Two rival student political groups in the University of the Philippines (UP) in the 1980s and 1990s cast aside their differences to form a united front in defending the state university after the government terminated the agreement that prevented state forces from entering their campus.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, January 20, UP alumni and members of the Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (SAMASA) and Nagkakaisang Tugon denounced abrogation of the 1989 UP-Department of National Defense (DND) pact, saying that the move was the “government’s latest initiative against activism and dissent, an initiative heralded by last year’s passage of the Anti-Terror Act of 2020.”
“The DND’s sudden, arbitrary, and unilateral termination of the 1989 Agreement is not only a barefaced betrayal of its commitments to UP, but also an assault in broad daylight on the academic freedom and institutional autonomy that are guaranteed by Congress through its charter, Republic Act No 9500,” the statement read.
They said that abrogation of the deal eliminated the “key freedoms” essential to UP’s institutional autonomy. These are: the non-entry of the state forces inside the campus; the non-interference of the state forces in protests within the campus; and the custodial investigation of the members of the UP community except upon notice to the university administration.
“Intellectual liberty is foundational to democracy… And in no place should academic freedom be most zealously guarded than in our schools and universities, where it stands as the first protection of the unfettered life of the mind,” they added.
The now-united rivals called on the government to respect and abide by the agreement.
“We call on all UP alumni in both Houses of Congress, and most especially the Samasa and Tugon alumni among them, to lead a legislative initiative to defend these protections to UP and academic freedom which the DND would now circumvent, and to elevate them into law through amendments to the UP Charter and to designate UP campuses nationwide as “freedom parks” within the context of Batas Pambansa Blg. 880,” the statement added.
At least 170 UP alumni and members of the two political groups signed the joint statement, including Senator Francis Pangilinan and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat.
The scrapping of the UP-DND agreement has been under intense flak, as students and various groups blasted the Duterte government for militarizing campuses. UP President Danilo Concepcion said that the abolition of the arrangement was “totally unnecessary and unwarranted.
Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana justified the termination of the deal, saying that the UP is now “a safe haven for enemies of the state,” referring to communists.
Opposition lawmaker Edcel Lagman has so far called for a House probe into what he called the “illegal” termination of the 1989 UP-DND accord. In the Senate, a bill seeking to institutionalize the UP-DND accord has been filed on Wednesday. – Rappler.com