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To: Australian Academics, Artists and Cultural Workers
Statement of Solidarity with Filipino Academics, Artists and Cultural Workers
We are greatly concerned by rising tensions in the Philippines which unjustly target Filipino academics and artists as enemies of democracy.
We iterate the value of Universities and other cultural and artistic platforms as spaces for free expression, free speech, and free assembly that foster critical thinkers and a humane society.
We call upon Australian academics and cultural workers to uphold the right to free expression, speech and assembly, and social justice for colleagues in the Philippines and around the world.
Why is this important?
On September 24 2018, amidst the heat of the 46th year of commemorating the Filipino peoples’ struggle against Martial Law under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released a statement that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples Army (NPA) were planning to oust the current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Shortly after, on October 2, 2018, General Antonio Parlade Jr., assistant deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines accused Universities of being bases for mass recruitments for the CPP and NPA. Parlade Jr released a list of accused educational/academic institutions in the Philippines including premiere Philippine universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and Philippine Polytechnic University. The evidence cited for this claim was that campuses host anti-Martial Law film screenings among other artistic and cultural activities.
These events have triggered widespread concern among many Filipino artists and acadmics who denounce the malicious efforts by the AFP to “red-tag” educational institutions as part of their counter-insurgency operations. Tagging academics and artists as Communists has historically been a precedent in the Philippines for military and government crackdowns against a wide range of critics. During the Marcos dictatorship, the University of the Philippines served as a space for free expression, speech, and assembly amidst country-wide state censorship, and this space became vital to resisting, opposing, and eventually putting an end to Martial Law. During the Martial Law period artists and academics were prominent among the 70,000 imprisoned and 34,000 tortured between 1972 and 1981 (Amnesty International).