Troops’ entry in schools won’t curtail academic freedom: AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday dismissed claims that allowing military personnel to enter schools will result in the curtailment of academic freedom.

AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, also scored allegations made by some sectors claiming that this will result in militarization.

“We do not find a basis in the accusation that giving access to military personnel in schools is militarization and will translate to the curtailment of academic freedom,” Arevalo said in a message to reporters.

The military official said the visit or entry of AFP personnel will not be in the level of combat deployment and will only be in the nature of communication engagements.

“What is so worrisome with soldiers engaging the students during or information campaigns, in lectures during symposia; as trainers in subjects like humanitarian assistance and disaster response and preventing and countering violent extremism, or as speakers during commencement exercises?” he added.

Arevalo also dared those who opposed the proposal by invoking academic freedom (AF) to define what constitutes this term.

“If by AF they mean students and members of the faculty able to speak their minds openly; express their grievances freely; and criticize the government and its agencies fearlessly, then they are already enjoying the freedom to do that,” he said.

Arevalo said the AFP supports academic freedom and helps protect freedom of assembly, of speech, and redress of grievances.

“There is no curtailment of academic freedom because we do not intend to and will not intervene in the determination of what subjects to be taught, who will teach, and how it will be taught,” he added.

Arevalo, however, clarified that a line must be drawn between that of a valid exercise of such freedom and that of corrupting the minds of students— especially minors using a premeditated and systematic process of instilling hatred and indoctrination.

The military cannot allow these groups to take advantage of the youths’ idealism and social imperfections and use this as an excuse to take up arms to overthrow the government through rebellion or insurrection where many of them die, he added.

“The latter we cannot allow,” Arevalo said.

He said the hearings at the Senate and the testimonies under oath of two former rebels who have returned to the folds of the law are representations of many other former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who have joined the mainstream society.

“They confirm recruitment in schools because they were student-recruits and student-recruiters themselves,” he added.

“There is deprivation of academic freedom when students are not afforded opportunity to listen to views and opinions from all sides—even from perceived adversaries—for them to make an informed judgment or an intelligent stand,” he said.

Arevalo said the military finds it disconcerting that these protesters will block the opportunity for students to hear the side of the AFP and government on the many accusations hurled against it while they allow NPA recruiters access to the campuses.

The Communist Party of the Philippines – NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. PNA.GOV.PH