Uphold schools, libraries as democratic spaces, stop NTF-ELCAC’s “tokhang” in libraries!

Photo by Lucky Dela Rosa/Philippine Collegian

Rights group Karapatan called on academic institutions to “uphold schools and libraries as democratic spaces,” and said that “tokhang” in libraries by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict should be stopped.

“It is evident that the libraries of the three universities will not pull out books and publications on their own, but have done so because police and state forces have inspected their libraries, and told them what they deem ‘subversive’ and what should be pulled out. This is tokhang, but this time, they are after books and publications. This is also similar to how the military under Marcos’ martial law raided libraries and confiscated documents they deemed subversive,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Weeks after the Kalinga State University in Tabuk City pulled out 11 publications of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which included public documents on the peace talks agreements signed by NDFP and the government of the Philippines, two other state universities have pulled out similar books and publications and turned them over to either the RTF-ELCAC or the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in the region.

On September 21, the university president of Isabela State University reportedly advised all its campuses to pull out similar books and publications. At least 23 handbooks published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have since been pulled out from the library of the ISU main campus in Echague, Isabela.

On September 24, the Aklan State University in Banga, Aklan “turned over” books and publications, after the Aklan Police Provincial Office “reached out” to the university about the presence of so-called “subversive” books in their library.

“Libraries are democratic spaces, where information and knowledge should be unhampered,” Palabay said. Karapatan had earlier stated that the pull out of books and publications are attacks on academic freedom and the right to freedom of information, stressing that the materials educate the public on the peace talks and their basic rights, as what is written in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an agreement which is signed both by the NDFP and the GRP.

“We go to libraries for unlimited access to knowledge and verified information. The acquisition and keeping of materials in libraries should never be meddled upon by ignorant elements of the NTF-ELCAC who only excel in spreading fake news, malicious red-tagging, fear and terror among the people. Only those with fascist delusions are afraid of books,” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, Karapatan lauded the chancellor of the University of the Philippines Visayas for declaring that no books and materials labeled “subversive” by the NTF-ELCAC will be pulled out from their libraries. UP Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano said in a Facebook post that not a single “subversive” material will be removed from the university’s library collection, and that “libraries are an extension of academic freedom.”

“We hope that more university and library officials will speak up and uphold democratic rights and academic freedom. What Duterte’s minions in the NTF-ELCAC do not understand is that, they may remove all materials in libraries to suppress information, but as long as social injustice remains, the people and most especially the youth, will read, learn and seek information, as they look for analysis and answers to our current situation, different from the illusions of change and peace peddled by Duterte and his military minions,” Palabay said.

Palabay then called on librarians and library practitioners “to unite and be mindful and vigilant of your roles as gatekeepers of information and to stand up amid the threats and intimidation of the NTF-ELCAC. Hands off our libraries!”