MANILA — Malacañang said on Monday it could not confirm or deny a military official's recent pronouncement that De La Salle University and the Ateneo De Manila University are among 18 schools that serve as recruitment grounds of communist rebels.
Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade, head of an anti-rebel task force, has also included the Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas in the 18 schools where the New People's Army has allegedly been recruiting new members.
Asked whether or not the Palace agreed with this, its spokesman Harry Roque said, "I suggest you ask Gen. Parlade because siya ang nagdeklara d'yan."
(He is the one who declared that.)
"We have no access to information to confirm or deny what he said, better get the opinion of Gen. Parlade," he told reporters in an online briefing.
Roque was next asked if Malacañang realized the dangers of "red-tagging" or labelling these schools as communists or terrorists, and if it would step in.
He replied that he could not speak for the military. "I only have authority to speak for the President," he said.
"There is no overall communication plan on red-tagging. We leave that to the defense establishment," Roque added, urging military officials to be "more prudent."
The presidents of Ateneo, La Salle, UST and FEU have objected to Parlade's comment.
"Our institutions neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the New People's Army and, indeed of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government," they said in a stament.
President Rodrigo Duterte's government has stepped up efforts to end the communist rebellion, one of the world's longest insurgencies that has killed more than 40,000 people.
Last week, students and activists protested against a government decision to allow security forces to patrol the campuses of the country's biggest university, the University of the Philippines (UP), which authorities also accused of being a breeding ground for communist rebels.
A number of UP students, some killed in military operations or captured, had been identified as members of the communist party's armed wing, the defense ministry said in a letter to UP's president this month, without providing evidence.
With a report from Reuters