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End of UP-DND agreement an 'assault against the freedom of UP'

"[The] unilateral rescission of the 1989 UP-DND accord is an assault against the freedom of UP as an institution."

University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Chancellor Jose Camacho Jr said this after the government ended the decades-long agreement with UP that prevented state forces from entering any of its campuses.

"We will not back down. We will continue with our duty to defend the freedom of our people guaranteed under the Constitution – the right to life and liberty, the freedom of speech, of expression and the right of the people to campaign against graft and corruption," Camacho said.

The termination of the pact was made public on Monday night, January 18. But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana officially notified the university about the abrogation in his letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion on January 15, citing reported baseless in-campus recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army.

The agreement, signed in 1989, provides that state forces have to notify the university administration first before they can enter UP campuses.

Lorenzana said that the agreement was a "hindrance in providing effective security, safety, and welfare of the students, faculty, and employees of UP."

Camacho said the deal was supposed to "embody the shared aspirations for peace and democracy between the DND and the UP administration and was signed in good faith."

"As such, it can never be a hindrance to the achievement of these aspirations. Unless, a party to it views the other with contempt," he added.

'Hindi tayo aatras'

Meanwhile, UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo stressed the importance of UP as an academic institution, saying that academic freedom has propelled the university into the "path of breaking areas of research and discoveries across various fields and discipline."

"This is why we should defend and will defend UP as a safe space and a zone for free thought and free speech. Academic freedom in our university has to be defended at all times. This is why we are here and the time is now," Nemenzo said during a mobilization in UP Diliman on Tuesday morning.

"Hindi tayo aatras (We're not backing down). We shall defend UP. We shall defend academic freedom," he added.

In a statement posted on the UP Diliman website, Nemenzo said that "academic freedom is the lifeblood of UP."

"It is the air our community breathes and thrives on as it nurtures our critical minds and allows our imaginations to soar beyond the boundaries of conventions. In UP, anyone should be able to think and speak out, no matter what he/she espouses," he said.

Concepcion said in a statement on Tuesday morning that the agreement was terminated "without prior consultation" with the university administration.

"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," he said.

The scrapping of the agreement has been widely condemned, as students and various groups blasted the Duterte government for militarizing campuses

At the protest rally at Quezon Hall on Tuesday morning, Concepcion reiterated the importance of the accord in upholding the academic freedom of UP students.

“Ang accord na ito ang nagbibigay ng kalayaan sa ating mga estudyante at mga guro na maging malikhain sa pag-iisip at paglikha, sapagkat alam nila na walang susupil sa kanilang mga gawain,” said Concepcion during the rally.

(This accord gives our students and teachers the freedom to be creative in the way they think and act because they know that no one can suppress their actions.)

Unity

Progressive groups joined the UP community at Quezon Hall in UP Diliman to protest the termination of the UP-DND accord.

Among the groups that protested were the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) Youth, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakpawis, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

“Hindi na natuto ang administrasyong ito sa kasaysayan ng katulad niyang diktador. Sa bawat pagsikip ng demokratikong espasyo, ‘di tayo magdadalawang isip na isulong ang rebolusyon ng mamamayang Pilipino,” said Melo Cabello of NNARA Youth said.

(Our administration has failed to learn from the history of its fellow dictator. Everytime our democratic space tightens, we will not hesitate to advance the revolution of our fellow Filipinos.)

Rey Salinas of Bahaghari said that while UP produced a dictator like Ferdinand Marcos, it is also important to remember that the university also birthed activists and revolutionary martyrs who offered their entire lives to the country. 

Echoing the calls of Filipino youth and her fellow Iskolars ng Bayan, UP Student Regent-Elect Renee Co said that the UP community will continue to fight for their safe spaces even amid the termination of the 1989 accord.

“Ang UP-DND accord ay ginawa ng mga sakripisyo ng mga Iskolar ng Bayan, at ang pagtanggal nito ay napakalaking insulto sa mga Iskolar ng Bayan na nagsilbi sa sambayanan. Nagkakaisa ang UP community dahil kita nating legitimate threat sa academic freedom [ang termination],” said Co in the mobilization. 

(The UP-DND accord was built on the sacrifices of UP students, and its termination is a huge insult to state scholars who had served the nation. The UP community is united because we see that this as a legitimate threat to our academic freedom.)

In a statement on Wednesday, former UP president Jose Abueva, who signed the accord with then defense chief Fidel V Ramos, said that the agreement was "rooted in mutual trust, and mutual respect."

"We had a deep understanding between us about the inalienable rights to freedom, democracy, justice and peace that lasted beyond our respective presidencies. There was a deep, mutual understanding of the need to uphold this agreement and do everything for the good of UP and the rights of its students, faculty and staff," he said.

"I am appalled and dismayed about this unilateral abrogation," Abueva added. – with reports from Niña Diño/ Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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