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Freedom of thought

Four of the country’s most prestigious universities have issued a joint statement to belie an outrageous claim by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that Philippine universities are recruitment havens of the New People’s Army.

The Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas over the weekend expressed their objection to Parlade’s statements stressing that their higher education institutions “neither promote nor condone recruitment activities (of the NPA) and, indeed, of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana surprised the academic community when he unilaterally terminated the 1989 agreement between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense that prohibited the uncoordinated entry of government uniformed personnel in UP campuses all over the country.

Parlade had earlier charged in a statement that 18 universities – including the four – are recruitment havens for leftists. The four universities took the opportunity of the discussion generated by Lorenzana’s decision to open UP campuses fair game to armed soldiers in the guise of protecting students from unproven bogeyman of NPA recruitment to remind the public and the public servants involved that the accusations are being irresponsibly cast without proof.

The four universities asserted that as Philippine schools, they value the Filipino’s basic constitutional rights to speech, thought, assembly and organization.

“As institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions,” the joint statement added.

The unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND agreement that deprives the country’s scholars safe haven from armed and uniformed personnel that belong in battlefields instead of classrooms, and the incessant and irresponsible red tagging that now includes academic institutions does not bode well for freedom of thought and development of critical thinking in this country.*

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