Private schools association says military presence in schools undermine academic freedom

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2021 08:28 PM

MANILA — Military presence in schools may undermine academic freedom, the managing director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations said Monday, noting that students should be able to freely express their views.

“Dapat mayroon lahat ‘yang factual basis, ‘yung presence nila roon … It will also undermine ‘yung academic freedom mismo ng institutions, lalo na kung private (schools) … They have to have that freedom to run their own affairs, na hindi sila laging nag-iisip na baka sila ay madadamay o maaaresto sa ganyang mga sinasabi,” Joseph Noel Estrada told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(Their claim, their presence must have factual basis… It will also undermine academic freedom of institutions, especially private (schools) … They have to have that freedom to run their own affairs, without having to worry about being dragged into issues or being arrested because of what they say.)

“Ngayon, ang mga kabataan, they are more aware of social issues. And they are able to express them through various platforms kasi mayroong social media, mayroon tayong internet, may Facebook, may Twitter … Students participating in social issues, voicing out their opinion, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are participating in subversive activities. Dahil kapag nangyari ‘yun, kami naman po sa mga schools ang [mag-aattend] sa kanila,” he added.

(Today, the youth are more aware of social issues. And they are able to express them through various platforms because we have social media, we have internet, we have Facebook, we have Twitter… Students participating in social issues, voicing out their opinion, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are participating in subversive activities because when that happens, we in the schools will [attend] to them.)

Estrada said that the military has the right to conduct intelligence work, but institutions should know up to what extent.

He noted that with or without an accord, law enforcement troops cannot enter school premises that easily.

He said people should be safeguarded by their constitutional rights.

“Karapatan naman po talaga ng gobyerno ‘yung intelligence. At ‘yan po talaga ay sa gobyerno. Pero siguro kailangan din naming malaman, ano ba ‘yung extent na ‘yon na gagawin sa mga schools. Dahil kahit naman po sabihin nating with or without an accord, kahit sa mga private schools, hindi naman pwedeng basta-basta papasok ang mga law enforcement troops or even the military kasi they cannot search naman,” Estrada said.

(The government really has the right to conduct intelligence work. And that task really belongs to the government. But maybe, we also need to know up to what extent it will be done in school. Because even if we say, with or without an accord, law enforcement troops or even the military cannot just enter private schools, because they cannot just search.)

“Mayroon naman tayong courts na nag-iissue ng search warrants. (We have courts that issue search warrants). The students cannot also be arrested without warrant. They also cannot be searched inside the schools,” he added.

Estrada said authorities should be careful with their accusations and respect the students’ right to freedom of expression.

“We’re appealing for circumspection. Kailangan maging precise tayo. Sana maging maingat bago tayo maglabas ng (we should be precise, we should be careful before we release a) [list]. We have also to protect academic freedom in our institutions,” he said.

“The students naman do not lose their constitutional right to freedom of speech when they attend in school, when they participate in school. We also have to respect that.”

He added it is unfair to the institutions to be accused without concrete evidence.

“Kung talagang may nangyayari, doon lang tayo papasok or kung may na-violate silang rights ng ibang tao. ‘Yung pong ating mga student organizations, ‘yan po ay regulated ng Commission on Higher Education,” said Estrada.

(If something really happens, or if they have violated other people's rights, we step in. Our student organizations are regulated by the Commission on Higher Education.)

“Hindi po basta-basta nag-aaccredit sa mga schools ng basta-basta, lang na mga student organizations. Hindi ko po makita ‘yung kinalaman ng mga institutions na ito na mga nabanggit, lalo na ‘yung aming mga miyembro sa pagre-recruit at mga activities to overthrow the government. I think that’s also not fair sa mga schools na nabanggit.”

(Accreditation of student organizations by schools goes through a process. I do not see the involvement of these institutions that were mentioned, especially our members, as regards recruitment and activities to overthrow the government. I think that's also not fair to the schools mentioned.)

Several top Philippine universities earlier blasted claims by a high ranking military official that their schools serve as “recruitment havens” for communist rebels.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesman for the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict, reportedly said the military had identified 18 Philippine colleges and universities where the New People's Army recruits students into the communist insurgency.

In a joint statement, Ateneo de Manila University President Roberto Yap, De La Salle University President Raymundo Suplido, Far Eastern University (FEU) President Michael Alba and University of Santo Tomas (UST) Vice Rector Isaias Tiongco rejected Paralde’s statement against their schools.