"Only those with evil designs would consign the people to thinking and behaving a certain way, so they could keep them quiet, docile—and dumb."
Four universities deplored the statement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesman Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., who claimed in a radio interview Saturday that 18 universities were serving as recruitment havens for members of the New People’s Army.
Among the 18 are Far Eastern University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo de Manila University,
FEU president Dr. Michael Alba, DLSU president Br. Raymundo Suplido, FSC UST vice rector Fr. Isaias Tiongco, O.P.,and ADMU president Fr. Roberto Yap, SJ., in a joint statement, said their respective universities “neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the NPA and, indeed, of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government.”
The university heads said Parlade’s accusations are old—he first made this claim in 2018—but remain irresponsible, because they were made without proof. Parlade said then that the recruitment aimed to overthrow the Duterte administration.
“We value Filipinos’ basic Constitutional rights of speech, thought, assembly and organizations. As universities with high aspirations for our country, we seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, defend the country’s democratic institutions and promote nation building,” they said.
“As institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions.”
Parlade’s rehashed accusations come on the heels of a letter from Department of National Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana informing University of the Philippines President Danilo Concepcion that the agency had unilaterally terminated a 1989 accord that prevents the military and the police from entering the premises of any UP campus without first notifying the UP administration. Lorenzana made the same charge – that UP students were being targeted for recruitment by the NPA.
The backlash to this decision was great, widespread and immediate, not only from members of the UP community but from anyone who sees through the ploy to retaliate at an institution that encourages social consciousness, critical thinking and free expression.
Now it’s the turn of the other schools, perhaps in an attempt to show the government is not only zeroing in on UP.
But if UP, the four universities and all other institutions of higher learning did not encourage their students to expand their learning from their books to actual events happening in the country, they would be reneging on their mandate. Schools, after all, should not merely tell their students what to think or say. They should instead teach them how to form their own opinions and why they should care about society and their fellowmen.
We share the indignation at the government’s gall to accuse these schools without so much as an incident of proof. There is a pandemic raging. People are losing their livelihoods. Corruption is as rampant as ever.
It is when young people stop thinking for themselves, merely parrot government-friendly lines, and become apathetic to the plight of others that we should all be concerned. Only those with evil designs would consign the people to thinking and behaving a certain way, so they could keep them quiet, docile—and dumb.