Philippine universities deny claims of recruitment on campus for Maoist rebel group


Leading universities in the Philippines rejected an anti-insurgency official’s claims that their campuses were recruiting grounds for communist rebels, days after students protested against security force patrols at some university campuses.

National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. has named the Far Eastern University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and the Ateneo De Manila University as among 18 schools where the New People’s Army has been recruiting new members.

In a statement, the presidents of the four universities said: “We object to General Parlade’s statement and emphasise that our institutions neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the New People’s Army and, indeed of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government”.

Last week, Philippine students and activists protested against a government decision to allow security forces to patrol the campuses of the country’s biggest university, the University of the Philippines (UP), which authorities also accused of being a breeding ground for communist rebels.

Just this month, the country’s defence ministry sent a letter to UP’s president identifying a number of students killed or captured in military operations as members of the communist party’s armed wing, without providing evidence.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has stepped up efforts to end a Maoist-led rebellion, one of the world’s longest insurgencies that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Since coming into power in 2016, Duterte’s government has seen repeated breakdowns in peace talks with the communist rebels.

The United Nations had warned in a report that “red-tagging”, or labelling people and groups as communists or terrorists, and incitement to violence have been rife in the Southeast Asian nation. (Source: The Straits Times)