MANILA - The government should have first talked to university officials about the alleged recruitment of students for an attempt to overthrow the Duterte administration instead of releasing a list to the media, the president of De La Salle Philippines said Thursday.
The "wild accusation" that universities are being used as recruitment hubs of Communist rebels is "not news at all" because it has been happening since the First Quarter Storm against the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos, said Bro. Armin Luistro.
"Why would you even, if that were something substantiated, release that publicly without sitting down and [having a dialogue] with university officials? If they were serious about it, if there was something substantial, I think that’s the first step. Media release of an intelligence report does not help any," he told ANC's Headstart.
"To me, if there’s nothing substantial about the report, then that’s the only logical explanation why they are even spilling this out in the press," he said.
Brigadier General Antonio Parlade Jr., deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the communists were recruiting and "inciting" in 18 Metro Manila schools, including the De La Salle University.
Luistro said it was "funny" that the military cited on-going film showings about Marcos' martial rule as a way to incite students to rebel against the government, when these films are part of their annual curriculum, usually shown around the martial law declaration anniversary.
Marcos declared martial law over the entire Philippines on September 21. It is often remembered as the start of one of the darkest chapters of the country's history, marked by several deaths and disappearances of critics.
"It is definitely a Red scare and that again is not something new to us in terms of how they would be handling opposition against the government," said Luistro.
"There is nothing wrong in a university setting—especially in a university setting—where all these ideals, ideologies which are contrary to our established value system is discussed. There’s nothing wrong with that," he said.
Luistro added that he would have been disappointed if DLSU was not included in the list from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"It looks like a list of your revered institutions that fight for the truth…The only ones who would be scared of that are those who just do blind obedience. You want these institutions, especially universities to talk about these things objectively," he said.
He also found it "funny" that the military would suppose that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, would recruit members in September to join an ouster plot in October.
"Whatever Red October that is, that should be 5 years down the road. Definitely, that’s not October 2018. That would be really funny for you to recruit them and bring them to this warfare that will happen 2 weeks down the line," he said.
Luistro believes the officials propagating this talk have an "ulterior motive," which he said could be wanting to "round up students and anyone who is an oppositionist at this stage."
"It is a created fear—they’re creating a scenario that’s not even there. To me, that’s the scary part because if your official intelligence group comes up with this kind of scenario, I think they have a modus operandi that’s out of the usual," he said.
However, he believes that if the intention for the "Red scare" is to suppress opposition from students, then this is actually achieving the opposite.
"They have not learned from the Martial Law era—the more you tell people you should not talk with anyone who have links to the Red, you’re giving them a free advertisement," he said.
"I think they need to understand the psychology of the young and for all intents and purposes, the young people do not move in blind obedience. They think as they should and I think that’s part of what we should be educating our students for," he added.