BU prexy calls on colleges: ‘protect academic freedom’

By Mar S. Arguelles


LEGAZPI CITY --- Officials of private and state universities and colleges in Bicol have expressed mixed reactions to the snooping of police and military authorities on campuses, thus threatening the schools’ academic freedom.


In an interview with school administrators and students, they gave varying responses stating that police and military interference in school campuses threatens academic freedom of both professors and students, while others say it’s a welcome move to instill discipline to their students.


Arnulfo Maskarinas, Bicol University (BU) president, in an interview, has urged private and state university and colleges to make sure that the academic freedom among students and professors should fully be protected as it is the foundation that would produce ideas and opinions.


“Academic freedom should not be threatened, as this produces a market place of ideas that we try to encourage our professors and students to be critical on social and development issues obtaining in the country,” Maskarinas said.


He said that they don’t have any existing agreement with the military and police regarding interference such as red-tagging, arrest, and other police matters despite that the Bicol University campus here is located in front of Camp Gen. Simeon Ola, where the police regional office including AFP offices are based.


“I can say that military and police intervention is not happening at the campus through our faculties and students are discussing subject matters on social issues such as corruption, poverty, the Anti-Terror Bill how it affects society, this does not necessarily mean that we are against the government,” he said.


However, he stressed that the professors discussing the issue along these areas of social ills might construe military snooping as a threat, thus affecting and making ineffective the discussion on the subject matter.


On the military claim that state universities and colleges are recruitment areas of the New People’s Army (NPA), Mascarinas said there’s none so far at the BU campuses.


He said “I would not describe them (students) as “leftist,’ but I would rather call them students with progressive minds full of idealism where they easily see the social ills – this doesn’t make them a communist or an NPA rebel.”


Virgilio Perdigon, Jr., former dean and secretary-general of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST-Legazpi), formerly Aquinas University of Legazpi (AUL), said military intervention in campuses are so much a fuss, it’s a political intramural where due process is not observed.


Perdigon, a UP alumnus, said “I think the DND did not have to stir the hornet’s nest, while the UP administration, as due process dictates, they should have brought the matter to the court and seek legal remedies.”


He said academic freedom should be protected at all cost saying that military intervention suppresses this academic freedom to express its opinion, ideals, and sentiments.


He said during his time as school administrator, he allowed police to enter the campus. They simply coordinated with the school administration and in several occasions they were invited to school symposia.


Vince Vibar, BU-University Student Council(USC), chairperson and student regent on Monday, Jan. 25 issued this statement:


“The Bicol University-University Student Council (BU-USC), as the highest student governing body in Bicol University strongly believes that Academic Freedom must be upheld at all times and academic institutions must be kept as centers of peace.


“We believe that ensuring the safety and security of its students must be a prime concern of any academic institution as it targets excellence and holistic education; alongside the protection of the freedom of speech and freedom of thought of its vigilant youth.


“The organization is proud of its students who exhibit laudable critical thinking and vigilance, display intellect with bravery, and leadership and service anchored in character.


“The organization will be working hand-in-hand with the Bicol University Administration in safeguarding our beloved students against similar threats that may arise.


“The BU-USC is one with our fellow Iskolars ng Bayan in the entire University of the Philippines System in condemning the abrogation of the UP-DND Accord that gravely threatens the security and academic freedom of their students.”


Leonisa Infante, director of the Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges (CSPC), Buhi campus, in a statement posted on Facebook, said the school is not against the occasional presence of uniformed personnel in the campus, if it is done in connection with the lawful performance of their duties; and, will not in any way interfere with the academic freedom of both the faculty and the students.


She said that such presence would deter undue influence of lawless elements to their students or any unlawful mischief that they may engage in.


“It is my conviction and based on factual data, that most of our students are from underprivileged families are focused and directed towards the completion of their college degrees, to insulate themselves and their families from their present challenging economic situation,” she said.


Lawyer Santiago Ortega, Jr., University of Saint Anthony (USANT) president, in a statement issued Jan. 22, said he fully subscribes to the presence of uniformed personnel in school campuses as assistance to school authorities in maintaining discipline among the student.


He said that the presence of military and police personnel in school, is a deterrent to the commission of crimes and misconducts by students rather than a threat to academic freedom.