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Raise high the barricades*

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2021 - 12:00am

Dementors are dark, soulless creatures, said to be the foulest beings on earth. They move about in thick and creepy hooded cloaks, trespassing in the lives of others like thieves in the night.

Like fungi, they thrive in dark, moist places, leaving blankets of chilly fog on their trail; their mere presence makes even the most serene atmosphere grow cold and dark.

But the culmination of their power is the ‘Dementor’s Kiss’ – a dementor suddenly and unexpectedly latches its mouth into a victim’s lips, consuming the life inside. The result is a thievery of the soul, worse than death as it leaves its victim in a vegetative state.

Life certainly imitates fiction, doesn’t it?

The demons and sorcerers in J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter come to mind as I ponder on the Duterte administration’s move to end the 1989 accord between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense that prevents state forces from entering UP campuses without prior notice.

Our authorities have become dementors, leaving thick dark clouds around our already uncertain everyday lives.

The dementors’ attacks on Hogwarts are a cautionary tale for all of us in this nation of more than 107 million.

The government’s move to end the 1989 UP-DND Accord is more than just about seeing military or police presence inside the premises of what is considered as the country’s bastion of freedom and democracy.

This is really about the unbelievable display of power and petulance by our leaders, of emboldened attacks on democratic institutions and the relentless abrogation of existing laws and agreements for vested interests.

Every freedom-loving Filipino should be worried about what’s happening in our country today – from utter neglect of our Constitutional rights, sudden revocation of business contracts with the government to ending legislative franchises of media giants.

It is what it is – an attack on the freedom that we enjoy, the freedom which our forefathers struggled and so bravely fought for.

Because of this, we should raise high the barricades against the dementors waiting in the darkness. We owe it to those who fought ahead of us. It is our turn and it is our time to fight the good fight.

Wag the dog

I wonder, what’s the reason for this audacious move now?  Is it simply to distract us from the vaccine blunder?

Charter Change

Or, could this be to avert mass actions and protests against Charter Change as the administration prepares to get the Cha-Cha train moving in Congress?

Privatization and commercialization

Or does this have anything to do with privatization and commercialization of the 497-hectare UP Diliman campus, touted as  a crown jewel with its strategic location and accessibility.

Are property developers eyeing a piece of the campus?  In 2019, President Duterte signed a law allowing UP to sell the 22-hectare Krus na Ligas area in its Diliman campus to the Quezon City government for eventual transfer to legitimate residents.

This is meant for housing and urban settlement. I hope no developer will try to make business out of this new law and skirt around it for its own vested interest.

‘Enemy of the State’

Whatever the Duterte administration’s reasons for junking the 1989 UP-DND Accord, it should remember that activism is not a crime and students learning to think critically should never be considered enemies.

I consider my years in UP among the best years of my life and the freedom it gave me to think beyond the four corners of the classroom has molded me into the journalist that I am now.

To deprive succeeding generations of Filipinos the freedom to find their place in this bastion of ideas, to move freely and to brew their angst with which they can help build a better tomorrow for themselves and for the country, is to go against the truest essence of education.

After all, as the great Martin Luther King Jr. once said, the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Sadly, when the government loses in the war of ideas, it turns to repression and excessive use of power.

What it should address instead are the sources of dissent – bad governance, social injustice, income inequality, corruption and poverty, among others.

Perhaps our authorities have forgotten the lessons from the Marcos years – that the biggest recruiter of the armed rebellion was the regime itself.  The late dictator’s suppression of freedom – as what the government is again doing – has fed the communist insurgency then, and will do so now.

Because for as long as these harsh realities remain unaddressed, young Filipinos of today and the generations of Filipinos to come will struggle and fight with life and limb to shape a just and humane society, one that is better than yesterday, today, and even better than tomorrow.

(*Borrowed from an editorial released by UP Diliman’s official student publication Philippine Collegian on Feb. 4, 1971, at the height of the Diliman Commune, an uprising led by students, faculty members, and residents during the Marcos regime. I stand with my fellow Collegian alumni as we reiterate this call again in these dark times.)

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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