Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has urged Congress to look into the reported removal of books, pamphlets, research work or any reading material considered by the government as “subversive” from the libraries of state universities.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 933, De Lima emphasized the need to examine such policies imposed by law enforcement agencies, saying such move curtails academic freedom in institutions of higher learning.
“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,” De Lima 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 state universities.
The three education institutions, she said, are Kalinga State University (KSU), Isabela State University (ISU), and Aklan State University (ASU).
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.
Though the books were reportedly considered as “subversive”, the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas, through a post by their Chancellor, Dr. Clement Camposano, refused the call to remove the reading materials and books from their libraries.
The reelectionist senator said the government should reflect on its policies instead of investing a significant amount of time and resources censoring libraries.
The government should also train its resources and programs to implementing 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 stressed.
“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.
She also said the UP-Visayas should be lauded for protecting academic freedoms against the attempts at insurgency by the present government.