Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged Congress to investigate the reported removal of books, pamphlets, research work or any reading material considered by the government as “subversive” from the libraries of state universities which she said curtails the academic freedom in institutions of higher learning.
In filing Proposed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 933, De Lima underscored the need to examine the policies formulated by law enforcement agencies that seek to censor books from the country’s academic institutions to ensure that none of said policies violate democratic values.
“The removal of books from the libraries of state universities is a direct and blatant attack on academic freedom enshrined in the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines,” she said.
“These actions by the government’s anti-insurgency task force not only directly contravene the duty of the State to protect and promote the moral and intellectual well-being of the people, but actually run completely against the road to peace,” she added.
Last September, books and other reading materials about peace negotiations between the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and other topics deemed anti-government by the military were reportedly removed from the libraries in three educational institutions, to wit: Kalinga State University (KSU), Isabela State University (ISU), and Aklan State University (ASU).
The books removed include the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL); NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection, and Welfare of Children; and the Government of the Philippines-NDFP Peace Negotiations Major Arguments.
While the books were reportedly considered as “subversive” by the government’s anti-insurgency task force, the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas, through a post by their Chancellor, Dr. Clement Camposano, has refused the call to remove allegedly subversive reading materials and books from their libraries.
Instead of investing a significant amount of time and resources needlessly censoring libraries, De Lima said the government should reflect on its policies and instead develop and implement strategic and long-term solutions to the decades-old Communist insurgency.
“Freedom of thought is a cornerstone of academic freedom and a central pillar of any functioning democracy. Institutions of higher learning should foster an environment conducive to the free exchange of ideas and the development of critical minds,” she said.
“The goal of education should be to train and sharpen the minds of learners and expose them to the widest range of knowledge and ideologies possible in order to produce critical thinkers and not blind followers or sycophants,” she added.
If anything, De Lima stressed that UP-Visayas should be lauded for protecting academic freedoms against the attempts at insurgency by the present government.
“Ganito na talaga kadesperado ang gobyernong takot na takot sa katotohanan. Pilit na pinatatahimik ang mga kritiko, mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao, at ngayon naman, pati ang silid-aklatan at kaalaman ay gusto nilang limitahan,” said De Lima. (30)