CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The League of Filipino Students (LFS) in Northern Mindanao condemned the presence of soldiers in schools as the Phil. Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) accused the progressive youth group of carrying out recruitment activities inside campuses.
The LFS criticized the military-initiated Information Education on Public Safety and Security conducted in universities and the Student Intelligence Network (SIN), which was reportedly being used by authorities to monitor students within the confines of learning facilities.
“The existence of [SIN] inside schools and universities is also a violation of students’ rights. The SIN is tasked to monitor student leaders and activities when the Geneva Convention clearly states that the military is not allowed to conduct operations involving civilians,” said LFS regional chairperson Kristine Cabardo in a statement.
The Department of Education, through its Department Order No. 57, series of 2017, declared schools as “zones of peace,” essentially preventing any military operations in schools.
DO 57 replaced DO 221, which differs from the latter since it no longer includes the guidelines in the conduct of military activities in school premises after Lumad schools in Mindanao protested against DO 221 which they described as “legitimizing militarization of schools.”
Cabardo denied the allegation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the LFS and other activist groups are indoctrinating students so they could join the revolutionary movement.
“We reiterate, what we do is not brainwashing; it is about cerebral functioning. We present the situation of the youth and of the sectors in society that are affected by anti-people government policies,” she said.
The students then, she added, decide what they would do after being presented with the issues.
“We do not hinder them from researching. We do not stop them from listening to what the government has to say and even encourage them to be critical about its policies and pronouncements. We encourage them to judge what is right and just,” Cabardo said.
Cabardo also accused the military of using the security system of schools for its surveillance of active students and faculty members.
But 4ID spokesperson 1st Lt. Tere Ingente said the LFS over-reacted on the Army’s statement encouraging teachers to be on the look-out for the recruitment of students in universities and schools in the region.
She clarified that the “military has not made any move to gain access to universities” in regions under the 4ID’s jurisdiction.
Ingente, however, admitted that there were times that school officials invited soldiers for “Brigada Eskwela” and other civilian activities.
In an interview, Ingente said the reported recruitment of students in campuses by groups alleged to have aligned with the Communist rebels is “alarming,” especially in the Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.
“Recruitments of minors in schools and universities are also being looked into. That is why school administrators and principals should open their eyes on the possible recruitment of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in schools and universities,” Ingente said.
For his part, 4ID commander Maj. Gen. Ronal Villanueva said he encourages school heads and even parents to be vigilant in monitoring the possible recruitment and radicalization of students.
“There were many cases of recruitment and radicalization of youths that started in universities and schools,” he said.
Villanueva added that there is nothing wrong with groups such as LFS fighting for the rights of the youth and students, and even of students immersing with the farmers and indigenous people.
“There is no problem with bringing issues to the streets, fighting and shouting for the rights being violated and whatever advocacy they have,” he said, but, he furthered, there is a problem if the LFS’ meaning of fighting is “arousing, organizing and mobilizing students to be radical then later carry high caliber firearms, ammunition and explosives during their exposure in the hinterlands and joining the terrorist New People’s Army.” (davaotoday.com)