‘Fear history for no secret is not revealed.’
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The recent statement of Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde that he would file charges against teachers “instigating students to go against the government” is chilling and sends a strong message against teachers who teach history, particularly martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
“It sends a message that professors who teach history will not be tolerated,” said Francis Gealogo Ph.D. He is currently a history professor at the Ateneo De Manila University. He is also a former commissioner of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). He resigned from the commission in protest of Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.
Gealogo has been teaching history for the past 18 years. He said this statement coming from the chief of the PNP is also a threat to academic freedom.
“Teachers and academics’ right to teach without fear of apprehension is being violated here. Not only academic freedom but freedom of expression and academic pursuit of historical truth,” Gealogo told Bulatlat in an interview.
Last week after the Armed Forces of the Philippines tagged 18 universities as recruitment ground for the New People’s Army, Albayalde said that teachers should also be charged with contempt for spreading “false information.”
Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD), a network of progressive teachers, meanwhile said in a statement that “education is not just about equipping students with basic competencies and skills.”
“It is also about building their social consciousness and capacity to participate in and lead the process of social change and transformation,” it added.
They condemned what they see as an intimidation of the government on educators and students for “thinking critically about martial law, the government and the conditions of the nation.”
“These are damaging the academic environment for freely exchanging ideas, confronting social realities, and developing new frontiers of learning,” EFD’s statement read.
Ronnel Agoncillo, a Senior High School teacher at the Lyceum of the Philippines-Manila said it is alarming that teachers are being threatened for practicing their profession.
Lyceum is one of the 18 universities tagged by the AFP as NPA recruitment ground. He said, students are active in extracurricular activities but he has no knowledge or even observation that there is indeed a recruitment in the said university. He condemned Albayalde’s statement and the red-tagging of their university, which he said is endangering the lives of students and teachers.
“Even if our ranks is being threatened for teaching critical issues, I, personally will not stop from teaching students the truth,” he said in an interview with Bulatlat.
The EFD also worries that the statement against “teaching rebellious ideas” could be used by repressive universities against educators perceived to be critical of school policies.
“What counts as ‘rebellious’ is open to interpretation and evidently includes understanding the lessons of history and ongoing social realities to be able to contribute to the country’s progress. Educators who embrace the transformative role of education must not be subjected to vilification or attack,” the EFD said.
‘Deodorizing the Marcoses’
Gealogo said the AFP’s red-tagging of universities and PNP’s threat to educators is part of the government’s efforts of historical revisionism.
The AFP particularly mentioned the screening of martial law films as part of the NPA recruitment.
He said President Duterte’s administration, in his more than two years of governance, has attempted to “deodorize the Marcoses” to the Filipino people. He said Duterte wants the people to forget about the real heroes like Edgar Jopson, Lorena Barros, Liliosa Hilao, among others, and the bombing of Lumad and Moro communities in Mindanao because he also does the same under his administration.
But history will not lie, he said, as many have acknowledged and recognized the corruption of the Marcoses.
“Sabi nga ni Gregoria De Jesus, ang lakambini ng Katipunan, ‘Matakot sa kasaysayan pagkat walang lihim na di nahahayag, (As Gregoria de Jesus of the Katipunan said, ‘Fear history for no secret is not revealed.’)’” he said.
Repression of teachers to air grievances
Meanwhile, The Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines (ACT) condemned the repression to express their concerns and grievances as they commemorate World Teachers’ Day last Friday, Oct. 5.
As part of the commemoration of World Teachers’ Day, member teachers of ACT highlighted their longtime call to the government. This time, the group said, the repression has become more intense amid the allegation of the so-called “Red October” destabilization plot against the government of President Duterte.
“If the government thinks that we will be stopped from airing our grievances against the government, they are wrong. Nothing can stop us until our demands are acted upon,” said Joselyn Martinez, national president of ACT in a program held on Chino Roces bridge on Friday.
According to ACT, public school teachers in Bacolod were threatened to be charged with administrative cases if they stage a mass leave as protest for their dismal status.
On the eve of World Teachers’ Day Oct. 4, banners bearing teachers’ call for salary increase were removed by police forces at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. “The police reportedly said that such is the order in the light of intelligence reports that activists are set to disrupt the day’s celebration,” the group said. The police also tried to prohibit members of the Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) from distributing leaflets and posters to their colleagues in the said activity.
Text message also circulated among the Quezon City teachers on the same day, Oct. 4, saying that hanging of banners were not allowed during the Quezon City division’s celebration of teachers’ day at Araneta Center, Cubao.
On Oct. 1 after staging “Almusalang Guro” in front of the Department of Education Central Office, members of ACT-Pasig were sought by PNP men in their schools in the afternoon. “Five policemen were reportedly asking around about the activities of teachers who are known union leaders at the Nagpayong High School, Pasig City,” the group said.
Martinez said the objective of such actions is to highlight the plight of teachers who are underpaid and overworked and to express their demand for decent salaries and humane working conditions to which she said is the very essence of the World Teachers’ Day.
“Only a regime who has no intention of uplifting the status of teachers would look at our legitimate calls and actions as ‘anti-government.’ Only a paranoid and tyrannical regime would dare use repressive measures against teachers on our special day,” said Martinez.
The group called on the Duterte administration to act on their demands instead of repressing and attacking critics.
Martinez added that no amount of intimidation can stop them from criticizing the Duterte government’s failure to address their concerns.
“Duterte’s failure to concretely address the plight of our mentors on World Teachers’ Day would reveal that he only used teachers’ cause to forward selfish political agenda. Such will surely heighten teachers’ protests in the next months and no amount of intimidation can cause us to cower—it will, instead, further strengthen our resolve to stand and fight for our rights,” Martinez said.