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“Statement of the UPD University Council on the Removal of Allegedly Subversive Books from Libraries
“In Defense of Academic Freedom
“The University Council of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD UC) supports the recent statements of the UPD School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), UPD Office of the Chancellor Executive Staff (OCES), and UP System-wide University Library Council in denouncing the removal of books in the libraries of three higher education institutions (HEIs).
“In his statement on November 2, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair J. Prospero De Vera III said that the decision of Kalinga State University, Isabela State University, and Aklan State University to remove these books is “in the exercise of academic freedom,” in which UPD has no business interfering. In doing so, he implicitly supports the Commission on Higher Education in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CHED-CAR) Director’s Memorandum No. 113 (series of 2021) encouraging the removal of “subversive” references in university libraries.
“Academic freedom is enshrined in Republic Act (RA) No. 9500 (The University of the Philippines Charter of 2008) and in RA No. 7722 (Higher Education Act of 1994). The UP Charter states that the “National University has the right and responsibility to exercise academic freedom” (Sec. 5 – Academic Freedom). This responsibility includes the defense of academic freedom.
“On the other hand, RA No. 7722, which establishes CHED, affirms this principle: “The State shall likewise ensure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercise and observance for the continuing intellectual growth, the advancement of learning and research, the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage” (Sec. 2 – Declaration of Policy).
“With De Vera’s statement, CHED is not defending academic freedom because it endorses the move of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to intrude into academic matters, control the contents of libraries, and suppress the academic freedom of students and faculty in the three universities. His reproach of UP’s “interference” signaled his support for further removal of radical reading materials in other libraries, which betrays the notion of academic freedom that he professes. We are appalled that the CHED, through its Chair and a Regional Director, has failed in its mandate to uphold the higher education institutions’ revered tradition.
“The purging of books is an attack on the life of the mind. It runs counter to the mission of universities to nurture critical thinking and expose students to the widest range of perspectives. It betrays what lies at the very heart of a university: critical thought, free discourse, and academic freedom.
“The University Council of UP Diliman calls for the defense of academic freedom wherever it is under attack and the protection of university libraries as sanctuaries against bigotry and obscurantism. It calls on the CHED Chair to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed right to academic freedom is respected in ALL institutions of higher learning. UP Diliman stands in solidarity with all HEIs in protecting our libraries and in defending academic freedom.”
17 November 2021, UP Diliman.
(The UP Diliman University Council is composed of the chancellor (serving as chair), professors, associate professors, and assistant professors.)
“The Real Subversion: A Statement by UP Professors Emeriti on the Banning of “Subversive” Books
“We, Professors Emeriti at the University of the Philippines, express our strongest support for the University Council of UP Diliman in its protest against the recent memorandum issued by the Commission on Higher Education in the Cordillera Administrative Region urging libraries in that region to remove “subversive” books and materials from their collections.
“Far from being of tangential concern to us in UP, this memorandum is an assault on academic freedom in all Philippine universities, as it sets the stage for further and possibly even more repressive measures in schools across the country. Any threat to academic freedom in any Philippine school or university is a threat to the whole system and has to be confronted instantly and squarely, regardless of whether individual institutions choose to deny the threat or to acquiesce to it. While the memorandum seems to present the removal of “subversive” books as non-compulsory, we all know how such directives, in the culture of our bureaucracy, can have coercive and chilling effects.
“We are appalled by the CHED Chairman’s subsequent statement describing the compliance of some state universities with the CHED memorandum as an “exercise of their academic freedom.” This is disingenuous if not perverse. Academic freedom is neither exercised nor asserted by submitting to its suppression. It is not the bureaucratic freedom of corporate bodies to do as they wish. It does not mean that academic leaders can invoke the principle as a personal right of administrators to define and delimit the intellectual endeavors of their entire constituencies. It is a transcendent principle that implies preserving sources of history and ideas for present and future scholars, even if these are currently unfashionable or politically incorrect. Its enshrinement in our Constitution prevents the State or other institutional bodies from restricting the rights of academics and limiting them in their intellectual pursuits.
“The CHED Chairman also decries UP Diliman’s response to the CHED memorandum as a form of “disrespect” toward other institutions. But indeed the greater disrespect manifest here is that of the fundamental and constitutionally protected right of all Philippine institutions of higher learning to academic freedom. This is the real subversion taking place—the takeover of academic administrations and governance by political appointees more intent on executing some external agenda than performing their duty to defend academic freedom and excellence against all incursions.
“Many of us still recall the darkest days of martial law, when our campuses and offices were raided by soldiers in search of “subversive” books. Professors and students were imprisoned for their beliefs, and books were burned for their content. Never again should the military or the government itself determine which books we can read and teach. Never should academic freedom be compromised in the name of national security.
“Again we must emphasize that academic freedom is prerequisite to academic excellence, which cannot prosper under conditions of political repression or oversight. As repositories of knowledge, university libraries must remain open to all books, so their ideas can be critiqued and contested in the classroom and laboratory, in the crucible of truth and reason. To ban books is to promote ignorance and intellectual servility, and to condone its practice is to betray one’s sacred calling as a producer and propagator of knowledge.
“We call on the CHED to revoke this ill-conceived memorandum and on our Board of Regents and university administrators to resist any efforts from within and outside UP to curtail academic freedom. We reaffirm the primacy of the faculty in all matters of academic policy and practice, of which our libraries are an integral part. To defend books and libraries is to defend democracy itself, whose strength derives from a diversity of ideas and beliefs. To that end, we recommit ourselves, and urge our colleagues in active service to do as well.”
Gemino H. Abad
Virgilio S. Almario
Ma. Cecilia Gastardo-Conaco
Lourdes J. Cruz
Randolf S. David
Emmanuel S. de Dios
Ma. Serena Diokno
Cristina P. Hidalgo
Ma. Lourdes San Diego-McGlone
Manolo G. Mena
Evelyn Mae Mendoza
Flora Elena Mirano
Emerlinda R. Roman
Gerardo P. Sicat
Guillermo Tabios III
Michael L. Tan
Nicanor G. Tiongson
Rosario T. Yu
Posted online: November 11, 2021 17:38