Facebook has been alit with red-tagging controversies after a high-ranking government official named prestigious universities as “havens” for NPA recruitment. Is this university red-tagging just another attempt of the government to silence their critics?
Last January 23, the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) created a post on Facebook red-tagging at least 18 schools. AFP Spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr said that these schools are NPA recruitment grounds. Among the 18 schools red-tagged by the NTF-ELCAC are well-known universities, including top-ranked University of the Philippines (UP).
On January 24, four of those schools named–Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), Far Eastern University (FEU), and University of Santo Tomas (UST) had a joint statement against the red-tagging, which was published in major dailies including inquirer.net. The four schools objected to Parlade's statement saying, "This charge, though, is really 'getting old'–a rehash of the public accusation the general made in 2018–irresponsibly since cast without proof."
About a week before NTF-ELCAC red-tagged the said schools, the Department of National Defense (DND) terminated the 1989 UP-DND Accord, which prevents state forces from entering any of UP’s campuses. Rappler.com defines the accord as an agreement which was signed on June 30, 1989, by then-UP president Jose Abueva and then-defense chief Fidel V. Ramos. The agreement placed guidelines on military and police operations inside the UP campus. The agreement came after the 1982 Soto-Enrile accord, which was "borne out of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship." The Soto-Enrile accord was an agreement between then-student leader Sonia Soto and then-defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile to protect students from the presence of state forces in schools whose intention was to subdue opposition and protests.
This, sadly, was not the first instance of red-tagging as the government seems to have a penchant for labelling critics as rebels. On the evening of January 22, a list on the Facebook page “Armed Forces of the Philippines Information Exchange” named 27 people who were allegedly UP students who became members of the NPA, and either died or were captured. The said list was posted on Friday night, January 22, and had a minimum of 916 reactions, 58 comments, and 467 shares before being taken down the following morning.
According to CrowdTangle data, there are at least 12 other Facebook pages that posted the same list. The people listed, however, proved to be not associated in any way with the NPA. At least 8 names on the list are journalists, lawyers, former government officials, teachers, or entertainment personalities who are still alive and have not been captured as members of the NPA.
The government’s methods of trying to scare critics into silence is evident in these aforementioned actions. The series of events, from naming individuals as so-called NPA members, dissolving the UP-DND Accord, to approving the Anti-Terror Bill, makes it clear that this university red-tagging is just an attempt of the government to quell dissent.
It is unfortunate that our government spends much time and money on these baseless accusations. This makes one think that if only the government puts as much effort into improving their services to the people, then probably they would not have to worry about these critics and any other criticism.