MANILA – The University of Philippines Diliman on Friday hit back at threats to defund the institution for supposedly becoming the breeding ground for communists.
“We will strongly defend the University’s time-honored traditions of academic freedom and critical thinking. UP’s proud history of service and activism has shown that we can do both,” UPD chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said in a statement.
However, he made no mention of President Rodrigo Duterte who threatened to cut the funding of the state university following calls of academic strike due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent typhoons. It was also the chief executive who said that UP “does nothing except recruit communists.”
For Nemenzo, red-tagging is dangerous because “it focuses on labels over substance and encourages intimidation and violence.”
He maintained that UP remained a safe haven for civilized and intelligent discourse and had no place for intolerance, bigotry and red-tagging.
In his statement, Nemenzo clarified the threat to defund UP may had stemmed from a misunderstanding the institution does nothing except to recruit communists.
“Those who blame UP for breeding communists forget that UP has bred more scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers, diplomats and civil servants,” he said.
Nemenzo explained that UP exposed its students to a wide range of perspectives, which they would “learn to think on their own, to think critically, to reason out, and distinguish truth from lies, right from wrong.”
“Academic freedom is essential for the life of the mind and for UP’s dual role as knowledge producer and social critic,” he said. “We play the role of social critic from a position of evidence-based scholarship and moral courage. This role is a distinct service to the nation.”
As to the petition of ending the semester due to remote learning, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and successive typhoons, it is the "fundamental and inalienable right" of the faculty and students to air out their grievances and criticize the government, he said.
“And whatever one thinks of their call to ‘end the semester,’ it should not be construed as abandonment of one’s education, but as a legitimate expression of their commitment to teaching and learning, which has undeniably suffered due to the pandemic and recent spate of typhoons,” Nemenzo said.
In Nov. 17, dozens of faculty members and students called on the university administration to end the semester due to remote learning woes.
This is different from the academic strike launched by students of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) over the government’s alleged failure in handling the coronavirus crisis and string of calamities in the past few months.
“We recognize and will defend our faculty and students’ right to protest, but UP, as an institution of higher learning, cannot renege on its responsibility to educate,” Nemenzo said.
“At a time of great economic need and political ferment, the University is all the more needed—as a place where we can challenge ideas, sharpen our positions, and gain clarity about the social and political issues confronting our society. This is UP’s mission and we have to continue this task.”