Universities as higher institutions of learning act as safe spaces that encourage the free flow and exchange of ideas. It serves as an arena of ideas where only the most logical and sound arguments prevail. It is facilitated by academic freedom which develops critical thinking.
As Critical Thinking thrives in schools, they become “infrastructure of dissent” and “spaces for resistance.” It complements the nature of students since they are insatiable for new knowledge. Thus, “students who love to learn are willing to assume the obligation to always think in public regardless of what the authorities (political or disciplinary) say and thus push the inquiry or argument beyond where those authorities would like it to remain.”
This is what the Duterte administration wants to silence and destroy. The regime wants students to abandon critical thinking. The regime fully understands that “the critically minded person is not an undisciplined skeptic, but one who can detect contradictions between principle and practice, and between principles and the values to which they purportedly lead as means. Critical thinking is not the ability to solve problems within the established parameters of social, economic, political, aesthetic, and intellectual-scientific life. Change is impossible if all that people can do is apply the given rules.”
Therefore, dissent should be suppressed, and resistance nipped in the bud. Assaults on students’ rights are pursued through militarizing the campuses and instituting various measure of surveillance scheme on individuals critical of Pres. Duterte’s regime:
Rampant attempts at campus militarization and surveillance legitimizes the baseless red-tagging that has put the students’ safety at risk. Red tagging is basically criminalizing dissent. Activism is now deemed as a criminal act.
Despite the long respected 1980 tripartite Soto-Enrile Accord, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) persist in entering campuses using flimsy excuses. Obviously, these are meant to intimidate students and instill fear among those who wish to reveal the crimes that the administration has committed against those it is meant to empower.
The implementation of the Mandatory Drug testing in Higher Education Institutions attempts to bring the bloody war on drugs or the war against the poor from the communities into the schools. Facilitated by a CHED Memo 18, it serves as a pretext to allows members of the PNP to enter schools under the guise of legitimate drug-related operations. More so, CHED has lent justification for such entry by stating that there is a drug-use problem existing in the UP Diliman campus.
The return of Mandatory Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) acts as a superficial form of nationalism, which would train students to merely follow without question. Forcing all Grades 11 and 12 Filipino students to participate in a program mired with a history of hazing and violence will only breed a generation of individuals who value discipline above honor, and nation above principles. It will only promote “soldier mentality” among the students who will be trained to act without question, under the guise of false patriotism.
There are schools whose student publications are subjected to the school administrators’ censorship and school councils that still have to assert their independence.
More so, other attacks on the youth include the P11.65 Billion Budget Cut of CHED in the Proposed 2020 National Budget slashing the budget of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education and the Student Financial Assistance Programs affecting the 1.5 Million beneficiaries and forcing nearly two-thirds to take a government-imposed tuition tuition-subsidy holiday. Essentially, the budget cut robs students both from public and private institutions of their right to education.
The Lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility is an inherently anti-poor policy aimed at further marginalization of the youth. Children, an incredibly vulnerable sector are prone to abuse and manipulation. In their development stage, it is unjust for them to be tried as criminals for actions that they may not fully comprehend. This policy is an outright violation of children’s rights. Criminalizing children as young as 12 is proof of a justice system that prioritizes punishment over restorative youth programs.
We, the undersigned, denounce these attempts by Duterte’s administration to curtail the academic freedom of the Filipino youth. We demand for the abolition or repealing of any policy which compromises the rights of the students to safety and security, discourages critical thinking and criminalizes student activism. Under the facade of protecting national security, these policies have proven time and time again that Duterte, like any tyrant fears the awaking of power among the students.
True progress and justice must always be for the people. It entails the empowerment of the marginalized, not oppression. It cultivates and upholds the values of democracy, not destruction.
In the face of great adversity, the youth stands united.
– Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND-PH)
– College of Social Science and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC- UP Diliman)
– Millennials PH (MPH)
-Young Human Rights Defenders
– Kaisa Ka Youth
– Teatrong Bayan
-Mulat Student Party – PUP
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