Solons condemn DND’s scrapping of pact with UP: ‘Attack to academic freedom’
MANILA, Philippines — Calling it an attack to academic freedom and a witch hunt of red-tagged critics, several lawmakers on Tuesday condemned the move of the Department of National Defense (DND) to unilaterally terminate a 1989 agreement that prohibits any military and police presence inside the University of the Philippines (UP) campuses without first informing its administration.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who serves as the vice chairperson of the House committee on national defense and security, said the DND should reconsider its decision and have a dialogue with the UP administration.
“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,” Biazon said in a statement.
The lawmaker said the sudden unilateral termination of the agreement may have an opposite outcome of its DND’s objective to reach out to the youth and “see their Armed Forces and Police as protectors worthy of trust, not fear.”
“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,” Biazon said.
“Without actually occupying the campuses, the termination will give a sense of academic freedom being under siege,” he added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that the DND is trying to suppress the openness to ideas and debates, as well as academic freedom, which UP is known for.
“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,” Zarate said in a statement.
“Indeed, for fascism, academic freedom is an anathema!” he added.
Zarate added that since the agreement was a bilateral agreement between the UP and DND, basic due process should have been observed.
“Obviously these militarists do not want the UP system to be the venue of critical thinking, even protest actions that they can readily suppress and attack,” Zarate said.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, meanwhile, called the move an attempt to witch hunt red-tagged critics from the UP faculty and students.
“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,” Castro said.
“Hindi lang academic freedom at critical thinking ang balak pigilan ng pag kansela ng UP-DND Accord at ganitong mga banta, kalayaan at democratic space ng lahat ng Pilipino ang tinatarget nito. With the Cancellation of the UP-DND Accord, the AFP and PNP can set up camp in the campus, surveil teachers and students,” she added.
(The cancellation of the UP-DND Accord is not just an attempt to suppress academic freedom and critical thinking, but it also targets academic freedom and democratic space.)
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, meanwhile, said that the abrogation of the long-standing agreement was 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,” Elago said.
In a letter to UP President Danilo Concepcion dated Jan. 15, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the agreement had been a hindrance to operations against communist rebels, especially recruitment of cadres in UP.
Lorenzana said the DND “is aware that there is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide” by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA). Both have been declared as terrorist organizations by the Anti-Terrorism Council created by the new anti-terror law.
In a tweet, the UP Office of the Student Regent criticized the move “as an attempt to encroach on our academic freedoms and remove safe spaces from our campuses.”