Gantala Press denounces the educational censorship happening in state universities and libraries in the north.
In the past weeks, books and related literature authored and/or published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were voluntarily removed from the Kalinga State University (KSU) and Isabela State University (ISU) libraries; and inquiries were launched by military personnel on the Basao-Dilag Community Library in Tabuk City, Kalinga.
We are dismayed at the university officials who rationalized their book-purging 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. 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.
Nothing will ever justify military presence in sites of learning such as the community library in Sitio Basao, Barangay Dilag which was visited by armed soldiers on September 6, 2021 “to make inquiries.” The library evolved out of a book drive initiated by Project Kalinawan and supported by civil society organizations such as the Rotaract Club of Mega EDSA, the National Service Training Program ‘Tatak UPD’ (University of the Philippines Diliman), and other partners and donors.
As succinctly articulated in a statement issued by Project Kalinawan regarding the incident, “community initiatives in service of education and collective literacy are essential” and given the learning limitations experienced under the pandemic, “what the youth need most are books and a wide educational support system, not fear and political censorship.”
We urge 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 that endanger lives and jobs. We call on school administrators and local authorities to uphold and protect the rights to education of our youth, for the price of miseducation would be our very future.