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[OPINYON] Ang mga unibersidad ay bukas sa lahat, liban sa karahasan

Ang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (UP) at Politeknikong Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (PUP), bilang mga nangungunang pampublikong pamantasan ng bayan, ay bukas sa lahat ng mamamayan. Ang mga ito ay bukas sa lahat ng nais mag-aral – maging sa mga kasapi ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Philippine National Police (PNP). Ang anumang pamantasan ay bukas sa lahat ng mga demokratikong ideya at kaisipan para lalong palalimin ang ating kolektibong kamalayan at karunungan.

Subalit, ang mga unibersidad na ito ay sarado sa anumang uri ng karahasan, panggigipit, at pang-aabuso, galing man ang mga ito sa AFP at PNP o sa mga armed non-state actors. Ang mga pamantasan ay dapat mga ligtas na espasyo laban sa lahat ng uri ng karahasan. Ang mga paaralan ay hindi lugar ng armadong digmaan. Neither are they Tokhang playgrounds of rogue police personnel. Ang tanging tunggalian lamang na dapat maganap sa mga pamantasang ito ay digmaan ng mga malalayang ideya at kaisipan tungo sa mas malalim na diskurso tungkol sa lipunan at kaalaman.

Kung may mga krimen man na magaganap sa loob ng isang pamantasan, tungkulin ng PNP na tumugon dito nang may mahigpit na pakikipag-ugnayan sa school administration at sa campus police o security nito. Ito ang esensya at layunin ng UP at PUP accords. Civilian law enforcement, crime prevention, and peace and order maintenance are the primary mandates of the police force, not the military. The military's job is the defense of our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity from external and domestic threats, in clearly defined areas over which war or armed conflicts exist. Let us not blur these lines. Huwag nating paghaluin ang mga bagay na iyan. Yan ang ginawa ni Ferdinand Marcos noon. Huwag na natin ulitin muli. Soldiers cannot assume the police's work. Police personnel cannot play soldiers. In the same manner, there are spaces that, by definition, should not be designated battlegrounds. Our universities are not and should not be theaters of war.

UP and PUP have produced some of the country's best leaders. They have also produced some of our worst. Yet, we do not blame these institutions and attack their academic freedom for producing the likes of Marcos and Harry Roque.

Schools are places of learning. They are not places that force the future choices of students. This same principle holds true today. The military's armed conflict with a non-state actor does not give them the license to set upon UP or PUP and use university premises in carrying out its warfare. It does not give the military permission to overstep its function and take on a role that it is not meant to do. Neither does it give them the right to terminate a long-standing agreement that is meant to protect the university and those within it from harm, whatever the pretext. If it wants to triumph over the armed communists, it must show to the people that it is far better than its enemy. 

UP and PUP are not trying to be special. They just want to be treated and respected as democratic academic institutions, as every place of higher learning should. They are brave and shining examples of how universities should promote safe spaces from all forms of violence, especially in the time of tyranny. Their accords should not be terminated, but strengthened, and indeed adopted by other schools. – Rappler.com

Etta Rosales is the current Chair Emeritus of the democratic socialist Akbayan Partylist and former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).