Leave the schools alone

By Editorial |March 11,2018 - 11:05 PM

No Filipino student goes to school with the intention of rebelling against the government.

Likewise, no teacher enters a classroom with a plot to turn his or her students against governments.

The military’s plan to monitor Cebu’s universities to prevent recruitment of students by the New People’s Army rests on the mistaken notion that sites of learning are threats to security.

It is a plan that would violate, among others, agreements between soldiers and the University of the Philippines (UP) to keep the school demilitarized.

This is not the only point on which the constitutionally legitimized defenders of the people are mistaken in their way of engaging educational institutions.

When they captured Myles Albasin, 21, a mass communication alumna of UP Cebu together with five others in Mabinay, Negros Oriental on the third of March, the military tagged their captives as communist rebels.

It is an accusation that is yet to be proven in a court of law, when Albasin and the other youths if at all will be indicted for misdeeds apart from illegal possession of firearms and explosives. For sheer possession of arms does not prove rebellion in those who carry them.

Then again there is speculation, promptly denied by the military, that evidence was planted against the youths.

Talk is also rife of soldiers randomly rounding up people to have captives to present in exchange for incentives dangled under the government’s counter-insurgency program.

Since truth is collateral damage in any war and there is no ceasefire between our troops and the rebels, it is incumbent upon the Commission on Human Rights to initiate a probe and get to the heart of this case.

Family and friends of Myles are still beside themselves with disbelief that she would flee to the mountains and turn renegade.

There is wisdom in their skepticism.

To conclude that Myles is a rebel simply because she was educated in the national university, spent her free time advocating for the welfare of the down-trodden and regularly climbed mountains to reach out to the poor is to engage in mindless stereotyping.

If that conclusion were generalizable, we may as well say the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is infested with rebels including Communications Secretary Jose Andanar and Education Secretary Leonor Briones who have UP backgrounds.

If the military are to be true protectors of the people, they should cultivate a healthy skepticism rather than act like sycophants of the commander-in-chief.

Their action against Albasin has not only failed to serve as window-dressing in their war on armed communists.

It has also associated them with trolls and others who were galvanized into harassing university constituents over the latter’s Charter-protected right to dissent and their mere association with Albasin and UP.

The military should keep their hands and feet off the universities lest they end up being the last straw, the ones who unfortunately provoke the sort of resentment that drives youngsters to armed rebellions.

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