What makes UP special? Students counter claims of communist recruitment with memes, anecdotes

January 20, 2021 - 4:58 PM
This Jan. 19, 2021 photo shows students protest at the University of the Philippines Diliman to uphold the accord between UP and the Department of National Defense (Kabataan Party-list/Facebook)

Members of the University of the Philippines community poked fun at the national government’s persistent accusation that the premier state university is a hotbed of recruiting rebels.

On Tuesday, current and former “iskolars ng bayan” took to social media to share photos and witty remarks on food, cats and events that they usually encounter in UP that makes its campuses “special” as a form of clapback against the alleged recruitment activities of supposed rebels.

The Department of National Defense ended the longstanding 1989 UP-DND accord through a letter addressed to UP President Danilo Concepcion on Monday. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the agreement has been terminated on January 15.

The UP-DND accord, inked 1989, was signed by then-UP President Jose Abueva and Defense chief Fidel Ramos.

It prohibits the military and police from entering without permission unless in cases of hot pursuit and related cases or when assistance is requested by university officials.

READ: Throwback to ’70s: Diliman Commune remembered as UP-DND accord gets scrapped (philstar.com)

In his letter, Lorenzana alleged that the UNP-DND accord was being used by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, an organization the government declared as “terrorists,” as a supposed “shield” that prevents the police and military from conducting operations against them.

Lorenzana also claimed in a series of tweets that the DND was only protecting the safety of the youth as he justified the termination of the historic agreement.

He also referenced the South Korean drama series “Crash Landing on You” in his justification.

“Sa UP mayroon silang ala-Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Military can’t enter without coordination. What makes UP so special? Nasa Korean border ba kayo? CLOY is life na ba?” Lorenzana wrote in his tweet.

READ: Lorenzana’s ‘Crash Landing on You’ reference in UP-DND accord tweet slammed as ‘out of context’

The DMZ is the border between North and South Korea that serves as a buffer zone for the two countries.

Other high-ranking officials such as Senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson also echoed the claim that UP became a supposed recruitment ground for CPP-NPA members.

“There’s sense in the move taken by the President and Sec. Lorenzana because during our red-tagging hearings in the Senate, it was established that —not only UP in particular, other universities—talagang ‘yung recruitment nanggagaling dun sa mga estudyante up to the point that they’re being killed in encounters,” Lacson said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart.

“The government was fooled by the CPP/NPA/NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Font] the last 31 years thru that agreement,” Dela Rosa told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Prior to the termination of the UP-DND accord, the UP students have experienced red-tagging and were accused of participating in communist recruitment.

In November, UP Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs denied these allegations.

“The University’s core mission is knowledge and innovation creation, production, and dissemination, using various approaches of knowledge transfer. UP does not recruit for the communists as this is not its mission,” it said.

UP also said that it is present in all branches of government citing that some of its former students include 15 members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet.

It added that several of them were or are still in its faculty. These are Secretaries Herminio ‘Harry’ Roque Jr., Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Leonor ‘Liling’ Magtolis-Briones, Fortunato ‘Boy’ dela Peña, CHEd Commissioner J. Prospero ‘Popoy’ de Vera III, Wendel Avisado, and Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr.

RELATED: UP students report being red-tagged over donation drive hotline

How the UP community reacted

Meanwhile, members of the UP community condemned the red-tagging anew and countered the allegations of communist recruitment by sharing their actual experiences at the university.

Some members started a thread asking what is more likely to happen than meeting an NPA recruiter in UP where it gained various responses ranging from receiving a failure or incomplete mark, to seeing a celebrity in campus, to being offered a delicacy, among others.

The quoted tweets and the comments section also covered topics about graduation, encounter with birds, cats and caterpillars and other relationship quips.

To prove these instances, some students tallied their non-communist recruitment experiences at the university.

Others shared photos and memes on the possible appearance of an NPA recruiter in UP.

Lourd De Veyra, a musician and award-winning writers, also shared what he quipped as the real “NPA.”

The caption read: “Sa UP, may tunay na NPA: Nakawalang Pusang Alaga.”

Some alumni, including Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, also shared their responses to Lorenzana’s question “what makes UP so special.”

A student also claimed there is a high possibility of being recruited by Korean missionaries and not communist rebels.

‘Military needs proof’

In an interview with GMA’s The Mangahas Interviews, UP Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo emphasized that the military needs to prove the alleged communist recruitment in UP campuses.

Nemenzo also responded to Lorenzana’s question on what makes the institution special.

“Of course, dahil sa academic freedom, binabasa ng lahat ng students— malaya silang magbasa, mag-isip, pag-usapan ang lahat ng klaseng ideolohiya— from right to left. This is the trademark, this is why UP education is special,” he said.

“Yung sinasabi niyang clandestine activities—that needs proof. You cannot simply cancel an agreement because you suspect there is a clandestine activity,” he added.

UP Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Elena Pernia also denied the military’s accusations.

“The University does not recruit and we do not condone ang mga acts ng sedition. We do not condone this,” Pernia said in a GMA News interview.