A community library bucked the pull out of books and documents published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in at least three state university libraries.
The Kalinga State University (KSU), Isabela State University (ISU), and Aklan State University (ASU) removed books authored by or related to the NDFP to supposedly “protect” the youth and students from insurgent ideology.
The books pulled out 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 statement, community library Project Kalinawan expressed fear that the incident may lead to “community distress, unjust trespassing of community property, and baseless persecution of civilians.”
“Project Kalinawan believes that community libraries should be a safe space for learning and should not be debased with baseless accusations of fearmongering, as instigating fear and terror among members of the community only serves to hinder this people’s access to education,” it said.
“It is with these trying times that community initiatives in service of education and collective literacy are essential. Today, what the youth need most are books and a wide educational support system, not fear and political censorship.”
Project Kalinawan likewise decried the questioning of barangay officials of Barangay Dilag by military personnel about the community library in Basao-Dilag, Brgy. Dilag in Tabuk City, Kalinga, saying the incident “raised alarming concern among the community leaders and barangay officials.”
The community library is a project headed by students under the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Tatak University of the Philippines-Diliman.
Meanwhile, independent publisher Gantala Press aired dismay at the university officials who rationalized their book-pursing with the mandate to “protect the youth from communist ideology” and their “recruitment into insurgent groups.”
“By removing access to books which advocate human rights and international humanitarian law, provide information on peace negotiations, and analyze the roots of poverty and armed conflict in the country, these educational institutions acted against the very principles which they are supposed to uphold — that of academic freedom and its expressions of critical thinking, freedom of inquiry, and freedom of speech,” the local press said.
“It is alarming that the educators have willingly become complicit in the attacks perpetrated by the Duterte government against the people through its misinformed, paranoid, and destructive counter-insurgency program.”
Gantala Press also called on the government to “treat universities and libraries as safe spaces where learning and intellectual freedom must thrive, without fear of censorship and rampant red-tagging.”