By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
MANILA — Student councils of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Sta. Mesa reaffirmed their earlier declaration that members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Hands Off Our Children Movement (HOOCM) are persona non grata in their university.
The declaration was based on Resolution 004, Series of 2021, which was spearheaded by PUP Sentral na Konseho ng Mag-aaral (SKM) and passed on Dec. 11, a day after International Human Rights Day.
“NTF-ELCAC has records of baseless red-tagging and HOOCM being an enabler in silencing progressive youths through a facade of psycho-social services,” the resolution read.
On December 13, the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Region 6 issued a statement, calling the PUP SKM “ill-informed.” However, PUP SKM president Albiean Revalde said their decision to declare them as persona non is based on their consultations with the students.
“We can see how these statements of RTF-ELCAC maliciously discredit and vilify the power of the students. We should remind them that SKM alone is autonomous, and we have the power to create these policies to protect the welfare and safety of our constituents,” said Revalde in a press conference on Dec. 23.
Attempts to enter the university
The student councils underscored that the decision to declare the NTF-ELCAC and HOOCM as persona non grata was part of their efforts to uphold academic freedom against the looming campus militarization. PUP students, they said, have been routinely red-tagged by the government’s anti-insurgency body since it was established in 2018.
There have also been attempts to abrogate the accord between the PUP and the Department of National Defense that keeps security forces from entering their grounds, the mandatory random drug testing in 2019, and the holding of so-called “peace webinars” by the NTF-ELCAC and HOOCM.
On Jan. 27, 2021, the NTF-ELCAC held a two-hour press conference, tagging the PUP SKM along with other student organizations, councils, and publications as recruiters of the New People’s Army.
A memorandum of agreement between the PUP Department of Psychology and HOOCM was also signed, where the latter will provide “mental health services” to students who are part of progressive groups such as Kabataan Partylist, League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, among others. This MOA did not push through as it was met by strong criticisms.
There have also been attempts to hold youth forums organized by the NTF-ELCAC, the HOOCM, and the National Youth Commission that target their first-year students.
The bigger picture
PUP SKM vice president Kirchhoff Angala said that the president is putting more money in funding the military while 39 percent of state universities and colleges (SUCs) are facing budget cuts, particularly in the capital outlay that can be utilized to create conducive and safe facilities for learning amid pandemic.
The PUP is among the affected SUCs with almost P60-million ($1.2 million) budget cut from the year 2021 to 2022 in the general appropriations. Their capital outlay is currently facing a significant decrease, with only P61 million ($1.21 million) for the 2022 budget. If this will be approved, this is a P98.5-million ($2 million) decrease from their 2021 budget.
Meanwhile, the budget for anti-insurgency efforts through the NTF-ELCAC remains at P17.1 billion for 2022.
“The priorities of the government speak volumes in the current political climate of our country. It is a manifestation of how fascism can extend inside the university premises just to secure a greater political power,” said Angala.
PUP SKM Treasurer Anna Mutuc said that the scope of the resolution is expected to be implemented in different colleges of PUP Sta. Mesa, and may later extend beyond the university.
“There is a responsibility that the students have to ponder. We have to actively engage in exposing the NTF-ELCAC and their lies. There is a greater responsibility for us to make sure that this will not happen only in PUP,” said Mutuc.