The military and police, in some cases, are tasked to maintain security in schools against crime, terrorism and insurgencies.
This, according to a ranking official of the Philippine National Police in an interview at the Philippine News Agency’s “Pros and Cons” program on Oct. 12, after the issue on the alleged recruitment of students and minors into the communist New People’s Army (NPA) has alarmed parents.
Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bustamante, Executive Officer of the Directorate for Police Community Relations Office of the PNP, said the national government mandates the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP to protect the youth, who, according to him, are considered vulnerable members of society.
“In elementary schools, we have continuous engagement for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education and anti-crime campaign, but for high school, we go by invitation,” Bustamante said, adding that the police respect the authority in campuses.
Jovita Antoniano, mother of a student allegedly recruited by leftist organizations, said that now is the right time for security personnel to be installed in campuses since most high school students are easily recruited into progressive youth organizations.
“Kung dati pa may nagbabantay sa mga eskwelahan, siguro hindi na umabot sa recruitment. Akala kasi ng mga magulang pumapasok sila sa eskwelahan pero hindi pala (If there were guardians in schools long before, then there will be no recruitment. Parents think their children go to school, but they’re not),” Antoniano said.
Meanwhile, Elvy Caalaman, mother of Lory Caalaman who joined Kabataan Party-list, said there has been “disconnect in the communication between parents and schools”.
“Umaasa ang mga magulang sa mga eskwelahan habang (ang) mga eskwelahan naman umaasa sa mga magulang para subaybayan ang mga anak nilang estudyante, kaya naniniwala kami na kailangan paigtingin ang (Parents depend on schools while schools depend on the parents to look after their children, so we believe in strengthening) campus security,” Caalaman said.
Antoniano added that children, especially high school students, are no longer safe in campuses because leftist groups are free to recruit even during class hours.
“Mismong mga teacher nagsasabi sa mga estudyante na may additional points para lang maidaos ang rally ng League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan at Kabataan Party-list (The teachers themselves tell the students about additional points just to stage the rallies of League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan and Kabataan Party-list),” she said.
Bustamante explained that according to studies, junior and senior high school students aged 16 to 18 years old are the most vulnerable in the recruitment of progressive groups.
“This is the stage where the youth are filled with idealism, think of utopia, meaning everything will be provided by the government,” he said.
Citing that the left-leaning groups’ recruitment is a process, Bustamante said the youth go through a series of indoctrination without them knowing it.
“Kinakaibigan muna, nililibre ng meryenda o binibigyan ng konting pera habang pinaliliwanagan ng kanilang doktrina (They [recruiters] establish friendship, give snacks or some cash while explaining their doctrines),” he added.
The doctrine of activist and communist groups, he said, revolves around a central idea — a drastic and violent change is needed for national growth to take place.
“Ngunit ang sinasabi ng mga pinuno natin ay magtapos sila ng pag-aaral at tumulong sa (But our leaders tell our youth to finish their studies first and then help in) nation-building. The youth must understand that such is never possible and that the government is open and ready to support them to become productive members of society,” Bustamante said.
“Activism is not prohibited especially if it promotes academic freedom, under Article III Section 4 it allows the students to think and come up with solutions to problems,” he added.
Security, not militarization
Contrary to popular belief, Bustamante emphasized that the military and the police cannot enter campuses without the permission of their respective administrations.
“Magpapaalam muna sa (We’ll ask permission from the) administration, it will be in coordination with them before going to the crime scene in the campus if there are is crime related to insurgencies,” he said.
Bustamante added that “the police would not roam around the campuses displaying guns”.
“We respect the authority within the campus, so we can’t do that, and if the policemen need to protect themselves, it will just be the pistols they usually carry…Walang militarisasyon sa (There will be no militarization) in campuses,” he said.
Stressing the need to counter the “arouse, organize and mobilize” strategy of certain left-leaning groups in campuses, Bustamante urged school administrators to coordinate with them to ensure the security of the youth and keep them from being recruited by such groups.
“Under the PNP Supervisory Office on Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA), we can train the security guards, so they can easily spot indoctrination in the campuses at mapigilan agad ito (and stop this immediately)…We have started talking with CHED (Commission on Higher Education) Executive Director about this and hopefully we could come up with concrete protocols with the academe,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawyer Cinderella Filipina Benitez-Jaro, CHED executive director, said the commission has taken proactive measures on the issue through close coordination with the task force on the prevention of armed conflict.
“This is to ensure that we adopt their directions that would suit the higher education institutions (HEIs). The vision of CHED is for all HEIs to have a safety and healthy plan so it includes the prevention of armed conflict, crimes within and outside the campuses,” Jaro said.
“Sila mismo ang magde-determine ng mga pangangailangan nila base sa needs ng kanilang eskwelehan at sila ang makikipag-coordinate sa mga (The HEIs themselves would determine their needs in their schools and then coordinate with the) security personnel,” she added.
Bustamante said the PNP already had a meeting with school administrators of Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines, among others.
“We are going beyond the security visibility because we want to engage our students. We’ll be presenting ideas and other information to counter the indoctrination of the CPP-NPA,” he said. (Ma. Teresa Montemayor, PNA)