Fact-Check Yourself, Duterte: UP denies it recruits for communist party

University of the Philippines students calling for an academic freeze protest against the incompetence of the Duterte administration. Photo:  Anakbayan- College of Science/FB
University of the Philippines students calling for an academic freeze protest against the incompetence of the Duterte administration. Photo: Anakbayan- College of Science/FB

The University of the Philippines (UP) does not recruit for the communist party, a high-ranking school official said today, rejecting President Rodrigo Duterte’s baseless allegation that it is doing such.

Duterte, in a meandering, pre-recorded briefing early this week, threatened to defund the state university for allegedly aiding the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has waged a decades-long insurgency movement, the longest in Asia. However, the president failed to present any proof to back up his accusation and conveniently forgot that many of his allies and cabinet members are graduates of UP.

He also did not say where he got his information about UP’s alleged recruitment for the communist party.

Read: #DuterteMeltdown: PRRD blasts Robredo for allegedly saying he was MIA during typhoon

Harry Roque, his spokesman and a former teacher at UP’s law school, said the president might have confused UP with Ateneo de Manila University. Ateneo’s students have called for an “academic strike”— where learners will cease attending classes and submitting school requirements— to protest against the government’s incompetent natural disaster response. Thousands of Filipinos have lost their homes and livelihoods in recent weeks due to the onslaught of typhoons Goni and Vamco.

UP Vice President for Public Affairs Elena Pernia said that the president’s allegations are false.

“UP does not recruit. We don’t recruit for the communist party. Our mandate, we are an educational institution. We teach, we do research; we do public service. We don’t recruit,” she said in an interview today with cable channel ANC.

“If someone says that we recruit for communists, there are also [people in the school] who recruit for the military,” she added.

Pernia described UP’s environment, long-regarded as the bastion of student activism, as “liberal” where speaking one’s ideas is an important part of education.

“If there is any form of recruitment, it’s not only one side that recruits. The University of the Philippines has a history of activism, but we must make clear that the university is not anti-government. We are the national university,” she said.

“We are a community of scholars dedicated to the nation’s quest for development, and we continue to serve our government. We have served various governments in the past, even currently. Many of our faculty are doing service for government agencies. Many of the people in our government, even in President Duterte’s own cabinet, were students and graduates of the University of the Philippines,” she added.

Early this week, at least 228 UP faculty members have asked the administration to end the current semester because of the struggles posed by remote learning. The teachers added that UP “should lead in mobilizing other academic institutions to clamor against the incompetence of the Duterte administration.”

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