University of the Philippines

Nemenzo: Diliman Commune a symbol of UP community’s courage

Bonz Magsambol

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COURAGE. UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo says that the Diliman Commune is a symbol of the courage of the UP community.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo says knowledge is useless if it's not used to help people and the country

In commemoration of the 1971 Diliman Commune, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said on Monday, February 1, that the students’ protest that happened decades ago remained symbol of the UP community’s courage.

“Anuman ang ating personal na paniniwala at pagtingin, hindi matitatanggi na ang 9 na araw na barikada noon ay simbolo ng tatag at tapang ng paninindigan ng ating komunidad para ipagtanggol ang ating unibersidad,” Nemenzo said in his speech during Engkwentro, a program held to commemorate the Commune’s 50th anniversary.

(Whatever our personal beliefs are, we cannot deny the fact that those 9 days of protest symbolized our community’s courage and commitment to defending the university.)

On the first week of February 1971, UP students occupied the Diliman campus in solidarity with striking jeepney drivers, who were protesting the increase in gasoline prices.

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Nemenzo said that students joined the jeepney drivers’ strike to show their concern for sectors of society that were bearing the brunt of the government’s failed policies.

“Hindi man sila ang direktang apektado pero naniniwala ang mga estudyante na ang pagsuporta sa jeepney strike ay pagpapakita ng malasakit sa mga sektor ng lipunang naunang tinatamaan ng polisiya ng pamahalaan,” Nemenzo said.

(They might not be directly affected by the policy, but the students believed that supporting the jeepney strike showed their concern for sectors of society that were hit first by the government’s policies.)

Nemenzo said that UP campuses have long been a refuge of student activism in the country. This was the result of a long history of student disappearances, killings, and police and military violence in the vicinity of the campuses in the 1980s.

“Ang aktibismong ito ay bunga ng paniniwalang ang edukasyon ay hindi dapat kinukulong sa apat na sulok ng paaralan. Walang saysay ang kaalaman kung ito ay hindi gagamitin sa tao at sa bayan,” Nemenzo said. 

(This activism comes from the belief that education should not be limited to the 4 corners of a school. Knowledge is useless if it’s not used to help people and the country.)

The 50th anniversary of the Diliman Commune happened two weeks after the Department of National Defense unilaterally terminated an accord with UP that prevented state forces from entering any of its campuses. It was a move legal expert Tony La Viña said was “part of the government’s long-standing crusade to silence anyone who is opposed to its views.”

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Meanwhile, former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, a UP student when the Diliman Commune happened, said that commemorating the event was not enough, urging members of the UP community to unite and defend the university once more.

“Ang sabi nga natin, patuloy ang nakaraan. Patuloy ang pangangailagan na sinabi ni Chancellor Nemenzo ng pagkakaisa, at pagtindig ng ating pamantasan hindi lang para ipagtanggol ang akademikong kalayaan kundi higit pa na matiyak na maipagpatuloy ng UP ang makasaysayang papel niya bilang kritiko ng lipunan at tagapaglingkod ng bayan,” Taguiwalo said.

(Like we’ve said before, past issues continue to prevail. The need for unity, like what Chancellor Nemenzo mentioned, also continues, as well as the university’s thrust to not only defend academic freedom, but to ensure that UP fulfills its historical role as a critic of society and a servant to the public.)

UNITY. Former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Monday, February 1, urges members of the UP community to defend the university.
Angie de Silva/Rappler

Below are some scenes from Engkwentro:

DEFEND UP. Activists stage a protest after “Engkwentro” in UP Diliman on Monday, February 1.
Angie de Silva/Rappler
COMMEMORATION. Artists perform to commemorate the 1971 Diliman Commune on Monday, February 1.
Angie de Silva/Rappler
PROTEST. Students activists show their support for the university during “Engkwentro” in UP Diliman on Monday, February 1.
Angie de Silva/Rappler


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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.