On October 21, 2021, the Commission On Higher Education (CHED) drew the ire of various groups after its regional office in Cordillera urged public higher education institutions (HEIs) to remove learning materials and books deemed as "subversive" from their libraries and other online platforms.
The missive was released via CHED-Cordillera Regional Memorandum No. 113 series of 2021. The said memorandum defines "subversive materials [as pieces of] literature, references, publications, resources, and items that contain pervasive ideologies of the Communist-Terrorist groups (CTGs)."
Based on CHED's memorandum, the call to surrender certain books aim to support the Duterte administration's "whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)."
CHED-CAR further claimed information from the subversive materials could "radicalize the mind" of students.
Groups and advocates reject CHED's call for book purge
However, groups and academics disagree with these explanations, including the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP).
BDAP's statement was posted on BDAP president Ani Rosa Almario's social media account. Almario is also the vice president of renowned children's books publisher Adarna House and co-founder of The Raya School.
BDAP, an organization that comprises the country's top book publishers, warned that if pursued, such bans on books will result in grave consequences in the future. "To remove literature which explicitly accounts for Philippine radical thought, and other similar books, will raise a future generation that is ignorant and subservient."
BDAP said having access to a diverse collection of books is necessary to help individuals become more open-minded.
"When we ban certain books, we teach our young to retreat to silence when they need to speak. We push them to close their ears from fear when they need to listen. And we let them grow blind to what they should see."
The UP Library Council decalred it would not heed CHED's memo. The state university council pointed out that democracy does not have room for such calls of book purges. Here's an excerpt from the UP Library Council statement:
"We believe — as do our peers in other schools and departments of the University — that true learning results from the application of critical thinking to a range of ideas, and that even ideas deemed dangerous or inimical to society require critical analysis. If we are the democracy that we profess to be, then nothing can be more deleterious to that democracy than the suppression of books that contain such ideas.
"Book purges are practiced by dictatorships, not democracies; and inevitably, book purges prove futile, as those who banned the Noli and the Fili for being subversive eventually realized. Knowledge advances not by the exclusion of ideas, but by intellectual inquiry and scientific practice. Insurgencies are contained by addressing their root causes, not by banning books that explain how and why they happen."
The statement also said, "This is especially important in this age of fake news, which magnifies the responsibility of universities to seek and promote the truth, regardless of political consequences. As the repositories of knowledge, our libraries and their custodians are duty-bound to ensure that access is maintained to that knowledge in all its variety, in the service of the truth." (Read the full statement here.)
According to ABS-CBN News, three universities, Kalinga State University, Isabela State University, and Aklan State University, earlier surrendered books containing information about the communist movement and peace negotiations in the Philippines.
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