More groups oppose removal of 'subversive' materials from school libraries

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 07 2021 12:35 PM | Updated as of Nov 08 2021 12:58 AM

On Sept. 2, officials of Kalinga State University turned over to the Philippine Army's 50th Infantry Battalion at least 11 learning materials on the peace talks between the Philippine government and CPP-NPA-NDFP. Photo from Philippine Army's 50IB, 5ID Facebook page.
On Sept. 2, officials of Kalinga State University turned over to the Philippine Army's 50th Infantry Battalion at least 11 learning materials on the peace talks between the Philippine government and CPP-NPA-NDFP. Photo from Philippine Army's 50IB, 5ID Facebook page.

MANILA — More groups have condemned the decision of several state universities and colleges (SUCs) to remove reading materials deemed "subversive" from their libraries.

The Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) said the banning of "subversive" books and literature from libraries was a "clear violation" of freedom in publishing and freedom of thought.

"To remove literature which explicitly accounts for Philippine radical thought, and other similar books, will raise a future generation that is ignorant and subservient," the BDAP said in a statement issued late Saturday.

"We need to remember that the goal of subversive literature is to encourage people to think for themselves while having access to different perspectives and possible ideals," added the group, which is composed of stakeholders from the publishing industry.

If the Philippines wants to "progress as a nation, we need to read books grounded in the Filipino experience," the group said.

"We must become independent thinkers and discerning, judicious learners. We must read other minds to be able to tell right from wrong," it added.

The Kalinga State University, Isabela State University and Aklan State University earlier surrendered books on the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front to the military.

Critics, including UP Diliman officials led by Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, have called the removal of the materials an attack on academic freedom.

Last week, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Propsero de Vera defended the move and urged UP Diliman officials to "respect" the decision of other SUCs.

CHED's regional office in the Cordillera earlier issued a memorandum, encouraging higher education institutions to remove "subversive" materials from both their libraries and online platforms.

Despite De Vera's advice, another UP body, the Library Council, spoke out against the banning of the "subversive" materials.

"[The CHED memorandum] threatens to undermine the very foundation of the academic freedom guaranteed by the Constitution to all institutions of higher learning, whether public or private," the Library Council said in a statement on Saturday.

The UP Library Council, which creates policies on the library services of the UP System, said "book purges are practiced by dictatorships, not democracies."

"Insurgencies are contained by addressing their root causes, not by banning books that explain how and why they happen," it said.

The council stressed that the protection of libraries was important "in this age of fake news, which magnifies the responsibility of universities to seek and promote the truth, regardless of political consequences."

The body called on fellow librarians and university officials to "protect our libraries from any form of censorship, and to resist any actions that will compromise academic freedom."

"We need to open minds, and not to close them. Since we believe in democracy, as our critics claim to do, we must remain open to ideas not necessarily our own and respect the right of our citizens to read about them in our libraries," it added.

The Academics Unite for Democracy and Human Rights, a group of professionals from the education sector, also hit De Vera for "justifying the removal of so-called subversive books from libraries."

The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives filed a resolution to investigate the "dubious removal" of the allegedly subversive material.

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