Schizophrenia and reality
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa wants the police and military to be allowed entry into state universities and colleges, supposedly to compete with Left-leaning organizations in “recruiting” students. The rookie lawmaker raised this curious idea last week at the first hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which he chairs, and which looked into the supposed disappearance of young people who had allegedly been taken by the activist organizations they had joined.
It was a prickly situation right there, a veritable tinderbox of emotion involving family dynamics, parent-child conflict, and the self-education obligatory to every thinking person. Throw in mothers weeping over “missing” children, and the former chief of the Philippine National Police mouthing things about youth activism being the result of “brainwashing” and “indoctrination,” and any observer will begin to see the stasis in which this country is locked—that is to say, encouraged to languish in a state of semi-ignorance and, as a result, generally unable to arrive at and come to terms with a materialist assessment of current realities.
Dela Rosa presented a narrative of students, particularly of two state institutions—he names them: the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)—being coerced by “the Left” into embracing radical ideas and ultimately rebelling against the government. He pronounced the supposed situation unfair and suggested that men and women in uniform be allowed to engage in a competition for the youth’s hearts and minds: “Malaki ang imbalance ng pagpapabor, favored towards the Left, itong pagiisip ng ibang mga eskuwelahan na ito, lalong lalo na itong mga eskuwelahan ng gobyerno, like PUP and UP. Dapat hindi ganito. They are using government resources and yet they are producing enemies of the state.”
He proposed a “race” between the communists and government forces—“mga komunista” and “makagobyerno”—on who can get the most “recruits”: the New People’s Army or the police and military?
As it happened, at least two of the “missing” students emerged to deny their disappearance or of being recruited and forced to quit school by communist insurgents. One assailed the PNP for exploiting a “family matter” that should have been resolved in private; another accused the military of influencing her mother to speak disparagingly against the organization that she, the child, had joined. “I know my mother, and she’s not like that,” the student said, suggesting that her parent had been influenced by authorities into behaving in an uncharacteristic way.
Weighing in on the Dela Rosa committee’s hearings, the PNP chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, expressed support for his predecessor’s stance and called for a review of agreements denying the police and military access to campuses, particularly UP. He said such access would hinder the alleged recruitment of students to the communist fold.
The PNP’s employment of the Red card—for Dela Rosa appeared to be speaking not so much as a senator of the realm as the police’s top gun—is an old strategy that uses the communist bogey to negate an empirical view of the Philippine situation. Students who, through readings and interaction, come to comprehend the enduring poverty of the majority of the Filipino people, how they have come to such a state and why they continue to be thus mired become objects of suspicion, along with their efforts to share with and teach others the value of self-education and of the necessity of struggling for a better life.
In the hearings and in media interviews, Dela Rosa amplified on the “recruitment” angle, as though young people were themselves incapable of arriving at an evidence-based understanding of life in these parts. Adding to the alarming shrinking of the democratic space, he called for the firing of teachers who encourage their students to seek more education beyond the classroom by attending rallies.
And yet, in another illustration of the schizophrenia afflicting his administration, President Duterte recently signed Republic Act No. 11369 declaring Nov. 17 of every year National Students’ Day. The law is envisioned as an opportunity to recognize the “invaluable contribution of student activism to Philippine democracy” and for “initiating efforts to foster leadership among Filipino students,” according to reports announcing the measure.
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