“What we have here in UP are critical minds much sharper or deadly than guns, and it seemed that that was the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police] were afraid of.”
By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA– Professors from different universities in Metro Manila rejected the proposal to allow police and military inside campuses in a press conference held Aug. 21 at the Quezon Hall, University of the Philippines in Diliman.
Academics from UP Diliman, UP Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Far Eastern University, Ateneo De Manila University, and University of Sto. Tomas insisted that their institutions “is not a military academy that teaches students to follow and agree to every command of their officials without thinking critically.”
Francis Gealogo, history professor at Ateneo, explained, “We let our students discuss and debate competing ideologies and allow them to voice out their opinions about social issues because these have been proven to be the best ways for them to learn. Developing a critical mindset is very important so that after they graduate, they become more participative and productive in making a much democratic, fairer, and better society.”
“Our role as educators is to educate, not to control minds and instill fear to our students,” Gealogo said.
UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan criticized the red-tagging of students and professors.
“If they will be allowed here to allegedly control the leftist students and professors, may I ask how do they define ‘leftist?’ Because it seems like if our students go to lumad communities or immerse with the peasants, they are easily tagged as leftist already,” Tan said.
“Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a leftist. What concerns me is that if the army or police will use that term so they can harass students,” Tan added.
Former Police Chief Ronaldo “Bato” Dela Rosa called for “intensifying police visibility” in schools and universities after reports of recruitment by leftist organizations and “being nesting grounds of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).”
Giovanni Tapang, dean of UP Diliman College of Science, said there is no CPP-NPA hiding in their campus and in other universities. “What we have here in UP are critical minds much sharper or deadly than guns, and it seemed that that was the AFP and PNP were afraid of.”
Danilo Arao, journalism professor at UP Diliman, underscored the students’ free will. While he admitted that they had students who joined the revolutionary movement, teachers have no right to restrict them.
“It’s just that if the other students decided to take a job in a transnational company, we don’t criticize them too,” Arao said.
Police Chief Oscar Albayalde claimed that the students, educators, and other progressive organizations that expressed disapproval on their proposal were “overreacting.”
“My challenge to Gen. Albayalde is to make sure that he knows what he is talking about with regard to education. He has no business telling faculty members what to do,” Arao said. “We are not overacting. He is overreaching.”
For his part, Tan said he could not let the parents worry that their children might be subjected to surveillance by the state forces.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Partylist recalled how the policemen profiled and red-tagged teachers and their members, which it feared could lead to warrantless arrest, torture, or extrajudicial killings.
Tan said UP Diliman would be willing to welcome the PNP or AFP to facilitate seminars with students as long as they follow proper process and coordination with the university administration “but only for peaceful purposes and not for riot control and the control of people’s minds.”
Long history of fight for democratic rights
Roland Simbulan, a political science professor from UP Manila, said that “UP really has a tradition and strong stance against state forces’ intimidation.”
He cited the Diliman Commune in 1971, an uprising that took place on February 1-9, 1971, to protest the oil price hike during the Marcos regime. The students barricaded against police forces wanting to enter the campus to pacify the protest and control the university.
In 1982, as a result of a series of protest actions, student leader Sonia Soto and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile signed an agreement, now known as Soto-Enrile Accord, prohibiting the presence of state security forces in schools.
On Aug. 20, thousands of students and faculty members joined the National Day of Walkout and Action against the threat of military and police deployment in schools.
Just last week, PUP students drove away policemen who conducted mandatory drug testing among students.
(Disclosure: Danilo Arao is also the associate editor of Bulatlat)