11 September 2021
As peace advocates, we in Pilgrims for Peace are deeply concerned by the decision of the Kalinga State University (KSU) administration to withdraw from its library books authored and/or published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and related literature. It reinforces the malicious narrative peddled by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, military and police that schools in the country are “hotbeds of communist insurgents” simply because they promote human rights and international humanitarian law and uphold democratic principles inherent in educational institutions such as critical thinking and freedom of inquiry and speech, all embodied in the sacred principle of academic freedom.
As reported in the Manila Times on 9 September 2021, Kalinga State University (KSU) Bulanao Campus in Tabuk City school officials withdraw from its library books authored and/or published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and related literature and turned these materials over to the military and police. In doing so, the university administration has practically surrendered its academic freedom to the state security agencies that have constantly undermined our people’s quest for a just and lasting peace.
Since the inception of Executive Order No. 70 and the eventual creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, students, teachers, schools and universities have been a constant subject of intimidation and attacks by this entity. And the withdrawal of these books by the KSU administration only proves the breadth and depth of the reign of terror in every part of the country.
The recent decision of the KSU is a dismaying act of blind allegiance to the myopic anti-insurgency campaign of the current Rodrigo Duterte administration. As a result, these university officials are now instrumentalized in the state’s efforts to vilify not only the NDFP but also those who fight for academic freedom, human rights, and just peace, at the very least. Consequently, they have also become complicit in the vicious red-tagging/red-baiting campaigns against individuals and organizations branded “terrorist” as orchestrated by the (NTF-ELCAC). As is well documented, such red-tagging sprees lead to subsequent extra-judicial killings, unjust searches and illegal arrests, and a host of other human rights violations.
This line of thinking, time and time again but more so under the current administration, has been used to justify the political persecution of those who are simply expressing legitimate criticism up to dissenting against wrongful government policies and various injustices plaguing Philippine society.
As peace advocates, we appeal to the KSU’s officials to rethink their decision. We urge them to study the contents of the books, especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL), which the European Parliament hailed as a “landmark” agreement and an outstanding achievement of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, along with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). These materials are readily available online, with different sites hosting them, including the International Committee Of The Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Peacemaker website.
The NDFP has been engaged in peace talks with the government of the Republic of the Philippines, with the Royal Norwegian Government as third-party facilitator. These talks have resulted in agreements that not only uphold human rights and international humanitarian law but are aimed at resolving the roots of armed conflict — actions that certainly cannot be classified as terrorist.
We call on the members of the KSU BoR to contribute to efforts to resolve the half-century-old armed conflict between the Philippine government and the forces of the NDFP by invigorating academic freedom in their own university, as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution itself. We encourage them to study the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. Furthermore, study the roots of poverty and political unrest in the country.
In an atmosphere sans the fear of harassment, intimidation or punishment, students, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders can freely discuss the reasons why fellow Filipinos resort to taking up arms in order to bring about a more just and equitable society. In so doing they may be able to discern that state repression can never be a solution; rather, that addressing the root causes of armed conflict is.
Fr. Ritchie Masegman, Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace
Prof. Michael Pante, ACT for Peace
Kjerrimyr Rodrigo Andrés, Student Christian Movement