand the establishment and training of special police to deal with students, citing as an example the police department in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
He was appealing to authorities to study the proposal carefully.
“Ang unibersidad ay para sa malayang pag iisip, malayang pagpapahayag at malayang pagkilos (A university is a place for free thinking, free speech and organization),” he said.
“We are threading on dangerous territories if we intend to constrict free thinking in universities,” he warned.
Sen. Imee Marcos also dissuaded the police and military from “invading” universities.
“Please let’s not invade the schools and prove those NPA (National People’s Army) recruiters right,” she said in a text message.
Marcos said it was “wrong” to put police and military in schools as this may supposedly be used by left-leaning groups to “radicalize” students more.
“Sasabihin ng mga organizer na pasismo (Organizers might call this fascism)…Lalo lamang mahuhulog sa mga komunista kung gagawin nilang garison ang mga schools (Students will all the more fall for communists groups if they turn schools into garrisons),” she said.
A countermeasure, she proposed, would be to put organizations in schools that are not aligned with the communist movement, such as the National Youth Commission (NYC), or Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) representations.
“Kailangan meron mga organisasyong tunay at makabayan na hindi papaloob sa komunismo — SK school chapters? NYC (There should be organizations that are genuinely nationalistic and are not communist, like SK school chapters and NYC)?” Marcos said.
The proposal to let cops and soldiers inside universities was pushed by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who led a Senate inquiry on the missing university students after supposedly joining leftist groups.
Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief, said police and military forces should be allowed to enter university premises to “indoctrinate” students about the government to counter the recruitment of students by “communists”.
Police and military officials backed dela Rosa’s proposition, with PNP chief Oscar Albayalde dismissing as an “overreaction” the concerns over the matter.
On Tuesday, students from UP and its campuses nationwide staged protests as part of their declared “Day of Walkout and Action” against the move. Members of the faculty supported their students.
Other universities also participated in the mass action.