'Hands off our libraries': Educator laments removal of NDFP books from university libraries

An educator lamented the removal of books and documents published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in at least three state university libraries.

(Photo courtesy of ISU-ECHAGUE)

The Kalinga State University (KSU), Isabela State University (ISU), and Aklan State University (ASU) pulled out books authored by or related to the NDFP to supposedly "protect" the youth and students from insurgent ideology.

The books 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.

In a lengthy Facebook post, educator and book designer Karl Castro said the removal of the said books "impoverishes free speech and democracy" in a time when Filipino students are still unable to return to physical classrooms and access libraries due to pandemic.

"Freedom of thought is a cornerstone of academic freedom. It is also a prerequesite for free speech which is at the heart of democracy, or the 'rule of the people.' Pursuant to these ideals, libraries must be spaces where all texts may be studied without fear," Castro wrote.

" novels of Rizal, were once reviled as heretical and subversive. What prevailing order then, is now being 'subverted' by the idea of respecting human rights, or the idea that another order is possible, nay even necessary?" he added.

Castro maintained that libraries and archives play a key role in "challenging unequal power relations and pushing human progress."

"One may say this is much ado over the pullout of a few old volumes. And yet, in the last few years, how many of our hard-won rights have we let fall by the wayside? This is how our democratic rights are eroded: not simply through draconian laws and wanton killings, but also in granular aggressions," he added.

The educator said that branding and banning books as "subversive materials" has no place in a democratic society.

"Libraries must continue to be a safe space for learning," Castro ended, as he also urged his fellow educators, librarians, and students to release a public statement "affirming such."