Philippines Armed Forces Enter Schools To Dictate Behaviour

After a system-wide walkout staged by students of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, some professors from UP, Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Far Eastern University expressed their opposition to the proposed entry of the military and the police in campuses.

In a news conference in UP yesterday, the professors pointed to the need to defend academic freedom from military intervention and decried the Red-tagging of universities as a recruitment hub for the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), which they claimed was actually an attempt to silence those critical of the government.

UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said they were not overreacting but fear the entry of state forces in universities because of the arbitrary definition by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines of ‘leftist and ‘activist, which he said suddenly became ‘dirty words.

He cited the recent harassment that he and UP education teachers experienced when they were invited by a mayor in Samar to help teach mathematics in schools that posted the lowest scores in the National Achievement Test.

Tan said they were tailed and bothered by military forces because he and the teachers were from UP.

‘This is our fear. It is not overreacting. If they can harass Math teachers, what is there to stop them from harassing our students within campuses, in an auditorium where free speech is supposed to be assured. I owe it to our parents to assure them that this will not happen. We will never allow armed men to come into the campus and to dictate what can be said and what cannot be said, he added.

Dean Giovanni Tapang of the UP Diliman College of Science also cited the case of slain botanist Leonard Co who was shot by military forces in 2010 in Leyte, where he was doing research on indigenous trees.

Co and his companions were mistaken to be members of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Rolando Tolentino, director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing, also cited the abduction of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and activist Karen Empeno in Bulacan in 2006.

In 2018, retired Army major general Jovito Palparan Jr was found guilty of the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Cadapan and Empeno.

Ateneo history professor Francis Gealogo, meanwhile, narrated incidents a few months ago of state forces visiting his school and nearby restaurants asking around for information on protest actions by Ateneo students.

He and the other professors said they would continue to teach students how to think critically that according to them is part of the quality education that schools should impart.

Tan assured parents that UP has enough security personnel on campus and that there is no need for the military and police to enter campuses.

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