MANILA (UPDATED) - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday the entry of police and military officers in schools to counter alleged leftist recruitment will not lead to militarization and curtail academic freedom.
"We do not find basis in the accusation that giving access to military personnel in schools is militarization and will translate to curtailment of academic freedom," said AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo in a statement.
"The entry in schools by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not be in the scale and magnitude of a combat deployment, what militarization?"
The police and Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, earlier said security forces should be allowed inside educational institutions.
Lawmakers, teachers, and youth activists opposed the proposal, saying claims of leftist recruitment in schools are being used to "push for the railroading of the amendment" of the Campus Security Act and revival of the Anti-Subversion Act.
But Arevalo argued that "the activities of soldiers, that may be in the nature of communication engagements, is not militarization."
"What is so worrisome with soldiers engaging the students during or information campaigns; in lectures during symposia; as trainers in subjects like Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism; or as speakers during commencement exercises?" the military official said.
Arevalo further emphasized that military presence in schools does not mean prevention of academic freedom, which students and teachers have put forward as a concern.
"If the oppositors to the proposal invoke academic freedom, they should define what constitutes it. If by academic freedom they mean students and members of the faculty are able to speak their minds openly, express their grievances freely, and criticize government and its agencies fearlessly, then they are already enjoying the freedom to do that," Arevalo said.
"There is no curtailment of academic freedom because we do not intend to and will not intervene in the determination of what subjects to be taught, who will teach, and how it will be taught."
The AFP earlier said it supports outlawing communism and amending provisions of the Human Security Act, citing the Left's alleged recruitment of the youth and rising terror threats in Mindanao.