MANILA — Officials from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman hit back after Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero de Vera criticized them over their statement on the decision of several state schools to pull out allegedly subversive reading materials from their libraries.
"We are appalled that our call for solidarity for all HEIs (higher education institutions) to participate in the defense of academic freedom has been used by Commission on Higher Education Chair J. Prospero De Vera III to criticize UP and its leaders," the UP Diliman University Council said in a statement on Monday.
"As such, he (De Vera) has failed to fulfill CHED’s mandate as stated in Republic Act No. 7722, which is the defense of academic freedom," it added.
The UP Diliman University Council was referring to De Vera's statement last Nov. 2, wherein the CHED chief told officials of UP's flagship campus to "respect" the decision of other state universities to remove "subversive" publications from their libraries.
The council reiterated that the "removal of books based on ideological criteria is anathema to academic freedom and undermines the role of academic institutions as repositories of thought."
"This sets a dangerous precedent and a move towards the censorship of our universities," added the council, which is composed of UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo as well as professors, associate professors and assistant professors.
De Vera, who previously taught in UP and sits as chair of its policy-making body, had said the decision of HEIs to remove materials from their libraries was an exercise of academic freedom.
He added that other universities were also critical of UP Diliman's policies but do not issue statements "out of mutual respect for the governance of individual public universities."
"It would be best for the Chancellor of UP Diliman and their officials to be more prudent, circumspect, respectful and discerning in issuing statements especially involving the exercise of academic freedom of other higher education institutions," De Vera said in his statement.
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.
CHED's regional office in the Cordillera issued a memorandum encouraging schools to surrender allegedly subversive materials from their libraries.
Aside from UP officials, other groups have also condemned the removal of publications deemed subversive from university libraries, calling it an attack on academic freedom and freedom of thought.
RELATED VIDEO FROM THE ARCHIVES