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Free Rey Claro Casambre! Free All Political Prisoners!
Arkibong Bayan·Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Scientist As A Humanist

by Rey Claro Casambre
The Philippine Collegian
January 23, 1969
About the author: Rey Claro Casambre detained peace consultant and Executive Director of the Philippine Peace Center, wrote this essay as a staff member of UP’s Philippine Collegian and published on January 23, 1969, exactly 50 years ago tomorrow. Now at almost 68, he has lived by what he wrote as an 18-year old Physics student and an NSDB (now, DOST) scholar. He later taught Physics and Math at UP Baguio.

Many things have been said about this university. Many things have been written about what’s wrong with it, like the alleged Americanization and the DOW contracts and the very large deficit. But of all that has been said and written, none has made mention of a situation that casts a shadow of doubt on the measure of our institutions as a university. and it could seriously challenge its claims to excellence.

One of the very obvious (and therefore cry much taken for granted) functions of the university is to serve as a place where minds meet, a place where there is a free intercourse of ideas. where one can integrate the bits of information he has gathered into meaningful and functional knowledge. The inadequacy of our university becomes evident in this aspect. There is no such meeting of minds, no traffic of ideas between the scientists and the non-scientists in this university. There is no evidence at all of any attempt at integration: the scientist and the non¬scientist simply cannot understand each other, They do not communicate.
Worse. none has expressed an awareness of this problem. Until very recently.


Three issues ago, an English major wrote that science has been neglected in the university. Neglect meaning dilapidated laboratories equipped with obsolescent apparatus because very little of the P15-lab-fee-per-student really is spent for the laboratories. Neglect also meaning apathy on the part of the non-scientists (those who are in the arts, social sciences, and humanities, with regard to the needs of the scientists, those in the natural sciences). Take, for example. R.A. 3887, better known as the Natural Science Research Center law, establishing such Center. “pursuant to the national policy of promoting scientific research and invention in the Philippines”. While in the last campus elections most of the political parties promised to work for its immediate implementation, it would still be too presumptuous for one to consider such pledges as a genuine sign of awareness and concern. For there is more reason to believe that these were merely shrewd political gimmicks aimed at carrying the science votes. The indifference of the non-scientists was best displayed when a rally was staged to demand more concrete action on the establishment of the research center. Only a handful of students—all from the sciences—joined the rally. The non-science students. having ignored the invitation to join the scientists in this cause, were busy “minding their own business”. As if science were not their business.

Yet neglect does not seem to be a very accurate word, for it would appear to lay blame only on the non-scientists, and say nothing of the scientists. Which is quite unfair, because the scientists are just as guilty as the non-scientists and both are to blame. Or maybe neither,

Responsible scientists

We are surprised, for example, how the controversies on the DOW Chemicals and USAF contracts could have passed without a single word of comment from the scientists. Or how such silence could have passed unnoticed by the non-scientists. We can understand (but not necessarily justify) why the scientists would reserve the right to comment on the alleged consent to and participation in a cruel and inhuman and irrational war and American imperialism which to them may appear trivial and inconsequential. But that was not all there was to the protcst. There was also the issue of the manner in which man, through technology makes use of scientific discoveries, and how responsible a scientist is when lives and property are destroyed by the products of his research. On these issues, the scientists cannot afford to be silent. For their silence can only be taken as irrefutable proof of their lack of awareness, and their lack of awareness to mean a lack of responsibility, if not ignorance.

It is perhaps understandable why there is such a mutual I-don’t-care attitude. The experiences non-scientists have in the sciences are not exactly very pleasant. These include, among others, noxious fumes from the chem labs, the fishy, nauseating odor from the zoology pavilion, some sleepy lecture hours in a physics class, plus a number of irritating habits of eccentric would-be scientists. The scientists, on the other hand, are reminded of equally traumatic experiences in their non-science classes: uninteresting readings in western thought, uninspiring short stories and meaningless poetry, and the intolerable inaccuracy and unbearable subjectivity of the non-science students and other teachers.

Ivory towers

Or it is highly probable that the scientist-in-ivory-tower mentality still prevails in the university. Long ago, the scientist enjoyed the reputation of one who was quite different from and in fact superior to the rest of humanity. It was believed that his sole responsibility to society was to perform experiments and do scientific research. He was therefore allowed to retreat to some cold, isolated ivory tower where he could best perform his function, undisturbed and uncontaminated by the rest of human activity. For a long time this arrangement worked. Man took full advantage of the discoveries of the scientist-in-the-ivory-tower, and enjoyed all the conveniences made possible by advances in scientific research. And all was well.

The prevalence of this attitude can probably explain the present situation in this university, where there is this mutual mind-your-own-business attitude. Where the non-scientists would leave the scientists alone in their ill-lighted. poorly ventilated cloisters, where the latter dissect cats and dogfish, or verify physical laws, or contemplate some complex structural formula, refusing to have anything to do with dirty politics, dull literature, and fresh air.
But this concept cannot be justified, nor can it be tolerated. It cannot be tolerated because it is very old and obsolete. And wrong.

In 1945, the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing thousands of human beings, leaving miles and miles of scorched wasteland, posing a threat of annihilation to mankind. And destroying that ivory tower. After the second world war, the scientists could no longer hide behind their cloak of objectivity and unconcern. For the first time the scientists felt guilt. And as Oppenheimer himself described their feellng of troubled concern, they have known sin”.


From this guilt came a sense of responsibility. The scientists realized that their responsibility to mankind was not only to make scientific discoveries, but also to prepare man for it, so that he may not use it to destroy himself. It is their responsibility to teach science, because science could be taught; to correct the misconceptions of the non-scientists by teaching science as a method, and not as a doctrine, by showing that despite its being a powerful tool, science has its limitations.

The non-scientists, too, have their responsibilities. They should know science and learn it, because it could be learned. And because handling a potentially destructive weapon of which one is ignorant ends in self destruction. It is their responsibility, further, to humanize the sciences, because the sciences have become dehumanized. And inhuman.

There was therefore a need for communication. for a meeting of minds, for a free traffic of ideas between the two, so that they may perform their tasks, and save mankind. This was the lesson man learned a quarter of a century ago. And which we still have to learn now. In this university.#

About the author:
Rey Claro Casambre, detained peace consultant and Executive Director of the Philippine Peace Center, wrote this essay as a staff member of UP’s Philippine Collegian and published on January 23,1969, exactly 50 years ago tomorrow. Now at almost 68, he has lived by what he wrote as an 18-year old Physics student and an NSDB (now, DOST) scholar. He later taught Physics and Math at UP Baguio.

Appended below is a write-up on Rey distributed at the Launching of the Free Rey Casambre by peace advocates, colleagues and friends on January 19, 2019 at the UP College of Science.


“I have not broken any law. And yet the law is being used by those in power to throw and keep me behind bars indefinitely.” – Rey Claro Casambre

Who is Rey Casambre?

Rey was born to and raised by a family of educators on June 20, 1951. He was an NSDB (now, DOST) scholar at UP Diliman in the late 60s. Upon graduation, he taught Physics and Math at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City in 1971 until martial law was declared. He married a fellow Math instructor, Patricia Corazon Mercado. They have an only daughter, Xandra.

Rey has been the Executive Director of the Philippine Peace Center (PPC), since he and the late UN Ad Litem Judge Attorney Romeo T. Capulong co-founded it in July 1992. Committed to the attainment of a just peace, the PPC has provided technical and staff services for the peace negotiations between the the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Aiming to raise public awareness, the PPC publishes policy papers, information bulletins and updates on the peace question and the peace process. Rey’s own contributions, that underscore the value of peace founded on the realization of people’s rights, include “Toward an Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” (1998); “Peace Negotiations in the Philippines” published in “Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific” by the European Center for Conflict Prevention (2004), and “The Forces of Change Shall Prevail” (2003). His latest contribution, written while in jail, is the “Peace Yearender 2018”.

Rey is an active peace mobilizer. He is co-convenor of the broad peace advocates’ alliance Pilgrims for Peace and the even broader network of peace civil society groups Citizens’ Alliance for a Just Peace (CAJP). He also co-convened the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a nationwide ecumenical formation of Philippine church leaders working for the attainment of peace in the country.

He has gained recognition as an authority on the peace negotiations and has been invited to speak in various fora in the country and abroad. He has delivered speeches in UP Diliman, UP Cebu, University of Santo Tomas, San Beda College and other audiences. He has attended and given input to peace-building events in universities and institutes such as at the East West Center Summer Institute Inaugural Workshop on Asia-Pacific Transitional Justice and Peace-building in Mahidol University (Bangkok, Thailand, 2008), UN Ceasefire Mediation Seminar at the Norweigan Defense International Center (Oslo, Norway), and the Berghof Peace Research Foundation “Meetings on Negotiation” (Berlin, Germany). He has also been regularly interviewed by local and foreign mainstream and alternative media outfits.

What did the state do to this man?

Throughout his decades of activism, Rey has been tagged as a rebel while being charged and imprisoned as a common criminal. He had been charged three times and arrested and detained twice, all on trumped-up criminal charges each time with scores of others in blanket or shot-gun attacks on known activists and progressives. The first was in 1971, when Marcos suspended the privilege to the writ of habeas corpus.Rey was then arrested and interrogated in connection with the Plaza Miranda bombing, even if he was 250 km away and asleep at the time. The second was in 1991 when he and Cora were arrested and detained six months on charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in connection with a 1988 NPA operation in a place both of them had never been. The third was in 2006 when the Arroyo government launched the “legal offensive” and charged the “Batasan 6” and 45 others with “continuing rebellion”. The Supreme Court eventually ordered the dismissal of the case.

In February 2018, after the GRP unilaterally terminated peace talks with the NDFP, the Justice department filed a petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). Rey was wrongly claimed therein to be an officer or member of the CPP. The petition never made reference to his participation or role in the organizations, and simply listed his name with 650 others, many of them aliases. He moved to have his name stricken off the petition, a move pending in court. In January 2019, however, the Justice department submitted an amended petition which lists only eight persons –implicit admission that there was no basis to include Rey’s name in the first place.

Perhaps to make the “communist terrorist” tag stick, the AFP in September 2018 publicly singled out Rey and Satur Ocampo as being behind “Red October”, an alleged ouster plot against the Philippine president. Rey refuted the allegation by matter-of-factly stating he was not even a member of any of the organizations or formations supposedly involved in the plot. Turning a bad thing into a good thing, he used the occasion to further expose the red-and-terrorist tagging as part of the scheme to attack the legal democratic movement and derail the peace negotiations.

Midnight of December 7, 2018, on their way home from the wake of a former colleague, Rey and Cora were forcibly taken at gunpoint by operatives of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the National Capital Region (NCR) and elements of the Intelligence Service of theArmed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). The police unexpectedly presented a warrant for murder against Rey. After planting a pistol, an electrical cord, and a hand grenade in their car, the police arrested the spouses on bogus charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. At the inquest, the Bacoor City Prosecutor found the allegations “preposterous” and ordered further investigation. This allowed Cora to be released from detention pending closer scrutiny of the police complaint. Still, both Rey and Cora may have to face these charges in a Cavite court should the prosecutor rule probable cause. The penalty for illegal possession of explosives is reclusion perpetua, or between 20 and 40 years incarceration.

Rey remains incarcerated due to non-bailable charges of murder, as well as of attempted murder , in Mindanao. Rey was implicated in an alleged ambush by the NPA in a faraway Davao Oriental barrio on September 13, 2018. Rey’s full name was included belatedly as an alias of one of the alleged perpetrators, in a malicious effort to vilify him as a common criminal and “communist terrorist”. He was not given the opportunity to controvert the charges, being utterly false, at that time. Trial against other co-accused is presently ongoing in a Davao Oriental court. Murder is a serious crime, likewise punishable by reclusion perpetua.

Rey was arrested on the tailwind of arrests of two other peace consultants; at present there are seven jailed peace consultants. Rey counts among the growing number of peace and human rights activists being persecuted by the State. Rey and Cora are yet additions to a long list of victims of gross injustice.

What can we do to help?

Like all of us, Rey should be free to continue doing his choice of work in the legal democratic movement in an unhampered way. He has devoted his entire life to serving his country and fellowmen by working for socio-economic and political reforms that underlie the quest for a just and lasting peace as well as directly contributing to peace building through the Philippine Peace Center and his role as a consultant to the NDFP peace panel.
We can help by amplifying the call for Rey’s release; in so doing we also contribute to making the call for a just peace resonate among a larger and wider section of Philippine society.

Specifically, we can do the following:
• visit Rey while in detention
• attend court hearings
• send letters/ postcards for the dropping of all unjust charges against Rey
• issue statements of support e.g. short videos attesting to his innocence and supporting the call for justice and peace
• give financial support for Rey’s legal defense
• provide other forms of support for the Free Rey Claro Casambre campaign
• mobilize and organize support groups, forums, fundraisers and other activities

Your ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Join the Free Rey Claro Casambre Committee.
Contact us and get more information at our Facebook Page in this link:
or contact the secretariat through Pilgrims for Peace:

“The injustice I am suffering is nothing compared to those of tens of thousands nameless and faceless victims of human rights and humanitarian law violations. My hope is that we can seek justice. Not so much for me but for them, by working together to overhaul the system that breeds these injustices”–RCC