In the Philippines, educators and researchers are responding to a military crackdown on “subversive” books and documents by launching an internet archive of endangered books and materials frowned upon by the government.
As reported by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, in the last few months, military officials—associated with the regional bodies of the Philippine government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) have visited several university libraries and pressured them to, as a regional spokesperson for NTF-ELCAC described it, “turn over books that are not mentally healthy for students.” Books turned over to NTF-ELCAC included reference materials on the aborted peace talks between negotiating panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP); the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL); and books by Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Thus, Aswang Sa Aklatan (Hands Off Our Libraries) has archived works in five categories—Martial Law Literature. Marxist Literature, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Classics, NDF Books and Writings, and Philippine Radical Thought—as well as information about past totalitarian governments cracking down on “dangerous” books; a compilation of statements of concern about the military book purge from librarians, teachers, publishers, and students; and links to articles on the book purge. As a statement reads on the collective’s website, “Academic freedom is a useless concept if people do not have access to educational materials . . . although this problem needs structural solutions, uploading free-to-download materials constitutes an initial step toward democratizing access to information.”
Clement Camposano, chancellor of University of the Philippines Visayas, who refused to remove subversive materials from his university’s library, said to the Inquirer: “When we are afraid of books, then we have a problem.”