A youth group on Tuesday, Feb. 9, warned the university students of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd)’s proposal to include military and police officers in the panel of education experts to define academic freedom.
The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), an activist youth organization, said that this “inclusion poses a clear and present danger on members of the academic community.”
Members of SPARK held a protest outside the CHEd central office to demand that students’ voices be “heard” in the discussion about academic freedom.
SPARK slammed CHEd Chairperson Prospero de Vera for “promoting the idea” and even facilitated a closed door meeting between University of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion and Department of National (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last Thursday, Feb. 4, to discuss the unilateral abrogation of the UP-DND accord.
The group also criticized CHED for “leaving out major stakeholders” – the students, faculty, and school workers – in the discussion of academic freedom. “We have once again been left out of the discussion about upholding our rights and protecting our own lives,” SPARK national spokesperson John Lazaro said in a statement.
“CHEd has allowed the discussion about our freedom to commence without us, and because of that millions of lives are now in danger for it and the integrity of academic institutions compromised,” he added.
During the protest, members of the group chanted slogans claiming De Vera’s proposed panel “would only serve fascists and that it would cause everyone else to suffer.”
The group also cordoned off the gates of the CHEd building with caution barricade tape to warn the public of the “imminent threat to the security and safety of members of the academic community” if CHEd insists on excluding those that should be protected by academic freedom in the discussion.
“Time and time again, this agency has been a scene of the crime of disenfranchising and ignoring millions upon millions of students, the pandemic only worsened it” Lazaro explained.
“Until a thorough investigation is carried out, that is to say that De Vera is booted out of office, this building will be marked by the stains of his crimes,” he added.
SPARK also deplored De Vera’s apparent invitation of state forces like the police and the military to the discussion about academic freedom. “Forget wolves in sheep’s clothing, this is like inviting wolves to a meeting about the welfare of sheep,” Lazaro stressed.
The group also warned De Vera that, if he were to run for public office in 2022, the youth would not let him off easily.
“It’s hard to forget three years of negligence and incompetence,” Lazaro said. “A relentless and determined shame campaign that awaits him will haunt him forever,” he added.”
SPARK also reiterated its multiple campaigns on education sector reforms – including key demands on the accessibility and conduct of distance learning amid the pandemic.