MANILA, Philippines—The military has stepped up a campus tour to inform students of the “deceptive” recruitment strategies of the communist New People’s Army and warn them that joining rebel-linked organizations could lead to violent death.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Community Relations Service has visited more than 50 private and public colleges and universities in Metro Manila to counter the NPA recruitment of students, according to Army Lt. Col. Leopoldo Galon Jr., 7th Civil Relations Group commander.
Galon said the NPA gets its “quality cadres” from colleges and universities.
“We have intensified our education campaign in schools in line with our 2010 target to crush the communist insurgency,” Galon told reporters in an interview Monday.
But the AFP’s two-hour forum at the University of the Philippines in August was criticized in an article published in the Philippine Collegian last month, which accused the military of attempting to infiltrate academic institutions and silence student and youth leaders.
The article also said the film “Batang Aktibista,” which the AFP screened during the forum, portrayed activists simply as truants.
“As far as the movie was concerned, legitimate student issues, such as the lack of school facilities and tuition increases were baseless accusations meant to spread anarchy,” said the article.
Galon denied the claims, saying the military’s concern for the students was not unfounded.
Many lives of promising students recruited into the organization “ended too soon and too tragically because they crossed the path to armed struggle,” he said in an open letter distributed to reporters.
He said rebel life was being romanticized by insurgents, adding that in truth it was “a portal to a life of suffering, violence and crime.”
He said the campus tour was not meant to dictate upon or put pressure on student leaders but to inform them that activism and membership in “some” organizations could lead to a violent fate.
Meanwhile, human rights advocates and students gathered at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Saturday to launch the “Defend ST (Southern Tagalog)” movement to support activists from the Laguna-Quezon area facing serious charges and harassment by the military.
Police have filed non-bailable multiple murder charges and frustrated murder against 72 persons from the southern Tagalog region for alleged complicity in an ambush of police officers that happened two years ago in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. Of those charged, 30 were members of activist organizations.
The Defend ST alliance drew support from former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo. With a report from Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon