Palace clarifies remarks on protesting UP students, ‘lumad’ plight

SHARE
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. INTERAKSYON FILE

MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. on Saturday clarified President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks to kick out protesting students of the University of the Philippines (UP) and replace them with bright lumad students.
Roque said it didn’t mean the President wanted to curtail their freedom of expression.

“Malinaw po ang sabi ni Presidente, ang tinututulan niya iyong walkout sa klase. Hindi po niya sinusupil ang karapatan ng malayang pananalita at saka ng karapatan ng peaceful assembly, puwede pong gawin iyan ng mga estudyante, ang tinututulan niya iyong walkout [The President’s remark is clear; what he objects to is a walkout from class. He is not suppressing the right to free expression or peaceful assembly. Students may exercise that; he objects to their walking out from class],” Roque stressed.

As a former professor in UP, Roque recalled that in UP there was this so-called “maximum absence rule” that if a student breached the maximum 20 percent allowance, the student would be automatically “dropped from the rolls”.

“So ang sinasabi lang ng Presidente, huwag naman natin sayangin iyong mga pera ng sambayanan na ginugol natin para sa free tuition ng lahat ng State Universities and Colleges [What the President s saying is, ‘let’s not waste the people’s money which was spent for free tutiion in all SUCs],” Roque explained.

READ ALSO: WATCH | Duterte to protesting UP students: ‘You always walk out, don’t go to school anymore’

Baseless claims

Still on the lumad, Roque described as baseless the statements made by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that the government violated the rights of the lumad.

“Lilinawin po namin, ang lahat po ng datos ay nagpapakita na ang nagsasamantala sa mga lumad ay NPA (New People’s Army). Sapilitan po silang ginagawang miyembro ng NPA. Ginagawang mga mandirigma at kawawang-kawawa po ang mga lumad [We want to make this clear, all information points to the NPA exploiting the lumad, forcing them to become NPA members. They force them to be warriors],” Roque stressed.

He said the President understood very well the plight of those cultural minorities in Mindanao.

“(A)lam niya, na ang number one problema ng lumad ay kahirapan. Kaya naman sinabi niya baka mamaya papasukin natin nga iyong mga namumuhunan na magkaroon ng trabaho at mabawasan ang pagkagutom diyan sa mga Lumad communities [He knows that poverty is the top problem of lumad. That’s why he said he plans to encourage businessmen to come in and provide jobs in order to ease the hunger of lumad communities],” Roque said.

“Kapag nagkaroon po ng mas malawakang mga trabaho diyan sa mga komunidad ng Lumads, mababawasan na rin iyong impluwensiya ng NPA. At sa ganoon po, hindi na sapilitan na kukunin ng mga NPA iyong mga Lumads at gagawing mga mandirigma [Once there are enough jobs for lumad communities, the NPA influence will wane. Then, the NPAs can no longer force the lumad to be their warriors],” he added. (PCO Content)