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UP now 'safe haven for enemies of the state,' claims defense chief

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana justified the Duterte government's decision to end a 1989 agreement that barred troops from entering the University of the Philippines (UP), which he claimed has become a "breeding ground" for extremists.

"The agreement has become obsolete. The times and circumstances have changed since the agreement was signed in 1989, eight years after the martial law ended," Lorenzana said in a statement Tuesday, January 18.

"The country's premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state," Lorenzana added, referring to communists.

Lorenzana said the government must stop the alleged in-campus recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army – which the Duterte government declared as a terrorist organization as it cracks down on activism and dissent.

"I will not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly, and free speech," Lorenzana said. "The Department of National Defense (DND) only wants what is best for our youth."

The government's decision to end the 1989 UP-DND Accord angered student activists who view this as a threat to academic freedom.

In a Rappler Talk interview on Tuesday morning, UP student leaders pointed out that the government ended the accord because they could not present tangible evidence of militant recruitment in the premier university's campuses.

The Duterte government has been red-tagging many of its critics and political adversaries without citing any proof.

Activists and human rights lawyers have warned that the labeling could be weaponized after Duterte signed the controversial anti-terror law, which allows the detention of people on mere suspicion even without an arrest warrant. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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