By Aaron Recuenco
Students who participated in Tuesday’s walkout in protest of moves to have police and military presence in state colleges and universities where recruitment of communist rebels are reportedly occurring were just overreacting to the issue.
“I think this is misunderstood and militant groups are a little overreacting on this issue,” Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said
Albayalde rejected claims that the presence of policemen and soldiers in campuses is equivalent to militarization.
“There is no such thing as militarization of a campus. Until now, we cannot even enter the campuses without proper coordination and if we have no business inside,” he added.
On Tuesday, students from various campuses of the University of the Philippines staged a simultaneous walk out to protest the alleged militarization of their campuses.
This stemmed from the statement of Albayalde that they want to review the agreement between UP and the Department of National Defense (DND) that prohibits the presence of policemen and soldiers inside its campuses.
When the agreement was reached after Martial Law, policemen were still under the DND through the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police.
It was when the PNP Law was approved in 1991 that policemen were placed under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Albayalde made the proposal following allegations of massive recruitment by the New People’s Army in UP and other colleges and universities.
According to Albayalde and other security officials, the presence of policemen and soldiers in campuses is a good deterrent against NPA recruitment.
Albayalde also downplayed the walk out of UP students, saying it is only the militant groups that are reacting to the issue.
“Sino ba ang nag-o-overreact dito? It’s only them. Not even the schools and ito ay minority. Very few of them kase majority ng estudyante doon sa mga campuses ano ba comment nila, wala naman po,” said Albayalde.
“These are just militant groups, they are trying to agitate others,” he added.
Albayalde said they will still respect the rights of student activists to hold protest actions.
“While we may not agree with some of their sentiments, especially that minors are involved, we will make sure they will be able to fully and freely exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression,” said Albayalde.
“Let me reiterate that we have no problem with student activism so long as it is expressed only through actions within the ambit of the law,” he stressed.