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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Seeing red

/ 04:05 AM February 15, 2021

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — It pains me to hear that two campuses of the Mindanao State University (MSU) system have been included in the list of 18 institutions of higher learning that have been red-tagged. These are the campuses of MSU-Iligan and MSU-General Santos City.

MSU is a hallowed institution that has produced many local government officials and prominent citizens across Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Having taught in MSU-Gensan for two decades before my retirement, I have witnessed the quality of instruction that university professors and lecturers in the two campuses of the MSU system have provided.

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Many of our students in each MSU campus are quite impoverished, and have transcended their financially-deprived status by dint of hard work, diligence in studying, and persevering despite many barriers of social exclusion they experienced as students in their four-to-five years’ stay (or even longer) on campus. I want to stress this as a backdrop argument on students’ vulnerability to the alleged aggressive recruitment tactics of the CPP-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front) leaders. As impoverished students, their driving motivation for a degree from MSU is the desire for their families to trampoline out of poverty—and not live the same kind of miserable lives they had with their parents. Such drive for learning and ensuring graduation after four years will surely not push them to live in hardship again, as rebels.

The inclusion of the two MSU campuses in the list of universities that have reportedly become havens of recruitment for new members or cadres of the CPP-NDF did not come as a surprise to these schools. Red-tagging has been done in the past, especially during the dark years of martial law, when student activism was at its peak. During those years, the more President Ferdinand Marcos stifled academic press freedom, the more students were pushed to join national organizations for dissent, especially the CPP-NDF.

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Last Jan. 23, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), announced that 18 colleges and universities in the entire Philippines “are recruitment havens for the New People’s Army (NPA).”

The following day, leaders of four of these red-tagged universities in Metro Manila (Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and Far Eastern University) issued a joint statement, stating among other things, that the list is anathema to their “high aspirations… [where] we seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, to defend the country’s democratic institutions and promote nation-building.”

Fr. Norberto E.N. Rivera, SJ, president of another red-tagged university, Ateneo de Naga, said NTF-Elcac’s statement was at worst “reckless, misguided and simplistic.”

Red-tagging campuses like MSU-Gensan is indeed reckless and not founded on reason. It also glaringly shows the misguided thinking of Parlade and his henchmen at NTF-Elcac. Universities teach a variety of courses to help students secure stable careers in the future. Teachers and professors only teach what they have to, and they have no control over what students will do outside their classrooms. This is quite obvious, but the military, especially NTF-Elcac, refuses to see this reality; they would rather be unreasonable. More importantly, red-tagging is just a manifestation of how indolent and lacking in stringent investigatory discipline the NTF-Elcac is. It should be doing more rigorous investigation of people who have been engaged in rebel recruitment in the campuses, rather than just issue lists of universities as “recruitment centers” for communists. Doesn’t this remind us of President Duterte’s infamous “drug matrix”?

The more the military red-tags universities, the more reason there is for many of us to be enraged, to see red.

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TAGS: Antonio Parlade Jr., Kris-Crossing Mindanao, MSU-GenSan, MSU-Iligan, NTF-ELCAC, red-tagging, Rufa Cagoco-Guiam
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