By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Leaders of student organizations from different universities in Baguio City and Benguet urged the Commission on Higher Education – Cordillera Administrative Region to recall Memorandum Order (MO) 79-2019 endorsing “Sulat Kamay,” an information caravan of 1505th Maneuver Company (MC) of the Police Regional Office Cordillera.
In a petition filed before the office on November 7, the students said the “information and awareness program” in schools and universities are part of the campaign to harass activist organizations in educational institutions in the region. More than 600 student-leaders signed the petition seeking to revoke the document released on October 18.
The signatories cited cases of similar programs wherein the police and military associate established student and youth organizations to communist rebels without any proof. Among the institutions mentioned by the petitioners where such incidents occurred were Saint Louis University and state-run tertiary schools in Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Abra.
“This series of branding progressives as terrorists ultimately spreads false information to students, while they clearly lack evidence of the “terrorist recruitment” of these organizations. Red-tagging organizations have already inflicted and pose a serious danger to students,” the petition said.
They also reminded CHED-CAR to honor the 1982 Soto-Enrile Accord, an agreement between the League of Filipino Students and the Department of National Defense that prohibits the presence of armed military and police inside school campuses.
“Moreover, police and military entry in schools is unlawful and a threat to safety. Schools are zones of learning that must foster a peaceful environment open to critical learning. Malicious information spreading false accusations invalidates the legitimacy of youth organizations and advocacies,” the petition said.
CHED-CAR Officer-in-Charge Ma. Geraldine Casipit signed the document in response to the request of 1505th MC Commander PMaj. Zacarias Dausen. The request said the caravan aims to spread awareness on the “alleged recruitment of the students inside schools using different deceptive tactics through legitimate organizations,” which the government accused of having links with the communist rebels.
Not an ordinary forum
According to Louise Montenegro, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Cordillera spokesperson, the program is “not an ordinary information and education campaign, as the police want the schools and the public to believe.” She stressed that Sulat-Kamay “is counter-insurgency operations inside the schools.”
“It is nothing but a forum tagging legal organizations as terrorist fronts and recruiters. Sulat-Kamay obliges students to write open letters discouraging fellow students from joining legal organizations being tagged as terrorist such as NUSP, Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan, LFS,” she said.
Montenegro also noted that they received reports from students that before CHED’s endorsement, the PNP and AFP have already been conducting the Sulat-Kamay caravan in different schools in the region.
The Student Council of the University of the Philippines Baguio also expressed concern about the implications of the memorandum.
“We are alarmed by CHED-CAR RMO 79 as it essentially provides a free pass for the police entry in universities, creating more access for them in spreading unverified claims and vilification against legitimate organizations in schools”, said Nico Ponce, UPB-USC chairperson.
The 1505th MC, the police unit conducting the caravan, is part of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) 15, a mobile reaction unit for Internal Security Operations and augmentation force for police units deployed in local governments. Sulat-Kamay is set to run starting November 11-21 and December 2-13. # nordis.net / With reports from the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines