THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) seems to be in a hunt for the masterminds of the alleged “Red October” plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
The first suspects were the political parties in cohort with communists. Confronted in a Senate hearing, the military cleared them and revealed another group of plotters – students that are being recruited by the plotters.
Who were the recruiters is not known but common wisdom will tell us that if there were recruits, then there must be recruiters. Unable to pinpoint the culprit, the military now tells the nation that the colleges and universities are hotbeds of this recruitment. The heads of the institutions denied the charge.
Then the mass transport group declared they will wage their own version of “Red October” to protest the continuing increase in the price of fuel. Last Tuesday is the ninth weekly rise in fuel costs. Of course, blame can be laid on the doorsteps of the voracious oil producing countries but the price could be lowered or mitigated if the government is not likewise as voracious as OPEC by collecting the local taxes on fuel.
That educational institutions are hotbeds of political and social dissent is nothing new. It has always been the schools that created revolutionaries because the environment of critical thought is conducive to the expression of multifarious ideas that often times are depreciative of the existing conditions. The exchange of view, culled from studies of the past and new theories, eventually merge to arrive at a conclusion that social and political changes are needed for the betterment of society.
All Philippine revolutionaries, from the three secularist priests, Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora, to Rizal and to Aguinaldo and our own here in the Visayas, are well schooled and who imbibed the revolutionary thinking of Europe.
Even Andres Bonifacio, not fortunate or wealthy enough to go to school, learned to read from the basic cartilla and drank from revolutionary books of Europe. The prevailing situation of the Philippines under Spain was the same as those in Europe – the curtailment of human rights – and engendered the idea of revolt.
Of recent memory is the schools’ involvement in the anti-Marcos movement. Initiated first by the Christian Socialist Movement, it drifted towards radicalism. From the series of live-in seminars for student and faculty, the movement shifted to heavier ideological indoctrination that advocated a violent resistance in contrast to the slow parliamentary approach of CSM.
Even Catholic and Aglipayan seminaries were infiltrated and led to the departure of clerics, mainly Catholics who were swayed by the Latin American Liberation Theology. The Gospel and papal social encyclicals were interpreted as supportive even of armed revolt. The rest, as usually said, is history.
Communism which is anathema to Catholic doctrine being atheist became a means to achieve the end social suffering. But as we now know, the revolt against Marcos did not end the suffering of the masses, but it did show the futility of an armed revolt and the failure of the communist ideology to ease human suffering.
Do our schools today still harbour a violent means of changing the political leadership? I was among those in the midst of the storm of those years – 1971 to 1986. I remember one top army officials publicly saying I was the professor of the 14 top leaders of the communist insurgency in Negros. I do not deny that but thousands more of my students were against communism and its view and treatment of man, a creature made unto image and likeness of his Creator. They joined the government, including dozens who became military and police officers and government officials.
This episode in our history only show that schools are moulders of human thought and action, the arena where ideas are tested and proven right or wrong. Almost all, I say almost, of my students who left for the mountains and took up arms have learned their lessons there and returned to the fold of the law and now occupy positions of significance here and abroad.
The military should consider the lessons learned of the involvement of schools in student activism. The schools are the melting pot where ideas clash and the best emerge victorious. Curtailing them is counterproductive, a lesson that the post Marcos AFP must learn.