The Philippines’ top Catholic universities denounced a military official’s claim that the schools have become the center for recruitment of communist rebels.
In a joint statement, the Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, the De La Salle University, and the non-sectarian Far Eastern University described the allegation as “irresponsible.”
The universities were reacting to the statement made by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade naming 18 schools in the country as “recruitment havens for the New People’s Army.”
“This charge, though, is really ‘getting old’ — a rehash of the public accusation the general made in 2018 — irresponsibly since cast without proof,” read the universities’ statement.
Parlade renewed the accusations after the Department of National Defense on January 15 unilaterally ended an accord with the University of the Philippines prohibiting the military from entering the university’s campuses.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the accord, which regulated police and military operations inside the campuses, was being used as “shield” for rebels to recruit students.
In the joint statement, the four universities assured that they “value the Filipinos’ basic Constitutional rights of speech, thought, assembly, and organization.”
“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,” the schools said.
“We are committed to this mission and have always held ourselves accountable to our primary constituents, the learners, and by extension, their parents,” they continued.
They also stressed the need to “retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions”.
“We therefore object to General Parlade’s statement and emphasize that our institutions neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the NPA and, indeed, of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government,” read the statement of the universities.