ISA endorses statement of the PSS on the Duterte regime's threats to academic freedom

The Duterte administration has been leading a systematic assault on democratic institutions. It has failed to adequately address extra-judicial killings, which have claimed thousands of lives. It has declared and extended Martial Law in Mindanao. And it has been trying to neutralize dissent by imprisoning opposition leaders, threatening journalists, and intensifying attacks on activists.

President Duterte and his officials have also begun intimidating professors, educators, and students.

1. On February 1, 2018, he threatened to expel public university students who engage in protests. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uanxVTim4z4; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUIyO1TpYe0)

2. On September 18, 2018, administration officials warned professors in public universities that they would be charged in court and removed from their posts if they called for his “ouster.” (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/668226/ched-oic-de-vera-warns-sucs-vs-calling-for-duterte-s-ouster-says-it-s-illegal/story/)

3. Then, on October 4, no less than police chief warned professors that they would be arrested and charged with “contempt” if they encouraged “rebellious ideas” among students. (https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/10/04/18/pnp-chief-says-teachers-instigating-students-should-be-charged)

We, the members of the Philippine Sociological Society (PSS), strongly condemn these threats to academic freedom. We are one with our colleagues from other disciplines who value freedom of inquiry in the context of the university and the public sphere. Thus, we oppose the rising dictatorship from which these threats emanate.

We call on our fellow academics to hold our ground. We should continue to stand as a community of scholars committed to the principles of social justice. Despite these attacks on academic freedom, we need to sustain our efforts of rigorously interpreting the world and encouraging debates to change it. We must not be afraid to take the side of the oppressed.

We urge the Duterte administration to respect academic freedom as a constitutionally guaranteed right. Particularly, we demand this government:

1. To cease making unverified blanket public declarations that tend to incriminate and risk the lives of students and teachers who peacefully protest;

2. To withdraw any plans of instituting military and police presence inside universities;

3. To abandon any plans of implementing random inspections of classrooms, offices, and other personal belongings of students and teachers without substantial legal basis.

4. To institute and sustain channels of deliberative dialogues among academics, policy-makers, and the broader public where sociological researches are accounted for in processes of decision-making.

These demands seek not only to preserve academic freedom but also to sustain a more vibrant democracy. We believe that different bodies of sociological knowledge are crucial to informed decision-making not just because they are theoretically substantiated but also because they are drawn from the lived experiences of citizens.

October 2018