The Department of Defense has ended a decades-long agreement with the University of the Philippines to keep military forces from entering the campuses of the state university, a report by the school’s student paper cc said on Monday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had written to UP President Danilo Concepcion that the deal had been terminated beginning January 15, the Collegian reported on its Twitter account.
The accord holds that the military and police cannot enter any UP campus “except in cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency” or when assistance is requested by university officials.
The DND cited claims that the university is a breeding ground for the armed communist movement in ending the agreement, first signed in 1989 between then-UP President Jose Abueva and Defense chief Fidel Ramos, who would become President.
Lorenzana said: “By reason of national security and safety of UP students, this department intends to remedy this situation by terminating or abrogating the existing agreement in order for us to perform our legal mandate of protecting our youth against CPP-NPA recruitment activities, whose design and purpose is to destroy the democracy we have all fought for.”
He added that the nixing of the DND-UP accord follows after the newly created Anti-Terrorism Council designated the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as a terrorist organization.
An earlier agreement, the 1982 accord between student leader Sonia Soto and then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, was signed to protect the autonomy of the university from military intervention, especially in protest rallies.
In the letter, Lorenzana said the DND “is aware that there is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment” inside UP campuses and the accord is being used to prevent the government from holding operations. He did not offer evidence to support his claims.
There is also no plan to station police or military inside UP, nor “suppress activist groups, academic freedom and expression,” the Defense chief added.
Members of the university community, however, have long been “red-tagged” or linked to the communist movement, which had often resulted in government critics and human rights advocates facing threats or worse, getting killed.
UP has long maintained an activist reputation and has already established that there is nothing wrong with activism, and it is not equal to communism. Since the 1990s, being a communist has not been illegal after the country’s anti-subversion law was repealed.
In November 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to defund the state-run university on claims that it is recruiting students to join the CPP-NPA.