Press Release
March 7, 2008

Villar says public schools should remain zones of free speech

If ZTE bribery whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. can speak in the Senate, before the media, and even on state-run television why can't he speak inside schools?

This was the query posed by Senate President Manny Villar as reaction to a Department of Education instruction banning the former Philippine Forest Corp. President and CEO from speaking before students.

"Hindi naman dapat iyon. Why should schools be prevented from inviting Mr. Lozada to speak before students? Ang masama iyong pipilitin ang mga estudyante na makinig," Villar said.

He added allowing Lozada to speak before students who at their own free will came to listen to him is an exercise of the Constitutional right to free expression.

"The excuse that Lozada's campus rounds will only distract students doesn't make sense. Sa palagay ko ang mga estudyante na ang makakaalam kung sila nga ay madi-distract. Baka nga ma-inspire pa sila kapag narinig nila si Mr. Lozada," Villar said.

Villar, who is also Nacionalista Party president, said it can be recalled that guards in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines main campus in Manila barred Lozada from entering one of its buildings to address a symposium organized by its student council.

"The PUP, a taxpayer-funded school, has always been a bulwark of free speech. So I do not understand why its students and guests should be barred from exercising a right that is guaranteed by the Constitution," Villar said.

"I am under the impression that state universities, being publicly funded institutions, are permanent zones of free expression. A higher institution of learning should always have a liberal outlook," Villar said.

Villar said what school authorities should do to balance the affair was to invite Malacañang's "battery of spokesmen" to share the stage with Lozada, "so they won't be accused of partiality."

"But censorship is a no-no, more so in a college legendary for its adherence to civil rights," he said.

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