MANILA — Indigenous youths harboring from a military-led counterinsurgency in the Philippines may soon lose the only safe space they have known for the past two years. Under a nearly 40-year pact, the 17 campuses of the University of the Philippines are off-limits to the country’s military and police. Since 2019, a group of 68 Indigenous students and teachers have taken refuge at the UP campus in Quezon City, where they attend a makeshift school following the forcible closure of more than 160 schools catering to Indigenous communities, or lumad, in the southern island of Mindanao. But in a letter dated Jan. 15 this year to the UP president, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana unilaterally declared an end to the pact, effectively stripping the sanctuary status of the campuses of the country’s leading public university. Lorenzana cited “recent events” that identified UP students as members of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), and said that “national security issues” and the safety of students against rebel recruiters are the main driving forces for the termination of what’s known as the UP-DND accord or the Enrile-Soto accord. “The Department is aware that there is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership in the CPP/NPA and that the ‘Agreement’ is being used by the CPP/NPA recruiters and supporters as shield or propaganda so that government law enforcers are barred from conducting operations against the CPP/NPA,” the letter, addressed to…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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