By SHIELA MAE BUTLIG
CAMP Evangelista on Monday called on school administrators in the region to keep an eye on students and be vigilant against radicalization which it warned could lead to arming against the government.
“There is nothing wrong in bringing issues in the streets. But the Army’s problem is when this leads to arousing, organizing and mobilizing students to the point that they go to the hinterlands, arm themselves and join the terrorist New People’s Army,” said Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, commander of the 4th Infantry Division.
Villanueva urged school administrators, principals and parents to be vigilant against the recruitment of students into “terrorist-leaning” organizations that “espouse hatred and violence.”
“There were many cases of recruitment and radicalization that started in universities and schools. You do not want to know that your student or child is in the mountains, captured with firearms and explosives or worse, see them killed in an encounter with the operating troops,” Villanueva said.
Camp Evangelista spokesperson 1Lt. Tere Ingente meanwhile assured that soldiers would not be operating in campuses contrary claims made by the League of Filipino Students in northern Mindanao.
Ingente cited a declaration by the Department of Education that schools are “zones for peace.” This, she said, is provided in Deped Order 44 in August 2005.
Kristine Cabardo, LFS chairperson in northern Mindanao, lashed back at Camp Evangelista, saying groups like the LFS were espousing critical thinking and are not into brainwashing students.
Cabardo criticized the military of resorting to labeling activists and organizations critical of government policies as “rebels” and “terrorists.”
“It is actually a cheap trick to hinder the critical thinking of the youth as if they are not capable of thinking and deciding for themselves,” said Cabardo.
She said it is the military that want citiizens to “accept things blindly without questions.”
Cabardo cited a recent gathering at Xavier University where the military identified cause-oriented groups as “terrorist fronts” and accused them of being part of the Communist Party’s recruitment strategy.
“We reiterate that what we do is not brainwashing, it is about cerebral functioning. We present the situation of the youth and other sectors that are affected by anti-people government policies. The students then decide what they do after they learn these things. We do not hinder them from researching. We do not stop them from listening to what the government has to say and even encourage them to be critical about its policies and pronouncements. We encourage them to judge what is right unlike the AFP that wants the youth to be blind and apathetic,” she said.
Cabardo said activists like her were unfazed and would continue bringing their causes to the streets.