Palace clarifies Duterte’s threat to defund UP: President ‘somehow confused’ proponents of academic strike

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 18)— Malacañang on Wednesday clarified President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest threat to defund the University of the Philippines, saying the chief executive may only have confused the premier state university as the proponent of the calls for an “academic strike.”

“But he also— I think— somehow confused the proponents of this academic strike. I explained it was the Ateneo students advocating for the academic strike. But somehow, I think someone in that meeting said no, UP Manila also called for an academic strike,” Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“Although I think the message should only have been addressed to Ateneo students, because in my briefing, I did read the declaration of Ateneo students that they will not submit their academic requirements in protest to the way the government was responding to the typhoons,” he explained.

In a taped address aired Tuesday evening, Duterte threatened to cut the funding of UP over calls of academic strike, accusing the state university of being a ground for communist recruitment.

The call for staging academic strike was initiated by the Ateneo de Manila University students, to protest the government's typhoon and pandemic response. Around 500 students of the Katipunan-based institution signed a pledge to “withhold the submission of any school requirements starting Nov. 18, 2020 until the national government heeds the people’s demands for proper calamity aid and pandemic response.”

Other university students, including UP, then followed suit.

RELATED: UP Diliman professors call for immediate termination of semester following onslaught of typhoons

Meanwhile, members of the UP community flagged Duterte’s latest statement as a form of red-tagging.

“Duterte only exposes himself as a fascist further with this statement.” Anakbayan UP Diliman Spokesperson Ajay Lagrimas said in a statement.

“It is clear: Duterte has no intentions of serving the people," Lagrimas said. "And now, he attacks the legitimate calls of the youth with baseless accusations in an attempt to silence their growing dissent. Attacks like this further justifies our action, and continued neglect will only push more and more UP students to the streets.”