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Military to scrap pact with other schools after UP

The Department of National Defense is looking at scrapping the pacts it forged with other schools similar to its recently terminated agreement with the University of the Philippines.

‘DEFEND UP.’ Students of the University of the Philippines hold a protest rally inside the UP Diliman campus in Quezon City to denounce the Defense department’s termination of the 1989 UP-DND accord, which bans the presence of police and military in the UP campus without prior notice. Manny Palmero
"We are looking into other similar agreements to terminate them as well," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in response to a query about agreements with schools where the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) has reportedly infiltrated and recruited students.

Lorenzana said the department could unilaterally scrap the more than 31-year-old agreement with UP without consultation with its officials.

The DND-UP Agreement signed on June 30, 1989 prohibits the military and the police from entering all UP campuses without prior notice from its administration.

"Of course. We no longer want the agreement. We have determined that it doesn’t serve the interest of the students," Lorenzana said.

The agency decided to terminate the agreement effective Jan. 15, 2021, with Lorenzana calling the arrangement "obsolete."

But UP raised alarms over the repeal of the agreement signed by then-UP president Jose Abueva and at the time defense chief Fidel Ramos.

Its president, Dr. Danilo Concepcion, called on Lorenzana to revoke the unilateral abrogation of the agreement.

Vice President Leni Robredo led other government officials and prominent personalities in denouncing the move, saying the unilateral scrapping of the decades-old Accord was sending the message “that under this administration, anyone, anywhere, at any time, is fair game.”

In a statement, Robredo said: “If this was simply about law enforcement, all the Accord asks is that military authorities give notice to University officials before any operations in UP. This is neither a difficult nor onerous rule, and five Presidents since 1989 have managed to protect both the UP community and the Republic without breaking it.

“Clearly, then, this is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism,” Robredo said.

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay himself said the Defense department made a mistake when it terminated its agreement with UP to keep military forces away from the campuses of the state university.

Binay said the Duterte administration was using rhetoric from the 1960s, when the government conducted a witch hunt against student activists.

"As someone who witnessed and experienced this witch hunt, I can say that this move is a step backward. It does not protect students. It exposes them to greater danger. It does not protect academic freedom and democracy. It undermines them," he said.

'Grave concern'

“I must express our grave concern over this abrogation, as it is totally unnecessary and unwarranted, and may result in worsening rather than improving relations between our institutions, and detract from our common desire for peace, justice, and freedom in our society,” Concepcion’s letter to the DND read.

The letter added: “That agreement was forged with the formalities that attend the execution of agreements, imbued with the highest sense of fidelity of the parties. It was grounded in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which we were able to maintain for 30 years through the observance in good faith of its provisions.

“With few exceptions, protocols were observed, and any problems or misunderstandings were amicably and reasonably resolved. The agreement never stood in the way of police and security forces conducting lawful operations within our campuses. Entry was always given when necessary to law enforcers within their mandate.”

The agreement, however, was used by the CPP-NPA to turn UP into the breeding ground of "intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government," Lorenzana said.

Philippine National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the police would likewise do its job in protecting the public and human rights, noting that the DND's move to terminate the pact with UP was fulfilling its mandate to "protect the state and its people from its enemy."

"The abrogation of the DND-UP accord does not make the state university less of itself. It still has its academic freedom kept intact. It must do its job for the proper development of the youth so that they become productive members of our society," Usana said.

"No crackdown. No arrests without warrant. No militarization. The police will just normally do their daily work in communities. If we are called, we will be there as well to protect the rights of students from threats posed by lawless elements," he added.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Malacanang defense

In a related development, Malacanang defended the DND move, saying the presence of police inside the campus would not violate academic freedom.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said academic freedom would not be violated in the campus, similar to universities abroad where presence of state forces in its campuses were visible to protect the students and community.

Under the terminated agreement, the military and the police were prohibited from entering the premises of any UP campus or its regional units without prior notice to the UP administration.

“Personally, I taught for 15 years and studied for 10 years in UP. In the 25 years I spent in UP, I didn’t experience having the police there. But in my experience in studying abroad, there is no special police for campuses in America and England, they are all covered by the police,” Roque said in a press briefing.

“In England, there is no distinction between the campus and the city. The campus is very much like the city and the entire Europe. It means there are police on all campuses but there is no violation of academic freedom,” Roque said.

 'Time to terminate'

Lorenzana said the AFP and the PNP were willing to reach out to the youth and provide them with another perspective on the nation and society and see the military and police as protectors worthy of everyone’s trust, and not to be feared.

Barring police and military from UP campuses including its regional units without prior notice from the State University’s administration has been a hindrance for the DND in providing effective security for the safety and welfare of its students, faculty, and students, he added.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana appealed to the UP Community to work together with the government to protect students from extremism and destructive armed struggle.

"The Department of National Defense only wants what is best for our youth. Let us join hands to protect and nurture our young people to become better citizens of our great nation," he said in a statement.

The Communist Party of the Philippines said the decision of the DND to end its agreement with the University of the Philippines as regards prohibition on the entry of police and military was clearly an aim to sow terror and fear.

In a press statement, the CPP said the national government wanted UP to be placed under the "tyrannical power of Duterte's military and police."

"It is an attack against the UP community which has squarely opposed the authoritarianism of the Duterte regime. It wants to make the university bow before the tyrant," the CPP said.

"The clear aim of this move is to further unrestrain the military and police by undermining academic freedom and freedom of expression enjoyed by university students and faculty," it added.

According to the CPP, the DND's action would sow fear among Lumad students who are staying in the campus after leaving their homes in 2017 due to the alleged harassment of state forces.

Aside from that, the DND's decision was also the death of science and liberal thinking in UP, the CPP claimed, noting that the Duterte administration wants UP "to promote only the ideas that will favor the tyrant."

"Lorenzana is hyping up the communist bogey to justify the abrogation of the accord and mount an attack to impose the military's power on UP, as well as other universities and academic institutions," the CPP said.

Academic freedom

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the security sector should come up with an agreement with the University of the Philippines on boundaries to be observed.

Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense, said this would prevent the move from negatively affecting the culture of academic freedom in the state university.

“Once the pact is terminated, what will the security sector do? We don’t know that yet. Probably they could come to an agreement that there are boundaries to be observed,” also said Lacson.

 He also warned the security sector it might be overstepping its bounds if the move was designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms enjoyed by the UP community.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara viewed with concern the unilateral abrogation, noting how the State University had long been a bastion of academic freedom—where individuals were free to express diverse opinions and beliefs without fear of persecution.

“UP has produced some of the best and brightest minds in our country’s history and there is no doubt that the academic freedom enjoyed by the State University played no small part in this,” he said.

Sen. Nancy Binay said the unilateral abrogation of the Agreement clearly showed DND's disrespect for democratic rights by constricting academic freedom.

 She said the 1989 DND-UP Agreement was a product of the sacrifices of the many generations of UP students who fought for academic freedom, and every Filipino’s rights.

“Red-tagging UP students and constricting UP’s democratic space do not silence critical opinions. Limiting and suppressing the democratic rights of students, faculty, non-academic staff, and the entire UP community do not diminish their sense of patriotism—nor will keep the community silent,” said Binay, also a graduate of UP.

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon said he was saddened by this development.

“We are not saying that UP should be beyond the law. If there are issues of violations of the law, a search warrant is a remedy available to the authorities not only in other places but also in UP. This unnecessarily increases the tension between the UP community and the authorities,” said Drilon.

“I know (Defense) Sec. Delfin Lorenzana to be a very reasonable person. I would ask him to review the termination of the agreement, because it does not solve any problem. It just heightens the tension; it does not solve any problem,” he added.

'Brand of fascism'

Sen. Leila de Lima said this abrogation was a message to the UP Community that the Duterte administration was now taking its brand of fascism inside the campuses whenever they please.

“We have seen how this regime has employed lawfare against the critics and truth-seekers, how it has twisted the law to oppress its perceived enemies while ignoring and tolerating the real ones.”

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the state should not break the accord with UP.

“We are facing a number of very important issues where the resources of the military and the police will be more efficiently utilized. We have the West Philippine Sea issue, increasing criminality due to POGOs, extrajudicial killings of doctors, lawyers, among other individuals,” he said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros denounced the unilateral termination of the longstanding UP-DND Accord.

“Needlessly propping up the “communist bogeyman” has always been an obscene vanity project and an excuse for their red tagging and disregard for basic human rights,” she said.

A party-list lawmaker said he hoped Lorenzana “will find the wisdom” to recall his sudden revocation of the 32-year-old accord that prevented soldiers from freely entering any of the campuses of the University of the Philippines.

“We are hoping that Camp Aguinaldo will come to realize that it just created a problem where there used to be none. UP does not need any protection from the military,” Rep. Michael Defensor of Anakalusugan, a UP alumnus, said.

“Any unwanted military presence in UP, or in any higher institution of learning for that matter, is bound to constitute an invasion of academic freedom,” Defensor said.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate condemned the unilateral abrogation, saying “This is again a continuation of the intensifying crackdown of the Duterte administration against independent thinkers and those critical of its policies.

“The very reason why the accord was inked in the first place is the militarization of an institution where ideas are supposed to flow freely."

Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Tuesday appealed to the DND to reconsider its decision.

"The unilateral decision sends a chilling effect on the exercise of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, which have thrived in UP. It will breed mistrust in the government and its uniformed forces," he said.

"UP has produced trail-blazers in all fields and sectors; thus, it is in the State's interest to protect the rights of the institution, its faculty, and students whose exchange of ideas have continuously strengthened our democracy as shown in our history," added Rodriguez.

For its part, the Duterte Youth party-list group called on the DND to terminate its agreement with the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) which bars the entry of state forces in its campuses without prior notice.

Rep. Ducielle Cardema of Duterte Youth, a UP graduate, claimed that radical leftist groups have abused the UP-DND Accord in order to escape arrest for their "seditious acts."

These groups, she said, have also abused the term "academic freedom" to supposedly commit sedition or incite people to rebel against the government.

"With this in mind... the Duterte Youth party-list fully supports the move of the DND to cancel the UP-DND Accord which has been abused by some radical leftist groups to promote the youth recruitment of the CPP-NPA-NDF in their campuses," Cardema said.

"As Vice-Chairperson of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, I call on the DND to also cancel its similar PUP-DND Accord," she added.

In a related development, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia criticized the DND’s move to unilaterally terminate the 1989 agreement, saying this “repressive action of government was precisely one of the reasons why some believe that there are UP students who have joined anti-government organizations.”

He said: “Showcasing of a number of students who supposedly went underground against precisely these kinds of repression-- a proud badge and historical tradition of the school-- does not make a case for the Defense department to stick its nose into.”

Topics: Department of National Defense , University of the Philippines , DND-UP Agreement , Delfin Lorenzana
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