[OPINION] To Professor Blanco on Leloy Claudio
This is in response to academic Jody Blanco's June 6, 2019 piece: [OPINION] An academic's response to Walden Bello's defense of Leloy Claudio
Dear Professor Blanco,
As a member of UC Berkeley’s Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, I read with interest the petition that you signed urging my colleagues and I to reject Dr Lisandro Claudio’s application for a faculty post. According to the petition, you oppose Dr Claudio’s candidacy because he is “on record as naming or outing individuals including students at his previous campus Ateneo de Manila University, on the basis of their leftwing perspectives or affiliations in a political climate in the Philippines that makes such conduct highly dangerous for those singled out in this way.”
In your recent open letter to Walden Bello, published in Rappler (6/1/19), you repeat this charge, writing: “I signed the petition on the content of the argument and the supporting evidence that Professor Claudio’s identification of students and student groups as extremists exposed them to added surveillance and possibly danger, given the current breakdown in the administration and enforcement of laws and individual rights and freedoms in the Philippines under the current government. ”
To further emphasize the dangers of the behavior that you attribute to Dr Claudio, you describe the extrajudicial killing of a 12-year-old boy last January in Caloocan City who was targeted by the police after being accused of drug dealing.
Your arguments fail to convince me for several reasons. On the one hand, your reference to the unrelated Caloocan killing strikes me as a misleading cheap shot. Given Dr Claudio’s early, consistent, and principled opposition to Duterte’s murderous law enforcement policies (unlike the Philippine Communist Party which allied with Duterte around the 2016 election), the insinuation that his behavior somehow facilitates the President’s war on drugs smacks of duplicity and bad faith. Moreover, the dynamics of the current war on drugs share little in common with Dr Claudio’s alleged “red-baiting,” an issue that you tendentiously mischaracterize in your petition and your personal letter.
In both texts, you state that Dr Claudio outed individual students for their leftist sympathies. And yet neither you nor the evidentiary record to which you refer mentions a single concrete example. Instead, the record shows clearly that, despite your repeated allegation to the contrary, Dr Claudio has never named an individual student. Rather, he has spoken out openly on several occasions against the dishonest recruitment practices of communist front organizations on college campuses, a deeply troubling issue that deserves scrutiny.
While its prevalence is difficult to measure given its clandestine nature, the stealth recruitment of young people in schools by front groups is a well-known phenomenon. Even at the University of California, an ocean away, solid evidence exists of similarly deceitful efforts being used to target Phil and Phil-Am students. As a faculty member, I’ve heard extensive and persuasive testimony on this precise topic.
Your petition and open letter fail to convince as well because they refuse to consider Dr Claudio’s openly stated motives for opposing the activities of local communist front groups. To justify his opposition to recruitment efforts on campus, Dr Claudio points to the inglorious and authoritarian record of the Philippine Communist Party under the leadership of its Chairman Jose Maria Sison and to his duty as a teacher to look after the interests of his students.
“I would not be able to live with myself if I heard of students dying as a result of being involved in a struggle that I think is not worthwhile anyway,” he is quoted as saying. “I would be proud of a student who died for a worthwhile cause, but for a student to die for a sexist like Jose Maria Sison, I’d be very disappointed.” (The Guidon, 5/6/2017).
Despite his low estimation of the local Communist movement, however, Dr Claudio takes pains to reject state persecution of party cadres or fellow-traveling members of front groups. “I do not believe in counterinsurgency methods that violate human rights,” he wrote in the 2017 article “Responsible Anti-Communism” (Rappler, 12/11/2017).
While maintaining that “Communist front organizations” ought to “be tagged as CPP fronts, the better to inform voters who elect them to the legislature,” he also insists that they “should not be the target of military operations.”
The tendentious misconstrual of Dr Claudio’s forthright and even-handed opposition to familiar communist recruitment strategies on campus as “red-baiting” is little more than a bullying tactic used by the party and its allies to disparage critics of these strategies. It dismays me that you seem to feel that this shameless, baseless, and utterly transparent smear ought to disqualify Dr Claudio from an academic position for which he is superbly qualified.
I am happy to entertain any additional thoughts on this matter that you care to present. – Rappler.com
Peter Zinoman is chair of the History Department and Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.