The Commission on Higher Education-Cordillera Administrative Region (CHED-CAR) on Wednesday, October 27, said it respected the freedom of colleges and universities to choose the books they maintained in their libraries.
In an emailed response to Rappler’s inquiry, CHED-CAR Director Demetrio Anduyan clarified Regional Memorandum 113, series of 2021, released last October 21.
He said the memo only intended to inform school administrators of the things Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) tackled during its September 22 meeting.
“This office respects the academic freedom of schools in determining what reading materials should be in their libraries,” he told Rappler.
“(W)e neither urge nor order the HEIs (higher education institutions) as evidenced in the last statement of our memorandum “for your information and guidance,” Anduyan added.
In that regional memorandum CHED-CAR encouraged colleges and universities in the region “to join the region-wide removal of subversive materials both in the library and online platforms.”
The document defined subversive materials as “literatures, references, publications, resources, and items that contain pervasive ideologies of the Communist-Terrorist Groups (CTGs).”
The office said school officials should turn over the materials to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
Anduyan said they sent copies of the memorandum to all registered HEIs in the region.
CHED-CAR’s issuance came a month after three state universities in Kalinga, Isabela, and Aklan purged books and references on the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The memorandum drew condemnation from student groups and academics
Human rights group Karapatan criticized the memo, calling CHED-CAR a “wiling agents of NTF-ELCAC’s abdominal attacks.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Karapatan said the memo was contrary to CHED’s mandate to “guarantee and protect academic freedom” under Republic Act No. 7722.
“The NTF-ELCAC wants to bring its militarist agenda and brand of State terror in the academe, especially in school libraries, which should be bulwarks of unrestricted access to knowledge, said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
“We strongly call on schools, universities, and libraries to denounce and resist these attacks on academic freedom and to safeguard free academic discourse in their halls,” she added. – Rappler.com
Sherwin de Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.