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Let sleeping dogs lie

"Why did Lorenzana even mount this high-profile operation?"

 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana should consider sidelining whoever advised him to end the 1989 DND-UP agreement that, among others, "prevents soldiers and policemen from conducting operations inside UP campuses without prior notice to school officials" without as much as educating the public specially UP officials and the UP community about the need to do so. 

In fact, he should have just let the accord stand, as it was not even worth acknowledging by either of the parties under the present circumstances, save perhaps if there was an overt effort on the part of the security forces to cordon off the entire Diliman campus for whatever reason. Or, conversely, if some UP students and faculty with some groups in the wide expanse that is known as the UP community reprise the 1970 Diliman Commune which prompted days of rage and police action in the campus prompting nationwide protests. It also led to the radicalization of the youth and student movement then. 

In any event, this agreement was more of a publicity stunt by then Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos during the Cory administration as part of his overall plan to run for president in 1992. He was trying to soften his image as a long-time military officer, particularly as the principal martial law administrator being in charge of the national police, which at that time was described as the AFP's “most sadistic and corrupt" service command. He needed to burnish his image with the youth and students so what better way than to ingratiate himself with the UP students, considered the most vigilant and vocal among the studentry, and, of course, the larger community composed of the faculty, administrative officials and even alumni a good number of whom were holding high positions in government, business and socio-civic organizations. With this "peace offering" of sorts, he and his campaign staff thought they could easily work on the other state universities and colleges and, of course the private educational network to highlight his 'better side." 

There was really no need for such an agreement in the first place. Despite its charter, and its known militancy, UP is not an island unto itself governed by its own laws and outside that of the land. There is no such thing as a Diliman or UP Republic. There is nothing UP officials could do to prevent the military and the police, for example, from going into the campus in hot pursuit of criminals and other law breakers including suspected members of the underground. If a riot or a rumble breaks out on campus for whatever reason, would anybody bother to read the accord to the police or the security forces out to quell the disturbance to prevent it spiraling out of control? That would be the most stupid thing to do. Definitely, even the majority of students, the faculty and the community will censure anybody who would stand in the way of these officers doing their job.   

On the other hand, that harangue of so-called human rights activists about spying and intelligence agents roaming around the campus bears nothing. Those activities happen with or without any accord. Any intelligence officer worth his salt will target UP and other schools known for their history of militancy or even just anti-government biases or simply anti-social tendencies (drug usage, sex havens, gambling, trafficking, etc.) to gather data and related information to secure the peace and well being of each and every citizen. 

Anyway, now that he has pulled out of the accord, Secretary Lorenzana can start discussing with UP and the larger public the reason or reasons that prompted him to take this action in the first place. Instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, as we earlier noted, with the accord already well on its way to the archive, why did he even mount this high-profile operation?

If, as he says, it was his patriotic duty to protect students from being inveigled into joining the NPA and other armed groups out to destabilize the government and do damage to lives and properties, there are other and probably less problematic ways to do so. He could have simply called out the UP President and the Board of Trustees about the creeping recruitment being undertaken by identified "enemies of the state," if they have such a list, advising them in no uncertain terms that such activities would invite government action under the just passed anti-terror law. He could have cited instances where UP professors openly advocate anti-government or other related initiatives meant to romanticize taking up arms against the duly constituted authorities. In a word, there is no need to even mention that there is an accord preventing government security forces from doing work in the campus without advice from school officials.

The police and military civil relations groups could also ask any of the student organizations or even the school administration itself to organize a forum for an exchange of ideas on how best to ensure that the students and faculty or even the officials or UP or any school can conform with the provisions of the anti-terror law as the same is now in effect. There are aspects of the law which, if improperly used, can unduly harass or put them in trouble, something which, I am sure, Lorenzana and company would not like to happen. There is nothing better than an open, transparent exchange of notes between and among members of the community to clear the air and ensure that the free and untrammeled flow of ideas can ensue. Again, there was no need to end the accord for that to happen. 

Unfortunately, Lorenzana's stance coming out of the blue only served to blur the effort to call out the UP and other school officials about the dangers posed by the creeping indoctrination and recruitment of callow students into the armed struggle and other anti-government, anti-authority operations which can bring ruin not only to their young lives but to their families and their communities as well. 

Somehow, that kind of seemingly rush, shooting-from-the-hip stance coupled with the AFP civil military unit's unwarranted release of a listing of suspected UP activists in the 1970s has only revived the unpleasantness of things past. The problem with that so-called "NPA recruits" list is it included people who were simply moving with the flow, as it were, using the "military label"as some badge of honor for self promotion who later on turned out to be part of that cabal of "holier-than-thou," corrupt and blatant promoter of falsehoods who have brought this country to where we are now.

But what was more disturbing and outrageous was the inclusion of people I know who held strong convictions about the need to reform society and make it a better place for their and future generations. That was an ideal many of us shared in those days.  The likes of Raffy Japa, for example, who died as a working journalist at an early age and friends like known lawyer and former Congressman Roan Libarios were unlikely NPA recruits. They held strong convictions, yes, but I am sure they never dreamed of taking up arms against the duly constituted authorities. 

It is just as well that the AFP has apologized and got that list out of the public eye for good.  The next time around, Secretary Lorenzana and our friends in the security forces, it is well to remember this adage: Let sleeping dogs lie.

Topics: Jonathan Dela Cruz , Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana , 1989 DND-UP agreement , University of the Philippines , UP
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