/ 24 January 2021

THE MILITANT youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan demanded student representation on the Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Prospero de Vera III’s proposed ‘panel of education experts’ to define academic freedom in relation to security forces.

De Vera previously proposed the formation of a panel in response to the unilateral abrogation of the University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense accord, which he said was ‘destined to be problematic’ due to a lack of details for its implementation.

But the youth group slammed the proposal as yet another move to leave students out of the discussion regarding their own affairs.

“Without the inputs of the studentry, this proposal is bound to fail,” John Lazaro, the group’s national spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We have suffered under a failed education system for so long precisely because we have not been part of the decision-making process that crafted it,” he added.

SPARK explained that if CHED continued to ignore the input of students in response to the erosion of campus safety and academic freedom, students’ rights would only continue to be violated.

“If decisions are made regarding the safety of students in their campuses, while not consulting the students at all, what do CHED and De Vera really expect to happen?” Lazaro challenged.

SPARK fears with the track record of CHED, any guidelines the panel may promulgate without students’ inputs may easily extensively circumvent the freedoms presently valued by the student population,

“Without us, this may be far worse than the unilateral abrogation by the Defense department of the UP-DND accord,” it said.

The group also stated academic freedom was not only limited to protection from attacks by state forces.

“Academic freedom is not simply the guarantee that I will be able to speak my mind and not get shot. It also entails the responsibility to speak my mind and offer a dissenting, critical perspective to the status quo,” Lazaro offered.

“State universities and colleges like UP and PUP must not simply be safe havens of student activism. They must be arenas where student activists can improve themselves and work together,” he added.

The group also issued a call for academic communities to continue defending their freedom against the encroachment of state forces.

“We stand in solidarity with the communities that have stood in defense of their campuses, and reiterate that the AFP and PNP will not have us that easily,” Lazaro warned.