A couple of years back, Cebu City experimented with opening its city library throughout the night. The results were a pleasant surprise to the mayor and the city librarian.
Every night, hundreds would go to the city library along Fuente Osmena each night to read and study. All seats taken, all reading rooms full.
Many of the library patrons were high school and college students who saw in the city library a quiet, convenient, safe and free place to read and to study. No purchase required, so much unlike the expensive coffee shops that dot the city and cater mainly to the upper class and the middle class.
Now, just imagine if we have at least one public library in each congressional district. These district libraries would complement the provincial, city and municipal public libraries, and the libraries of local and state colleges and universities.
Who among our senators, congresspersons, governors or mayors would oppose constructing new libraries or expanding existing ones?
The country could also provide subsidy and scholarship funds for authors and researchers so we could have new books and publications.
The new books could be written in Filipino, Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Chavacano, and other national languages.
New funding could also be given to state colleges and universities for studies and research on the most pressing problems of our people.
The topics could include the following: high petroleum prices, the costs of foreign intrusions into our territory and exclusive economic zones, the effects of official development assistance, the impact of red-tagging in politics, biographical studies of victims of extrajudicial killings, the status of corruption cases against high public officials, institutional amnesia, the inability or refusal of institutions to hold erring public officials accountable, and so on.
One particular area of study which colleges and universities could focus on is the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines which has been going on since 1995. Taxpayers and citizens are curious how much in public funds have gone to military modernization in the last 26 years, an accounting of where these funds went, and whether the modernization have managed to upgrade the military’s capability to defend our territory from foreign threats.
Another area of study that our academics could look into is the history of martial law and dictatorship, specifically on the experience from 1972 to 1986. Section 26 of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 provides for a memorial, museum or library to commemorate the dictatorship’s victims. No retelling of the stories of the victims would be complete without stating what was done to them. It would be an opportunity for the military and police to show remorse and repentance both as individuals and as institutions.
The more senior academics themselves and perhaps journalists and members of the media could take advantage of new funding to write books about their own remembrances and vignettes of martial law and dictatorship. There are not enough books about this.
Aside from these topics, there could be new research on migration and the Filipino diaspora, comparative studies on wealth and income of the upper and lower social strata, the system of taxation, institutional support for micro, small and medium enterprises, the health care system, and other pressing topics.
The University of the Philippines could lead the efforts in research, given that it is our national university as mandated by law. It could recommend the standard list of titles that any public library should have. Surely, UP has the expertise for this. For starters, UP has a school of library and information science. For more, UP has the most comprehensive and most wide-ranging areas of expertise and competence.
All these are possible if lawmakers and the current or next administration would abolish the NTF-ELCAC and redirect its P28.1 proposed budget for 2022. That’s a whole lot of money that could be put to better use for education, libraries, new books, new research and new solutions that are truly beneficial to the people now and in the future.