AMID the uproar over National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairman Ronald Cardema calling for the cancellation of government scholarships of student activists, former Defense Minister and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile stated that the government must not encroach on academic freedom, even if schools continue to be targeted by movements advocating communism and other ideologies.
“I would not advocate that the government should intrude itself in academic freedom. That’s why we allowed Ericson Baculinao to establish his own commune in (the University of the Philippines) in my time, so let the people know what kind of a government they will expect if that ideology will prevail,” Enrile, who is running for Senator in the upcoming midterm elections, said in an interview.
The former Defense Minister referred to the “Diliman Commune”, a group of students, faculty and staff from UP who barricaded the Diliman campus to protest worsening conditions during martial law and to prevent military incursions into the university.
Enrile recalled that he, too, had been recruited by UP activists backing communism during his time in the university.
“When I was studying in UP, I was being recruited to be a part of that movement. The one that was trying to recruit me was a certain Alfredo Saulo of the Congress of Labor Organizations of the Philippines. But, even at that time, I did not believe in many of these isms, so I had to learn Marxism, Communism, Leninism, Maoism from scratch,” he said, adding:
“What I did was to study the available books and the first book that I read about communism was a book written by Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station, and that is where I started learning about communism. From then on, I could debate with any Marxist about it.”
The veteran lawmaker pointed out that understanding these ideologies was crucial in his time as Defense Minister.
According to Enrile, since the establishment of the first communist state in Russia by Vladimir Lenin in 1918, communist groups created a “movement for a united front” in order to spread the ideology.
“Universally, globally, because communism is a global ideology, they targeted labor, farmers, fishermen, educators, teachers, universities, colleges, and all the social organizations in the society over time. That’s why UP and the other schools in the Philippines, as it was in all other countries, was infiltrated. Even the media was infilitrated. That’s why you have Tony Zumel, Satur Ocampo, and the rest of them,” Enrile explained.
“Even the churches were infiltrated. Theology of liberation was an offshoot of Marxism. That, too, I studied in order to understand what they were thinking and what they were doing,” he added.
However, Enrile revealed that, although students should be given the freedom to explore such ideologies, he believes that Marxism is doomed to fail.
“You know, Marxism is the best kind of government conceived by man, but it’s too idealistic. It’s so utopian. “From each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs” is beautiful, but it is impractical. It cannot happen on this planet with human beings – with their greed, their rapacity, their passions, their selfishness,” he pointed out.
Recently, Cardema came under fire for asking President Rodrigo Duterte to sign an executive order denying government scholarships to students allied with protest movements such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvader Panelo and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra agreed that government scholarships should not be revoked on these grounds and that Cardema’s request violates the freedom of speech among young Filipinos.