Senate panels want schools to probe teachers who push students to join protests

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 2) — The Senate Public Order and Defense panels are recommending schools to probe teachers who encourage their students to join protests “that advocate radical and subversive ideologies.”

The Senate committees, chaired by former top cops Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, respectively, said in a report that the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education should issue an administrative order mandating school administrators to initiate a thorough probe on these teachers.

The report, a product of two public hearings on the alleged recruitment of minors into the communist movement, found that some teachers “are instigators of restlessness and rebellion among students” as they reportedly required their students to attend mobilizations.

However, the Senate panels only cited the testimony of Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde to back up this claim.

“Teachers … should be held liable for any damage that their minor students (especially those in Grades 11 and 12) may sustain if it could be proven by authorities that the teachers themselves authorized or instigated their students to join rallies, demonstrations and other militant activities either within or outside school premises,” the committees said.

But the panels recognized that students have the right to air their grievances and participate in legitimate organizations. They stressed, however, that students’ activities need to be scrutinized “to ensure their (students) security, safety and well-being.”

Part of this monitoring is to allow police presence in schools and for the police and the military to conduct dialogues with school administrators, teachers and students.

“School management and the police and military forces should work together in ensuring the safety of the students and making the school zone free from crimes and extremism,” the committees said.

READ: Palace: Police presence won't stop recruitment of students by leftist organizations

Youth activists have repeatedly insisted that the Constitution guarantees their right to join protests to voice out their concerns about government. They have also maintained that they do not have links to the communist movement, and have resisted “red tagging” by government agents, as this could endanger their lives.

Party-lists advocating for communism?

The Senate panels are also seeking a further probe on the supposed “recruiters” of students who are minors into left-leaning organizations. Among those that the committees want to investigate further is Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago.

The committees said if there is enough evidence against these "recruiters", they should be charged with violations of the Revised Penal Code, the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

READ: Party-list groups subpoenaed over 'missing minors'

Elago was invited to the Senate probe but did not show up, saying she was invited only at the last minute. She also cited “inter-chamber courtesy” in snubbing the probe, saying that a chamber of Congress cannot conduct proceedings against another member of the legislature.

Replying to Dela Rosa’s invitation, the Kabataan party-list said the probe “vaguely presents a dangerous mindset of tagging of leftist groups and educational institutions,” and has previously been used “as pretext to legitimize state-led silencing, and even worse, criminalizing dissent and opposition.”

The youth party also encouraged the Senate committees to also conduct a probe on other issues affecting the youth, including the spate of killings on Negros island, the alleged profiling and surveillance in schools, and the “bungled” Red October scare that saw universities getting tagged as hotbeds of communist recruitment.

In their report, the panels concluded that there are party-list groups that “advocate communist ideologies.”

“They espouse principles that give semblance to democratic values and doctrines, but with the real ultimate goal of overthrowing the government. They take advantage of the seeming ‘helplessness’ of the masses amidst the social ills, and stir discontent and disgruntlement against the government,” they said.

The panels recommended the amendment of the party-list law so that it will prohibit the registration of organizations that “advocates subversive dogma." The report did not specify, however, what would qualify as subversive dogma.

The report also did not specifically name which party-list groups supposedly espouse communism, but Kabataan party-list was repeatedly mentioned throughout the report and is one of the groups accused of recruiting minors.

It also cited three news reports, including one from state-run Philippine News Agency, that pointed to party-lists Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis and ACT Teachers as communist fronts.

These party-lists, which comprise the activist Makabayan bloc in the House, have already denied this accusation, which has been repeatedly hurled at them by government officials.

Among the evidence cited by some government officials is a video where Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison appeared to enumerate the party’s “legal democratic forces in the Philippines.” Sison has said the video is “distorted.”

In December 2018, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro and former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo were slapped with trafficking and kidnapping charges for allegedly transporting minors from Talaingod, Davao del Norte to an unknown location without the knowledge of their parents.

In the same month, Davao City police filed child abuse raps against former ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao for "influencing minors to be angry and to resent the present government" during a protest action.

In January 2018, a policeman who said he was injured by protesters during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila in November 2017 sued Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate for direct assault, resistance and disobedience to a person in authority and violation of the Public Assembly Act of 1985.

They have all decried these suits as harassment.

The government has intensified its campaign against communists ever since President Rodrigo Duterte’s relations with the Left soured, which ultimately led to the termination of peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.