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UP Diliman Chancellor, UP library vow to stand against book censorship

academic freedom

October 31, 2021

QUEZON CITY – UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, Ph.D in a forum on book censorship and academic freedom last Friday, 29 October 2021, strongly condemned attempts by the military and the NTF-ELCAC to remove books that are deemed “subversive” from the libraries of universities and colleges in different parts of the country.

“Mariin tinututulan at kinukundena ng UP Diliman ang ginawang pagtanggal ng militar sa mga sinasabi nilang subersibong libro, dokumento, at materyales ng ilang state university libraries. Ito'y paglabag sa kalayaan ng mga pamantasan na makapagturo, magsaliksik, at magpalaganap ng kaalaman nang malaya at walang kinatatakutan,” said Nemenzo.

“Desisyon natingmga guro kung ano ang ipababasa o hindi ipababasa sa ating mga estudyante, at ang tamang desisyon ay ipabasa ang lahat. Gusto natin ay buksan ang kanilang isipan para makita nila ang lahat ng ideya, lahat ng punto de bista, lahat ng alternatiba,” said Nemenzo.

UP Diliman's stand comes in the wake of the latest attempts to clampdown on academic freedom with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the Cordillera Administrative Region issuing regional memo nos. 113, series of 2021 calling on all universities and colleges to surrender so-called “subversive” books and materials to authorities. UP Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano has previously made a stand against book censorship.

Chancellor Nemenzo describes the removal of books and readings as a form of censorship, violence, and repression of ideas: “Ang kanilang mga aksyon sa mga pamantasan ay lalo pang nagdudulot ng takot sa ating mga estudyante. Tinatanggalan sila ng kalayaang mag-isip, magtanong, at magsaliksik, kalayaang tumuklas ng kalayaan batay sa kanilang sariling kakayahan,” he said.

Former UP Faculty Regent Ramon Guillermo, Ph.D, said the military intrusion on libraries is a concrete example of the intensifying attacks on academic freedom under the Duterte administration, which he compared to state forces repressing feelings and ideas that are not acceptable to those in power. “Ang pagpasok sa aklatan ay talagang pagpasok sa puso ng pamantasan,” he said.

“Sa pagtatanggol ng ating mga aklatan, hindi tayong maaaring bumigay ng kahit isang centimeter dahil kung bibigay tayo nang kahit isang centimeter ay sa susunod ay magiging isang meter na yan. Pagkaraan ay magiging isang kilometer naman. Hindi lamang sa isang iglap nawawala ang kalayaan,” said Guillermo.

One of the highlights of the forum is a discussion by UP Diliman's Deputy University Librarian Eimee Rhea Lagrama on the martial law papers special collection at the UP Diliman University Library.

These include the Philippine Radical Papers, composed of banned documents, brochures, flyers, manifestoes and clippings during the dictatorship years that were secretly donated by individuals and anti-Marcos groups to the library, and the SELDA Papers which includes legal documents, police reports, eyewitness reports and other memorabilia on human rights violations during martial law that were donated by the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA).

Chancellor Nemenzo vowed to protect these special collections and other library materials from military repression to keep UP Diliman a “sanctuary of academic freedom and ideas on peace and social justice.”

Amidst the fear and intimidation wrought by the military on libraries, UP Diliman Head Librarian Elvira Lapuz likewise called on librarians especially in smaller state universities to stand their ground against attacks on freedom of information and academic freedom.

Since September 2021, books relating to the peace talks and other writings by revolutionaries have been removed from the libraries at the Kalinga State University, Isabela State University, Aklan State University, and University of Antique at the behest of the military and the NTF-ELCAC.

About two hundred UP Diliman librarians, research, extension and professional staff, faculty, and library sciences students attended the forum which concluded in an online zoom protest with participants holding paper placards with the calls #HandsOffOurLibraries and #DefendAcademicFreedom.

The forum was organized by the University of the Philippines Diliman Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Development in cooperation with the All-UP Academic Employees Union-Diliman and Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy.