Top Philippine private universities rejected Sunday allegations made by a military official that their campuses serve as "recruitment havens" for communist rebels, saying such claims are "really getting old."
In a joint statement, the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and Far Eastern University denounced claims made by Lt. Gen Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the government's anti-insurgency task force, that their campuses are among those identified as hubs for recruitment efforts of the New People's Army.
"We therefore object to General Parlade's statement and emphasize that our institutions neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the New People's Army and, indeed, of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government,” representatives of the universities said.
"We take as a sacred trust our primary responsibilities to promote learning and safeguard the rights of the young who are entrusted to our care," they said.
This is not the first time that Parlade's claims drew outrage. Last year, his comments linking actresses Liza Soberano and Angel Locsin to the communist movement sparked a protest on social media that saw women take red lipstick selfies to protest red-tagging.
Parlade denied red-tagging the actresses when he faced a Senate investigation.
The universities' statement comes days after the Department of National Defense announced its unilateral termination of a decades-old accord with the University of the Philippines that governs the entry of state troops in campuses of the premier state university.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the agreement has become "obsolete," claiming that UP has become a "safe haven for enemies of the state."
UP President Danilo Concepcion has expressed "grave concern" over the abrogation of the agreement, calling it "unnecessary and unwarranted," and urged the defense department to reconsider its decision.
Over the years, UP has built a reputation as a bastion of student activism.
The move has sparked outrage not only from the UP community but students of other universities as well, paving the way for the hashtag #DefendUP to trend on Twitter last week.