ILIGAN CITY ( MindaNews / 3 January ) –Officials and students of the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) here lambasted the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for recently tagging the school as among the learning institutions that are allegedly serving as breeding grounds of the communist insurgency in the country.
Dr. Sukarno Tanggol, MSU-IIT chancellor, denied the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) has targeted their students for radicalization and conducting campus recruitment.
“We will see to it that no [MSU-IIT] constituent will go against the law, but we will respect the right to self-expression and healthy discussion. A scientist must grow up critical and holistic, lest he/she ends up being a tool for tyranny,” Tanggol said.
Dr. Habib Macaayong, MSU system president, said the NTF-ELCAC’s accusation was “wrong.”
“All MSU campuses also opposed (the inclusion of MSU in the list) kasi wala naman talagang (NPA) recruitment sa (because there was really no NPA recruitment within) MSU. We are law-abiding,” Macaayong said in a text message.
He noted that many MSU alumni chapters “despised” the accusation.
On January 28, the MSU system released a statement condemning the inclusion of MSU in the NTF-ELCAC list. It branded the inclusion as “baseless and flagrantly unfair.”
The statement stressed that the inclusion “was counterintuitive in MSU’s mandate to become a peace university.”
The MSU system’s mission and advocacy for peace is inculcated in its program and curricula with “emphasis on inclusiveness, appreciation for diversity and great respect for reasoned dissent,” according to the statement.
The University also stated that it takes pride in being the first university to offer FPE 101 (Fundamentals of Peace Education) as a required subject for all students.
“As a survivor of the Marawi Siege of 2017… the Mindanao State University is inevitably the first one to abhor and condemn radicalism and its potential outcome — violent extremism and terrorism,” the statement stressed.
Arvie Gail, chair of Students’ Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in MSU IIT (STAND IIT), said in a phone interview on January 27 that the inclusion of MSU-IIT and the MSU-General Santos City Campus in the NTF-ELCAC list of schools that the CPP-NPA-NDF has targeted for radicalization was “irresponsible.”
“At first, I found the tagging funny because there are still many government supporters in MSU-IIT, thereby making it impossible for the university to become a breeding ground of extremists, then I realized the gravity of the allegation and what it could mean for students like us,” Gail said.
“This red tagging all the more perpetuates the existing polarization that will have people believe that dissent equates with rebellion. Our university offers democratic spaces, however limited, to be critical towards the government and call out injustices that it has committed when need be,” he added.
Gail said that STAND IIT has not become very active for a long time and since the COVID-19 pandemic, has shifted meetings online. Most of their agenda were fighting for the students’ rights, conduct educational discussions online, and joining webinars and social media rallies.
He noted that 16 of their members who staged a protest during Independence Day last year have been under watch by the military and getting “unwarranted visits in their homes until now” by persons believed to be state agents.
Gail said the group was alarmed as the allegation that they have links to the NPA could be use by the military to justify their “unwarranted visits.”
Apart from endangering the lives of students, he noted that red-tagging causes “a chilling effect to students in expressing any form of opposition and in exposing social injustices.”
Tingog, another socio‐political organization in MSU-IIT, also denounced the inclusion of the institution in the NTF-ELCAC list.
In a statement posted on their social media page on January 27, Tingog said that MSU-IIT houses students “who are critical thinkers and should thus be free from any interferences that may limit this pursuit.”
“We condemn the continuous attacks against academic freedom to our educational institutions by the government. The recent pronouncements made by the NTF-ELCAC are misleading the public and endangering the lives of the students of MSU-IIT and the rest of the universities (on the list),” it said.
“We call on our public officials to shift instead their focus in addressing the inequities of our educational system, to further their efforts in making it more accessible to the Filipino youth, and to provide steady and competent leadership amidst this public health crisis and economic downturn,” it added. (Riz P. Sunio / MindaNews)