Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thank God for UP Diliman

A few weeks ago Patricia Sto. Tomas, a UP student who writes a column for a major Philippine newspaper spoke strongly and eloquently in defense of academic freedom. She denounced Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s demeaning statements about the decline in the quality of UP graduates whom he calls the “destabilizers that haunt the country every year.” Sto. Tomas defends the UP students by giving her definition of destabilizer,” a destabilizer is an obstructionist who deliberately chooses to oppose current norms. They mistrust much of what is currently claimed, perpetually demand for answers, and admit only truths that they believe have basis in fact, logic, theory or precedence over their personal standards.

In the academe, they are neither called destabilizers or obstructionists. The common word for these vile creatures is scholar.” (Cf. Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 3, 2006) A few days ago, another voice, this time from the academe came out in UP’s defense. Dr. Ganni Tapang, a professor at the UP National Physics Institute wrote a reflection entitled “Bad eggs and right conduct.” Dr. Tapang wrote his article shortly when after the controversy created by students who threw eggs at the picture of the new Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Esperon. Professor Tapang criticized, “the anti-communist hysteria and Mc Carthyist red-baiting as is being done by Alex Magno and his friends in the seat of power in Malacanang.” Alex Magno, a UP professor turned Malacanang consultant equated the students’ action with fascism and communist terrorism. Professor Tapang laments that Magno merely “parrots and tows the military’s fallacious and dangerous reasoning that unarmed students are no different from their NPA targets.” (Cf. Dr. Giovanni Tapang,, September 26, 2006).

Academic freedom should be exercised in democratic space. Thank God for UP. Outside UP is a dangerous jungle where people actually get killed simply because they dare express and live out their convictions. Expressing anger by throwing eggs at a symbolic target is different from actual trouble making and civil disturbance. The students have every right to express anger over something that is more than an academic issue. The disappearance, torture and murder of student activists is serious and calls for consistent vigilance and dissent.

Alex Magno who has become an extremely loyal apologist of the Arroyo administration sounds like a parrot when he speaks about Maoists, Communists and Terrorists. He should listen to himself. Someone should show him all of his writings and how much of it is pure Palace hogwash and propaganda. Yes communist propaganda, strategy and tactics exist. But how about Malacanang? What is Magno doing? What are Bert Gonzalez, Raul Gonzalez, Palparan and Esperon all about?

I thank God for UP students whether Maoists or not, for keeping the flames of truth and dissent alive. I thank God for UP, for the relative safety of its endangered democratic space. I hope that the UP administration would continue to appreciate both the value of the young's idealism and capacity for moral indignation and the value of maintaining the extremely important but endangered values of academic freedom and the democratic space crucial for its exercise....Mabuhay po kayo diyan sa UP mga kasama. Tuloy po ang mapayapang pakikibaka....Nagdarasal para sa inyong lahat.....(Long live UP. The peaceful struggle goes on. Praying for all of you…)

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes


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