A student takes part in a recent protest at the University of the Philippines against the government branding activists and universities as communist supporters. (Photo: Mariana Gardoce)
Three Catholic universities in the Philippines have condemned comments by a high-ranking military official branding them as recruitment centers for communist rebels.
According to Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr, commander of an anti-communist rebel task force, at least 18 universities, many in capital Manila, are recruiting grounds for communist rebels.
He pointed to three universities as examples: Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle University.
Parlade’s comments came in a recent radio interview where he defended a decision by the government to end a deal barring police and military personnel from entering the campuses of the University of the Philippines without permission
“Administrators may not be aware that their campuses have become recruitment centers of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing [New People’s Army],” he said
The three universities he mentioned are among the largest Catholic learning institutions in the Philippines.
Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas and La Sallian Brothers’ De La Salle University released a joint statement on Jan. 24 condemning Parlarde’s “irresponsible and baseless “accusation that was “cast without proof.”
“We take as a sacred trust our primary responsibilities to promote learning and safeguard the rights of the young who are entrusted to our care. We are committed to this mission and have always held ourselves accountable to our primary constituents, the learners, and by extension, their parents,” they said.
“As Philippine schools, we value the Filipinos' basic constitutional rights of speech, thought, assembly and organization.
“As universities with high aspirations for our country, we seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, defend the country’s democratic institutions and promote nation building.”
The universities also stressed the importance of freedom from state forces in achieving intellectual autonomy.
“As institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the state and other social institutions,” the universities said.
The universities also made clear that they neither promoted nor condoned any recruitment activity by the outlawed Communist Party on their campuses.