In its dire effort to meet the three-year deadline to end the communist insurgency in the country, soldiers are now going on “campus tour” to try to “win the hearts minds” of university students in Metro Manila and to discourage them from getting involved in youth activism. A group of teachers, however, cried foul.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Soldiers are not just prowling in depressed areas in Metro Manila, they are now going on “campus tour” to win the hearts and minds of university students, a group of teachers disclosed.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), in a statement released to the media on March 5, denounced the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for “conducting anti-communist lectures” in various colleges and universities in the Metro.
On Feb. 26, soldiers held a forum at the Adamson University (AU) in Manila with the theme “Awareness and Information Drive.” A similar forum was held at the Philippine Normal University (PNU) in Manila on March 5.
The fora were sponsored by the Philippine Army’s Civil-Military Operations (CMO) Battalion based in Fort Bonifacio.
In a letter to the Office of Student Affairs of PNU, Major Godfrey S. Obrera, “B” Company Commander of the CMO Battalion, said “campuses are being infiltrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA), and its umbrella organization the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).”
“We cannot deny the facts that nowadays, there are many of the youth who are being recruited by these front organizations supported by the CPP/NPA/NDF. Our fight with the rebels is more than 38 years and until now the government has not put an end to these terrorist [sic], simply because of these aggressive recruitment here in Metro Manila especially in the student sector,” the letter supposedly stated.
At the PNU forum, 2Lt. Jo Mark S. Plete, identified as Team Leader of “B” Company, gave a lecture on “Army Core Values;” 2Lt. Bryan G. Lim, another Team Leader of “B” Company, gave a lecture on “CPP-NPA-NDF Infiltration;” and a certain Ka Tina spoke on “The Evils of Communism.”
Retired Col. Ricardo R. Visaya, commanding officer of the CMO Battalion, also attended the forum. Incidentally, human rights groups in Central Luzon have denounced Visaya for being a “notorious rights violator.” During his years on active service, Visaya headed the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IB PA) that operated under the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom). He was the infamous ground commander during the Hacienda Luisita massacre on Nov. 16, 2004 in Tarlac province that left seven hacienda workers dead and scores injured.
ACT chairperson Antonio Tinio said student activists engaged the speakers in debate, causing the forum’s premature conclusion.
“We denounce these forums as part and parcel of the counterinsurgency operations which the AFP has brought to the very heart of Metro Manila,” said Tinio.
Tinio related the high-profile presence of soldiers in campuses to the deployment of AFP troops in urban poor communities in Metro Manila. “They are targeting depressed areas and schools since they are considered hotbeds of activism,” said Tinio.
Tinio also said the AFP’s lectures were “not genuine academic endeavors but crude propaganda offensives cum intelligence-gathering operations, ” pointing out that uniformed soldiers took extensive video documentation of their student audiences, giving special attention to critics and hecklers among the crowd. “For all we know, those students may end up in the military’s dreaded order of battle,” said Tinio.
In a related development, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Student Council president Henry Enaje said in a statement there were two instances in December 2006 when two unidentified men sporting military haircut attempted to ransack their office. They also noticed suspicious-looking persons attending student council activities inside the campus, taking pictures and video.
Two weeks ago, he said, students seized two men who were keeping watch during on of their activities. “We brought them to the security office of the school and asked them what they were doing. They could not explain their presence but they admitted that they are active military personnel and that they were going to the ROTC office.”
The student council leader also discovered that military personnel had shots of the offices of activist organizations and its activities in their mobile phones. “This only means they are conducting surveillance on us. This brought a chilling effect on the students especially when soldiers roamed around the campus in full battle gear,” he said.(Bulatlat.com)