By FR. JOEL TABORA
Ateneo de Davao University
and Catholic Educational Association
of the Philippines .
DAVAO City — As the National Convention of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (Ceap) was in session, National Police Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde attacked 18 public and private Universities alleging that teachers were “instigating” students “to go against government.”
He also alleged that communists were recruiting students in these universities. These universities included:
- Adamson University
- Ateneo de Manila University
- De La Salle University
- Emilio Aguinaldo College
- Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology
- Far Eastern University
- Lyceum of the Philippines University
- Philippine Normal University
- Polytechnic University of the Philippines
- University of the East—Caloocan
- University of the East—Recto
- University of Makati
- University of Manila
- University of the Philippines—Diliman
- University of the Philippines—Manila
- University of Santo Tomas
- San Beda College (sic)
Four of these universities, Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and San Beda University are long-time and distinguished members of the Ceap. The other universities are State Universities (the University of the Philippines, the Philippine Normal College, and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) or member universities of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (Cocopea).
All of these universities operate under the constitutionally guaranteed principle of academic freedom: “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” (Art. XIV, Sec. 5 ). This means that the political, religious or philosophical beliefs of politicians, administrators and members of the public cannot be imposed on the students or faculty.
All these universities also operate under the constitutional mandate to “the study of the Constitution” and to “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal disciplines, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency” (Art. XIV, Sec. 3 ).
Functioning under the constitutional academic freedom of schools, teachers have the right consistent with their academic disciplines, but also in the multi- and interdisciplinarity afforded by the university setting, to discuss with students the meaning, importance and imperatives of such as “nationalism”, “humanity,” “human rights” and the emulation of genuine Filipino heroes, always allowing the students themselves in freedom to develop their own personal convictions relative to the same under the conditions of our nation, our ASEAN region and our world, and to themselves recognize the imperatives in action of their learning and convictions. This includes the appreciation of the “rights and duties of citizenship” based on ethical and spiritual values and morals, where “critical and creative thinking” is to be encouraged.
It would be helpful therefore if PNP Chief Director General Albayalde were to appreciate this lest in misunderstanding the mission and mandate of the university he be accused of contempt of the Constitution. This, especially since he seems to be willing to take on the officials and the student bodies of these schools. The meaning of such as nationalism, humanity, human rights, and heroism is not defined by the police chief nor by the political administration nor even by the President of the Philippines. It is discussed in schools and universities in their dynamic contentiousness
That the student grows in personal nationalism and patriotism is indifferent to whether his or her tuition is paid for by the State or by the private hand. The Philippine university, public or private, is not in the business of educating robots and yes-persons. No student should be cowed into thought servility due to the whomever pays for tuition.
The university is not governed by the police force of the Philippines. It is governed by truth. In universities, truth is the object of an arduous and rigorous search.
It would be self-delusionary for the PNP Chief Director to think that he can enter a university to lecture its administration and students on what the meaning of patriotism or nationalism in today’s context is. He can certainly share an opinion, but he cannot impose his thinking on the universities. That would be contemptuous of the university and a sad show of ignorance of the salutary role students and student protest movements have played in social change in the world but especially in the Philippines.
This includes the student protest movements against the Marcos dictatorship that were described as “leftist” or as “communist.”
In good universities it is painfully clear:
- Nationalism cannot be reduced to support for any current administration, including the Duterte administration.
- Patriotism cannot be reduced to support for Train 1 and Train 2.
- Human rights cannot be equated to the right to life.
- The war on drugs does not justify extrajudicial killings.
- The corruption and plunder of the Marcoses especially under martial law was among the darkest chapters in our national history, and Juan Ponce Enrile was among martial law’s key implementers.
- Destabilization is not caused today by critical thought and opposition movements in universities. It is caused by inflation.
Considering that the freedoms enjoyed in the Philippines today were fought for and defended by students who were accused of “subversion”, tortured and killed in the past, PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde must consider it his duty to protect the free operation and academic freedom of all higher education institutions in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, we put the good General Albayalde on notice that all 1,497 Ceap schools and universities are committed to the transformation of society according to the imperatives of justice and peace, engaged citizenship, environmental stewardship, poverty reduction and gender equality. I hope it is not taken that the “transformation” of society from social injustice, apathy, environmental degradation, poverty and gender discrimination to a more humane humanity is “subversive.”
Ceap supports all universities, public and private, in their pursuit of the common good through education.
(Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, president of the Ateneo de Davao University and concurrent president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines posted this piece on his Facebook page on Oct. 7, 2018. -Mindanews)