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‘Don’t mess with UP’: Lawmakers blast DND for ending pact with university

Lawmakers on Tuesday, January 19, crossed party lines to blast the government's move to scrap the deal that has ensured academic freedom at the University of the Philippines (UP) campuses for over 3 decades.

In separate statements on Tuesday, legislators urged Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to reconsider the unilateral decision to junk the UP-DND accord, which has limited military and police entry in UP campuses.

Senators and congressional representatives said that by unilaterally terminating the 1989 pact between UP and the Department of National Defense (DND), President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is providing more basis for the public to see the military and the police as the enemy. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has justified the abrogation of the deal by claiming that UP campuses have become a "breeding ground" for extremists but Vice President Leni Robredo said that under the pact, authorities only need to give notice to university officials prior to operations.

UP President Danilo Concepcion said that the abolition of the UP-DND accord is "totally unnecessary and unwarranted," while Robredo said the Duterte government is out to further stifle dissent

Here’s what lawmakers have to say against the termination of the UP-DND accord:

Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan

“Tinutulan natin ang panghihimasok ng diktador noon (We protested the interference of the dictator before). UP has always been and will always be a citadel of freedom and democracy. No to the unilateral and arbitrary termination of the Enrile-Soto Accord. Pakiusap lang (We ask you). Please don’t mess with UP.”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

I am saddened by this development. As a UP graduate, I know how the whole UP community values the freedom inside the campus. 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. I know Secretary 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.

Senator Risa Hontiveros

I denounce the unilateral termination of the longstanding UP-DND Accord. Kung desidido ang administrasyon maghanap ng komunista, pagdiskitahan nila 'yung mga komunistang lantarang nanghihimasok sa West Philippine Sea (If this administration is decided in going after communists, then they should focus on the communists blatantly taking over the West Philippine Sea).

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. The University of the Philippines is a bastion of student activism and its grounds must continue to be a safe space for dissent and peaceful assembly.

Senator Leila de Lima

UP is our finest academic institution. It is the national university.  Year after year, they proudly represent us in the world’s top university rankings. Not only is UP a consistent participant in national conversations, they take part also in addressing our country’s problems.

UP experts are a constant fixture in policy discussions from legislative deliberations to national disaster coordination. Most recently, we have seen how they are aiding our policymakers in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our leaders received UP education.

UP was able to do all that and more because we allowed them academic freedom, free from political harassment by, and interference from, government forces. Now comes Duterte and his DND unilaterally abrogating that decades-long accord based on unsubstantiated statements that UP is a recruitment ground for the CPP/NPA.

Nothing prevented them from pursuing any legitimate case supported by evidence against any UP personality. That they fail to make their case after years of trying and billions of intelligence funds speaks more about their incompetence than any perceived disadvantage under the UP-DND accord.

This abrogation is a message to the UP Community that the Duterte administration is now taking its brand of fascism inside the campuses whenever they please. It is a warning to students, professors and staff not to speak ill of the wannabe dictator in Malacañang, lest they be branded enemies of the State.... I support the UP Community and join them in defending the freedoms that no administration has the right to curtail.

Senator Nancy Binay

The unilateral abrogation of the agreement clearly shows  DND's disrespect for democratic rights by constricting academic freedom. 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.

Nagbago na ang konteksto kung sino ang dapat nating kalaban. Hindi ang UP o ang mga estudyante ang kailangang pagtuunan ng pansin. (The context on who the real enemy is has already changed. UP or its students should not be the focus of attention.) We have an invisible enemy that has radically upended our lives and our country. Abrogating the agreement is not the solution we are trying to find.

Senator Joel Villanueva

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. The university is a bastion of freedom. Let’s nurture our youth’s passion for political and social causes.

Senator Sonny Angara

Ano mang isyu o problema na nakikita ng ating mga awtoridad sa kasunduan ay maaari naman na pag-usapan ng kalmado at sa konstruktibong pamamaraan (Any issue or problem that authorities see in the agreement may be discussed in a calm and constructive manner).

Just like any other legal agreement, prior consultation is required before any decision to amend or in this case, terminate is implemented. We appeal to our good Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to reconsider his decision and sit down with the officials of UP to come up with solutions to ensuring peace and security in our nation, which I am sure is an aspiration shared by both sides.

Senator Panfilo Lacson

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.... If it is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms being enjoyed by UP in general, you can describe it as that – overstepping.

Definitely it will affect the culture because UP is known to be independent and they are involved in so many political issues. They enjoy so much freedom. And then all of a sudden you take it away from them, that really hurts. Definitely there will be outcry, protests and disagreements. Let’s see how it shapes up in the future.

Senator Pia Cayetano

I am saddened to hear about the Department of National Defense’s decision to unilaterally terminate its long-standing agreement with the University of the Philippines, which established the protocols governing the conduct of military and police personnel within the university's premises.

The accord is an expression of the mutual respect between the two government institutions, and mutual acknowledgment of their respective mandates to serve our nation and people's best interests. UP as a premiere state university advances quality higher learning and promotes academic freedom, which is an integral component of a vibrant, democratic society, while the DND is the agency mandated to protect our nation against internal and external threats to peace and security. These two mandates are not, and should not be in conflict with one another.

Terminating an important accord like this that has stood and worked for more than 3 decades should undergo careful evaluation and discussion.

Assuming that the DND has well-founded reasons to push for the abrogation, then this should be done by way of dialogue and consultation. Forcing the matter could only lead to deeper misunderstanding between our national security leadership and members of the UP Community.

As a premier university that has produced leaders in both government and the private sector and outstanding professionals and innovators in various fields who have all contributed to nation-building, UP deserves to be duly informed and engaged in meaningful dialogue.

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman

The repressive policies of the Duterte administration have gone berserk as it is now open season for the military invasion of UP campuses. The unilateral and baseless abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND accord red-tags the entire UP constituencies nationwide consisting of UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños, UP Visayas, and the regional units in Baguio, San Fernando, Tacloban, Ming-ao (Iloilo), and Cebu.

It is fraught with emerging violations of academic freedom, civil liberties, and fundamental rights protected and enshrined in the Constitution. The termination comes in the heels of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 whose odious and constitutional infirmities have been challenged before the Supreme Court in 37 petitions, the biggest number of petitions in history assailing a statute.

Muntinlupa Representative Rufino "Ruffy" Biazon

The irony is that instead of "protecting and securing the institution and youth against the enemies of the Filipino people" it will provide a basis for the Armed Forces and Police to be seen as the enemy of the institution and the youth. Without actually occupying the campuses, the termination will give a sense of academic freedom being under siege.

The DND should reconsider its decision and instead enter into a dialogue with the UP leadership and community to come to terms to a joint approach in countering the recruitment of the youth to the armed struggle, while at the same time maintaining the university as a haven for academic freedom, critical thinking, and ideological debate.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate

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.

UP is known for its openness to ideas and debates as well as academic freedom. These are the ideals that the DND is trying to suppress by unilaterally abrogating the accord. Indeed, for fascism, academic freedom is an anathema!

Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago

DND's unilateral abrogation of the accord, banning military and police presence in UP, clearly shows a blatant disregard for the students' historic victory against campus militarization and fascist dictatorship. This brazen step signals intensified attacks on academic freedom and increasing violations of human rights of students, teachers and education stakeholders amid the Duterte regime's tyranny.

Stop the attacks on fundamental freedoms in campuses! For education institutions to fulfill their significant role in upholding human rights and democracy, they must be protected from ruling regimes' undue pressures and dictates. Defend academic freedom and uphold the autonomy of our institutions of learning!

Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat

Kilala ang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas sa mahabang kasaysayan ng pakikibaka para sa karapatan sa edukasyon at karapatan ng bawat mamamayan, at paglaban nito sa panahon ng diktaduryang Marcos. Kaya itong pronouncement na ginagawa ng administrasyon ay laban ng lahat ng Pilipino na maaring maakusahan at maparatangan na terorista ng mga taong dapat pumoprotekta sa inang bayan. Ang mga eskwelahan ay sentro ng karunungan, kaalaman, at kalayaan, hindi para sa pasismo.

(The University of the Philippines is known for its long history of activism to champion for academic freedom and the rights of every citizen, and its fight against the Marcos dictatorship. This is why this pronouncement by the administration is the fight of all Filipinos who may be accused of being terrorists by the same people who are supposed to protect the motherland. Schools are centers of learning, knowledge, and freedom, not fascism.)

ACT Teachers Representative France Castro

We strongly condemn the cancellation of the UP-DND accord by DND Secretary Lorenzana in an attempt to witch hunt red-tagged critics from the UP faculty and students and neglect the historic victory of the UP community against campus militarization. This is clearly an attempt to further sow fear, intensify the attacks on academic freedom, and threaten the rights of teachers and students by the Duterte administration.

Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas

The unilateral termination of the Accord reeks of Duterte's desperation to stifle dissent and free speech in the university, especially as UP has been a safe haven for democratic protests even during the militarist lockdown. They want to control every democratic space and arena possible using the twisted pretext of supposed Reds' recruitment. This is reminiscent of their alibi regarding the ridiculous Red October, wherein they claimed schools are recruitment grounds for NPA.

This kind of desperation is similar to the government's attempt to remove Gabriela Women's Party and the entire Makabayan bloc in Congress. They want to monopolize ideas and dump democracy dead on the ditch.

Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor

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. 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. 

We certainly do not want soldiers, whether in uniform or civilian clothes, stalking campuses and inhibiting the freedom of our teachers and students to study and express their ideas.

Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez

“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. UP has produced trailblazers 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.

“The scrapping of the agreement could drive political dissenters, who are a minority in the UP community, into extremism, a prospect the DND wants to prevent in its abrogation decision and would be counterintuitive to the goals of the State.”

House Minority Leader and Abang Lingkod Representative Stephen Paduano

“We appreciate Secretry Lorenzana’s efforts to safeguard national security, but his decision should have been coursed through the Joint Monitoring Group, as provided for in the said agreement. National security is paramount, but the abrogation of the bilateral agreement should have been done in adherence to the constitutional requirement of due process.

“I believe that national security is supreme over academic freedom, but there seems to be a lapse in procedure.”

Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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