Editorial: Removing ‘subversive’ books

·2 min read

THE University of the Philippines (UP) System’s library council recently urged all libraries in the country to defend their institutions from any form of censorship, and to resist any actions that will compromise academic freedom.

UP’s University Library Council issued the statement expressing its strong opposition to the memorandum issued by the Commission on Higher Education in Cordillera Administrative Region (Ched-CAR), which encourages colleges and universities in the region to join the removal of subversive materials both in library and online platforms.

The Ched-CAR memo defines subversive materials as “literatures, references, publications, resources and items that contain pervasive ideologies of the Communist-Terrorist groups.”

It fears that these materials could radicalize the minds of students, and its call is aimed at supporting President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s “whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.”

Ched Chairman Prospero de Vera III defended the Ched-CAR memorandum after it was criticized by UP Diliman officials, saying removal of red-tagged reading materials is also an exercise of academic freedom.

The Ched-CAR’s memo does not name the title of books that are considered subversive, a broad term. There are several books that espouse the communist ideology. Some of the enduring books were written by communism’s father Karl Marx, and the ideology’s famous and notorious adherents such as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, and the Philippines’ Jose Maria Sison.

The Ched-CAR is clever in not using language that sounds dictatorial. It used the term “encouraged” in its memo, implying that the schools may or may not follow. Not-so-brave universities could join the Ched-CAR’s call, perhaps to avoid being red-tagged.

If banning subversive reading materials from libraries would become a reality, individuals (including political science students) who want to understand the lives and philosophies of “subversive” individuals could resort to the internet.

There are tons of “subversive” materials on the internet. Would the government ban the internet too? Authoritarian regimes in the world control the internet in their areas as they fear it—the internet is a vast space of ideas where seeds of discontent could grow.

In a democratic society, reading a book is one of the joys that a citizen could enjoy. Knowledge is the light bulb of the mind. A democratic society must allow its people to read everything they want to read. Being equipped with knowledge about different philosophies and ideologies could make a person an understanding human being along the way.

The word subversive means “trying to destroy or damage something, especially an established political system.” Reading “subversive” material does not necessarily make one a subversive person. Reading Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “Communist Manifesto” does not necessarily make one a communist. Likewise, reading the Bible every day does not necessarily make a person a holy human being.

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