ILOILO City – The Kabataan party-list in Panay Island vowed to oppose the planned deployment of Philippine Army soldiers in schools. “Schools are zones of peace. Military deployment in schools threatens academic freedom,” said Crimson Labinghisa, Kabataan party-list Panay coordinator.
To stop the alleged New People’s Army (NPA) recruitment of students via front organizations, the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) based in Jamindan, Capiz announced it was ready to post soldiers in schools.
Labinghisa slammed this “red-tagging” of militant youths.
“Legitimate kami nga mga youth organizations. We represent the interest and welfare of students, the youth and oppressed masses. Kami mga aktibista, indi terorista,” she stressed.
Yesterday afternoon Kabataan party-list led other youth organizations in staging a protest against the planned deployment. They distrusted the military.
“We can see throughout history, ang military No. 1 gid nga gapang-harass sa aton nga mga (activist) students,” said Labinghisa.
The youth groups warned of the militarization of school campuses and the trampling of academic freedom.
But according to Army Captain Cenon Pancito III, 3ID spokesperson, the planned deployment is just a “preventive measure.”
“We will be there to assist school authorities neutralize communist rebel intrusions. There is no militarization of schools. This is a preventive measure. Students are vulnerable. We do not want rebels to conduct recruitment activities in schools.”
Labinghisa urged the government to instead focus its resources in defending the country’s territories in the West Philippine Sea.
But Pancito said the 3ID will be coordinating with the local police, school authorities, Department of Education, and Commission on Higher Education for the deployment.
Just this Tuesday, Aug. 20, students of the University of the Philippines Visayas staged a walkout against the deployment of government security forces in campuses.
Pancito pooh-poohed the walkout, saying it had a “very low turnout”.
“We would like to clarify that we are not against the right to assemble. They have the right to say what they think,” he said.
Pancito also clarified that, “We are not focused on UP but the (NPA front) organizations (that recruit students).”
He urged to parents to monitor the activities of their children and dissuade them from joining militant groups that, he said, were “legal fronts” of the NPA.
He tagged the League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan as organizations of the rebels.
“We are not against rallies and protests pero against tayo sa pakikibaka na hindi alam ng mga estudyante kung ano ang ipinaglalaban nila,” said Pancito./PN