DND’s termination of accord with UP designed to ‘sow fear, silence criticism,’ says Robredo
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday slammed the Department of National Defense’s (DND) move to unilaterally terminate the 1989 agreement with the University of the Philippines (UP) which she said was meant to “sow fear” and “silence criticism.”
Robredo questioned why the DND had to scrap the agreement requiring them to notify school officials for the entry of police and military in UP campuses when previous presidents of the country had no problem implementing it.
“This is neither a difficult nor onerous rule, and five Presidents since 1989 have managed to protect both the UP community and the Republic without breaking it,” Robredo said in a statement. “Clearly, then, this is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism.”
“It is now up to us to decide whether we will give in. Or whether, at long last, we will stand our ground and speak out. In this, my faith remains firm, we will find our courage and do what needs to be done,” she went on.
In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the agreement had been a hindrance to counterinsurgency operations, especially with the supposed recruitment of cadres in the university.
But for Robredo, the accord was “not to exempt UP or its community from any law, but to send the clear message that in a democracy, even a fledgling one, law enforcement was conducted following clear rules, within defined limits.”
“That in a democracy, there was no place for relentless war waged across all borders, without oversight or accountability, against any person those in power had decided to brand ‘an enemy,’” she added.
The UP Office of the Student Regent had criticized the movement as an “attempt to encroach on our academic freedoms and remove safe spaces from our campuses.”
Netizens also decried the termination of the agreement, with some saying this is another move of the Duterte administration to threaten and silence his critics.
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