"Law and logic are on my side."
Last week, a commentary published in another newspaper argued that the recent decision of three state universities to ban subversive books from their respective libraries is not an exercise of academic freedom, but a violation of their students’ rights of free speech and free expression.
I completely disagree. The law and logic are on my side.
Although the commentary cites the Constitution as well as Philippine and American jurisprudence, it admits that there is no precise constitutional provision or judicial pronouncement to support its theory.
The commentary sweepingly assumes that a student of a state university or college (SUC) has the constitutional right to access every existing book in the world, but it does not cite any specific provision of the Constitution or decision of the Supreme Court to validate that assumption.
Pragmatically speaking, no SUC in the Philippines has that extensive a library, much less the budget for one.
The premise assumed in the commentary is faulty because not all books and publications are accessible by students and the public as a matter of right. There are some books and publications which, because of their contents, are not legally accessible to anybody, students or otherwise.
For instance, obscene and pornographic books and publications are not accessible in libraries of an SUC because Philippine law prohibits the publication and dissemination of such books and publications. The Supreme Courts of both the Philippines and the United States have repeatedly upheld the validity of statutory bans against obscenity and pornography.
That observation applies to subversive publications of local communist organizations like the National Democratic Front, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the New People’s Army. Regardless of whatever form it takes or whatever name it goes by, communism espouses the violent overthrow of the duly-constituted government of the Republic of the Philippines and its replacement by a lawless, intolerant and extremist socialist regime.
Thus, the State has the right to protect itself against the communist menace. Like its citizens, the State has the inherent right of self-preservation. That is why all subversive publications are illegal under Philippine laws.
Undoubtedly, the State has the right to use all its resources to defend its very existence. From that premise, SUCs have the legal authority to ban subversive books and publications from their libraries.
Since obscene and pornographic literature and subversive publications cannot be legally sold in bookstores or disseminated to the public, then they should not be made readily available in the libraries of SUCs. What is not allowed to be done directly, should not be allowed to be done indirectly.
To repeat, if local subversive organizations want to glorify or promote communism in the country, they should not expect the State to allow the use of government facilities for that purpose. Insisting otherwise is akin to demanding that the State provide the gun to use against itself.
More to the point—the owner of a school library, whether state-owned or private, has the exclusive discretion to choose what books or publications should be and should not be put in the school library. Nobody, not a court of law, and certainly not the radical and egotistical faculty of the University of the Philippines, can meddle with that discretion.
Therefore, since an SUC is the owner of its library, every SUC has the exclusive prerogative to decide what books can be put in its library, and what cannot.
When an SUC removes subversive publications from its library, the SUC not only defends the existence of the State which funds it; the SUC is protecting its students from the harmful influence of communism.
In legal disputes about a student’s exercise of free speech and freedom of expression, the issue is not whether certain books are banned from the library of his college or university. The issue is whether or not the student is prohibited by the school authorities from speaking his mind or from expressing himself, regardless of what the school library allows or disallows in its shelves.
Free speech and free expression have nothing to do with what an SUC may or may not put in its library. Banning a particular book from its library does not in any way prevent a student from speaking up or from expressing himself on any issue.
As I mentioned in this column two weeks ago, the academic freedom enjoyed by all institutions of higher learning includes the right to decide what to teach, and how to teach it. Necessarily, the right to decide “what to teach” includes the right to decide “what not to teach.” In turn, the right to decide “what not to teach” includes the right to decide what books and publications should be excluded from the college’s or university’s library.
Academic freedom allows SUCs to ban red books from their libraries.