Activists are using a decades-old government agreement as legal cover while recruiting University of the Philippines (UP) students into the Communist Party of the Philippines, the country’s police chief alleged today.
Philippine National Police chief General Oscar Abalayalde said at a press conference that the Soto-Enrile accord, a 1989 agreement created as a compromise during a time of frequent civil unrest, was now allowing activist organizations the freedom to radicalize students.
The accord prohibits members of the PNP from entering UP campuses without prior approval from the schools’ administration.
“Activism is not a problem,” Albayalde said. “It’s part of freedom. But when you start to support and radicalize people there to join an armed movement, that is sedition, that is already a violation of the law. That is not allowed,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde’s comments came just a few hours after former police chief and Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said on the talk show Unang Hirit that the Soto-Enrile accord has resulted in a “very one-sided” situation where only the views of communist organizations are heard in UP.
Dela Rosa said that the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines should be allowed to enter UP and other state universities to indoctrinate students with pro-government views.
Dela Rosa is leading a Senate inquiry into allegations that communist groups are infiltrating universities to recruit students. While he said the inquiry was not meant to suppress student activism, dela Rosa is on record as saying that teachers who encourage students to join anti-government protests should be fired.
Today, Albayalde accused activist organizations of agitating students.
“Who overreacts on these proposals? It’s only (activists). Not even the school [administration] and they are the minority. What do other students say? Nothing. Just these militant groups. They’re always trying to [mis]interpret these things so others will become agitated,” he said.
Albayalde also rejected suggestions that increasing the presence of the police in campuses would result in greater surveillance of student activists.
“We the PNP will always respect the constitutional rights of every Filipino. We work within the ambit of the law.”
“What we are trying to prevent here is massive recruitment, the massive radicalization of innocent students. Students from far-flung areas, from the provinces, are very vulnerable to this. They are the targets of these militant groups,” he added.
Earlier today, students in UP staged a massive walkout to protest Senator dela Rosa’s proposal, which they said could lead to harassment and intimidation of activists.