A HUMAN rights organization and two peace advocacy groups on Monday decried the decision of a state university to “surrender” to the military its collection of books and documents on the peace process, supposedly to prevent “communist infiltration” of its students.
Human rights alliance Karapatan warned of the “dangerous precedent” set by Kalinga State University (KSU) when it turned over to the Philippine Army’s 50th Infantry Battalion at least 11 learning materials on the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which served as an envoy of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) during negotiations to resolve the five-decade long armed conflict.
“This sets a very dangerous precedent in the stifling of the public’s right to access information and the exercise of academic freedom… What’s next? Raiding and ransacking libraries and the public burning of books like what the Nazis did?” Karapatan said.
Groups ACT for Peace and Pilgrims for Peace in a joint statement said KSU’s action signified its “surrender” of its academic freedom.
KSU voluntarily pulled out from its library the handbooks by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and surrendered them to the joint forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.
As decided by the University Board of Regents, KSU-Bulanao Campus, through the Director for Library Services, withdrew last September 2 all the NDFP book collections forwarded to the school library.
The collections included CARHRIL English Filipino; CARHRIL English Hiligaynon; CARHRIL English Visaya; Declaration of Understanding; NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection, and Welfare of Children; The GRP, NDFP Peace Negotiations major arguments and joint statements September 1, 1980 – June 2018; the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations Major Written Agreements and Outstanding Issues; NDF Adherence to International Humanitarian Law; letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Secretary-General; NDFP Adherence to International Humanitarian Law: on Prisoners of War (POWs); two articles on the people’s struggles for a just peace; and NDFP Reciprocal Worrying Committee (RWC) respective on Social & Economics Reforms.
“The recent decision of the KSU is a dismaying act of blind allegiance to the myopic anti-insurgency campaign of the current Rodrigo Duterte administration… The university administration has practically surrendered its academic freedom to the state security agencies,” they said.
On Sept. 5, KSU reposted the Philippine Army’s announcement of the turnover of the NDFP handbooks.
The decision of KSU to remove said books from its library was prompted by the declaration of the Government of the Philippines through the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) in May 2021 that the NDFP is a terrorist organization. The CPP-NPA was earlier declared by the ATC as a terror group through Resolution No. 20.
“The action of the KSU Board of Regents (BoR) only indicates that they are against the NDF ideologies and they wanted to safeguard the students and the school institution from communist infiltrations,” the KSU post said, lifting the text from the Army’s statement.
Karapatan called this “absurd” and a form of “censorship.”
“Is the government so allergic to knowledge on human rights principles that it goes down to this kind of censorship? The government is simply showing its hand in enabling a brazen attack on academic freedom,” Karapatan said.
ACT for Peace and Pilgrims for Peace urged KSU officials to “study the peace negotiations” to enlighten themselves on the issues surrounding the armed conflict.
“We call on the members of the KSU BoR to contribute to efforts to resolve the half-century-old armed conflict between the Philippine government and the forces of the NDFP by invigorating academic freedom in their own university,” they said.
The Duterte administration has terminated all peace negotiations to resolve the over 50-year communist insurgency in the Philippines.
Instead, it created a “whole-of-nation” approach to quash the communist rebellion, led by the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). – Karapatan and PIA-CAR