Nothing wrong with ‘lawful’ student activism: PNP chief

MANILA There is nothing wrong with student activism so long as it is expressed through lawful means and actions, the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Tuesday.

Gen. Oscar Albayalde made the remark in the wake of protest actions staged by some militant student groups and organizations against the entry of military and police personnel in school campuses.

While we may not agree with some of their sentiments, especially that minors are involved, we will make sure they will be able to fully and freely exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression, Albayalde told reporters in a press conference held in Camp Crame on Tuesday.

Let me reiterate that we have no problem with student activism so long as it is expressed only through actions within the ambit of the law, he said.

While stressing that security forces will remain tolerant of lawful activities, Albayalde said they will be firm and uncompromising in addressing acts of willful violence, disobedience, anarchy and disrespect for the rule of law.

The PNP would like to call the attention of parents of students to be cautious of extra-curricular activities that are not sanctioned or approved by school officials, he said.

Albayalde also reiterated that there is no militarization in universities and other campuses as claimed by the militant groups.

This is misunderstood by (militant groups) and it seems that is an overreaction from militant groups. There is no such thing as militarization of a campus. Until now, we do not enter campuses without any coordination with authorities and if we do not have any business there, he said.

Albayalde cited, for instance, the opening of classes where they extended assistance to schools by providing security to students, parents, and teachers.

He said they are continuously coordinating with the leadership of universities and other campuses and that they might seek the help of the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to enlighten the students over the matter.

He also allayed fears of state surveillance of students involved in activism.

Were there massive surveillance? Of course, none. We, the PNP, will always respect the constitutional rights of every Filipino. We work within the ambit of the law. We know the rights of everyone, Albayalde said.

The militant groups, he said, were overreacting over this matter.

Remember, who is overreacting here? It's only them (militant groups). Not even the school, and this is a minority. Very few. Those who belong to the majority on campuses, what do they say? Nothing. It's only the militant groups who are trying to interpret things in a way that will agitate students, Albayalde said.

DILG: Communist recruitment, not activism worrisome

Echoing the PNP's remarks, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said militant student organizations at the University of the Philippines (UP) were missing the point when they claimed that the government was planning the militarization of the university when in fact all it wanted was to address the issue of Communist recruitment in schools.

In a news release issued on Wednesday, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said student activism should be welcomed and encouraged in any democratic society, so long as it is exercised within the bounds of law.

We have no problem with student activism. In fact, there are many in government today who are former student activists and therefore understand the need to have youth who are critical thinkers, he said.

While noting that student activism is protected under the Constitution, Malaya said using youth idealism and dynamism to encourage armed rebellion against the State is completely unacceptable.

When you use the democratic space provided by the Constitution as a front or excuse to recruit, train, and wage armed struggle against duly constituted authority, then that becomes a criminal act and must be prevented by the State, he said.

Criticism, protest and resistance is part and parcel of democratic politics, Malaya said. Public space is provided for all dissident voices, particularly from a critical youth sector. But when the democratic space is used to wage war against our democratic way of life in order to impose a totalitarian Communist system on an unsuspecting public, that's when the State needs to act.

He said that the alleged militarization and martial law in UP is a figment of imagination gone overdrive.

This is again classic Communist propaganda: using the politics of fear to portray the government as a repressive monster to earn political pogi (literally handsome) points from students in order to 'arouse, organize, mobilize' the youth sector, Malaya said.

Government is not the evil monster that you portray us to be. We are your parents, siblings, friends and countrymen who love our country as much as you do. Government was elected by the people and we have a responsibility to the public. We just want what's best for the nation, he added.

Malaya said that they are alarmed by the intensification of Communist recruitment in schools, given that the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) now targets minors who are in Senior High School.

The DILG issued the statement following last week's public hearing by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which revealed that CPP-NPA has intensified efforts in recruiting new members from state universities and private colleges in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

During the hearing, the parents of five senior high school students from different universities lamented that their children have dropped out of schools to join leftist groups, such as Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), and the Kabataan Party-list.

Malaya said freedom is not absolute and must be exercised with great caution regardless of one's political ideology.

Whether you are from the Left or the Right, freedom to express one's belief is different from armed extremism under the guise of speech and freedom of assembly, Malaya said.

If the issue is freedom of speech, we will fight for their right to do so because we are in a democracy but when it becomes armed rebellion, that's where a line has to be drawn, he said. Freedom should neither be abused nor weakened by deception. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency