After meeting with CHEd, police call off plans for dialogue, at least for now
The Philippine National Police will stand down, at least for now, amid the military’s allegation that 18 universities in Metro Manila are being infiltrated by communist rebels hoping to recruit students for the “Red October” plot to topple President Rodrigo Duterte.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Guillermo Eleazar, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Commissioner Prospero de Vera III, and PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. — who met over dinner on Saturday — agreed that De Vera would consult first with heads of the universities before the police could “engage” or talk to them directly.
Eleazar also sought to allay fears about the police encroaching on school grounds, a sensitive issue for many of the universities with a storied activist tradition, saying in an interview on Sunday that the NCRPO would not “meddle in their business or [trample on] their civil rights.”
“We are not generalizing the students, who each have their own rights,” Eleazar said. “We work within the limits of the law.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines disclosed to the public last week that it believed 18 universities, including the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University, were the site of recent recruitment drives by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
The students and administrators of these schools quickly denounced the AFP announcement as an uncorroborated scare tactic that might be later used to justify the repression of student activists.
Last week, PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said that the PNP would hold talks with the university heads to “find out and know what help we can give them.”
He added that the police could help them inform students about the real situation in the country and counter the wrong information being fed to them by communists.
Albayalde initially asked Eleazar to “engage directly” with the universities, but this was deemed impractical.
“It would be difficult to schedule a dialogue with every school,” said Eleazar who added that he did not want to delegate the task to police district directors either, out of fear that this would make it harder to get things done.
The compromise reached was that the NCRPO chief could participate in dialogues with the university presidents, but only after the latter have had separate consultations with the CHEd commissioner.
Eleazar added that De Vera would not restrict himself to the list of 18 schools given by the AFP, and would consult with school heads even outside of Metro Manila.
He declined, however, to say when these consultations would take place.
“There’s no need to rush it,” Eleazar said. “I want to reach out to the universities to work this out, and let them know the police are here to help.”