Top PH military official claims violations of anti-terror law going on in UP
MANILA, Philippines — A top-ranking Philippine military official alleged that there are violations of the anti-terror law taking place at campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP).
Speaking to ABS CBN News Channel, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., spokesperson of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said some members of the UP community have been helping to prepare “for some activities in the underground” like anniversaries of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Without presenting evidence at hand, he said they are also aware that some UP community members have been providing materials for propaganda “to destroy the government and bring down the government like printing materials for making bombs.”
“They’re all happening in the campuses…They’ve been doing that ever since,” he said.
While the official said they are not blaming the university itself, he said they are blaming “tools that they are using to exercise their academic freedom.”
“One of those tools…you freely allow your faculty who are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines to conduct this subtle training and recruitment of these students,” he said.
Parlade also cited an old speech of Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr., former UP vice president for public affairs, who “acknowledged that recruitment in the UP has been happening ever since.”
There are concerns that the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, designed to fight insurgencies and safeguard freedoms, could be used to prosecute political opponents and critics.
While Parlade said he understood the principles of academic freedom, he stressed that there is a difference between legitimate activism and terrorism.
“There’s a very, very thin line dividing these two. Ang tawag nila doon legal, mala-legal and illegal…Those are in the documents of the CPP, and they know that,” he said.
Parlade said they could not yet file cases against these people they are after using the intelligence information they have.
“File cases with what? We can’t do that. You have to go through the proper process and to do that you have to go through this accord. What do you expect, many of these (school officials) are sympathetic with these underground organizations,” he said.
The Department of National Defense last week terminated a three-decade agreement with the UP barring the entry of state security forces on UP campuses without coordination.
The agreement was meant to prevent police and military from targeting student and teacher activists for their political beliefs.
But the DND wanted to end the deal as communist rebels have “surreptitiously embedded themselves inside UP and are recruiting university students into their illegal organizations under cover of this agreement.”
With the abrogation of the agreement, Parlade believes they would have fewer problems with communist recruitment at the state university now that they can freely engage the students.
“You know the problem starts with the recruitment of freshmen. ‘Yung pagiging activist, that’s fine but it’s very difficult to monitor what’s happening with these organizations when these people are brought to the underground..which is basically off the radar,” he said.
“If we are freely able to conduct lectures, seminars with these student councils, there will be fewer problems in recruitment. Marami diyan, they’re from the provinces walang kamuwang-muwang sa nangyayari sa schools,” he said.
Parlade said they could not fully act on the intelligence information they have gathered because of the accord.
“We can’t do anything. We can hardly follow up on the information we’re getting,” he said, as he admitted that they have not ceased their intelligence gathering at UP and Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
“We have not ceased conducting this monitoring but on a smaller scale. What we want to do now…is to have more opportunity to engage the administrators of the schools and student councils without necessarily intimidating them or what,” he said.
“Rather than doing your job clandestinely, why not do it properly this time,” he said.
Despite criticisms that DND’s move would sow fear and discourage dissent, the military official stood firm that they are not violating basic freedoms with their presence inside the campuses.
“This is a perception of these guys because of martial law. But we have learned our lessons. We have to support activism, we have to support criticisms of the government but the people should understand the limits of their actions,” he said.
“I really don’t think we will violate the freedom of expression of these students just because they know the school is being monitored,” he added.
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