Discrimination of learners on the basis of their background or religion has no place in the country’s education system. This is Senator Win Gatchalian’s reminder to the Philippine National Police (PNP) amidst uproar on a Manila Police District (MPD) memorandum, which called for the creation of a database of Muslim students in high schools, colleges, and universities as part of efforts to counter violent extremism and strengthen peacebuilding.
While the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) has already ordered the MPD to scrap the memorandum, Gatchalian denounced the move as discriminatory and insensitive. Gatchalian said that the order is tantamount to assuming that Muslim students are likely to be involved in violence, which only reinforces stigma against Muslim communities. The lawmaker added that any existing similar orders nationwide should be recalled immediately.
“Hindi natin pwedeng palagpasin ang ano mang uri ng diskriminasyon sa ating mga mag-aaral,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Gatchalian instead urged the PNP to implement its community relations programs in schools using the framework of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Order No. 032 series of 2019, which promotes the concept of Schools and Learners as Zones of Peace. The Department Order emphasizes recognition and respect for the human rights of learners, their contribution to creating peace nationwide, and the role of schools in fostering peace education. It also guarantees the protection of learners from inhumane, cruel, and degrading treatment.
“Sa pagpapanatili ng kapayaan sa ating bansa, dapat tandaan ng PNP na kailangan nitong i-respeto ang relihiyon at kultura ng bawat komunidad. Kailangang matutunan ng bawat hanay ng PNP kung paano mapanatili ang kaayusan sa bansa nang hindi nagpapakita ng diskriminasyon sa anumang komunidad,” Gatchalian added.
Gatchalian also urged both the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to protect students from any acts that make them a target of any profiling activities.
Under the direction of MPD chief Brig. Gen. Bernabe Mendoza Alba, the District Community Affairs and Development Division issued the memorandum on January 31. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines shared the memorandum in a Facebook post on February 20 and sparked outrage from Muslim groups and other sectors. The Bangsamoro Parliament, for its part, passed a resolution condemning the listing, which it described as prejudicial against Muslims.