MANILA — 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 National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which served as envoy of the Community Party of the Philippines (CPP) during negotiations to resolve the 5-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.
"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.
KSU ECHOES THE ARMY
On Sept. 5, KSU reposted the Philippine Army's announcement of the turnover of the NDFP handbooks.
The university said the decision was made after the Anti-Terrorism Council declared the CPP, NPA, and NDFP "terrorist organizations."
"The action of the KSU Board of Regents 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.
Among the books it surrendered were copies of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL), a landmark document signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP, CPP, and its armed wing New People's Army to govern the ongoing armed conflict.
CHILLING EFFECT ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM
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."
The Duterte administration has terminated all peace negotiations to resolve the over 50-year communist insurgency in the Philippines.
Instead, it created an "whole-of-nation" approach to quash the communist rebellion, led by the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).