‘No ground for tyrants:’ UP community denounces DND scrapping of 1989 pact
MANILA, Philippines — “UP is hallowed ground for freedoms. It is no ground for tyrants.”
Individuals belonging to the University of the Philippines (UP) community slammed the Department of National Defense (DND) for its unilateral termination of the long-standing UP-DND Accord, accusing the government of blatant red-tagging and repression of academic freedom.
Under the 1989 agreement, police and military forces are prohibited to operate inside UP campuses nationwide without prior notice and approval of university officials.
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) January 18, 2021
In a letter addressed to UP President Danilo Concepcion, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said his department has terminated the accord on Friday, Jan. 15.
But newly elected UP Student Regent Renee Louise Co, in a message to INQUIRER.net, said her office only received the letter on Monday, Jan. 18, three days after the termination supposedly took effect.
In the letter, Lorenzana said the agreement has been a “hindrance” to its operations, claiming “there is an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership in the CPP-NPA.”
The Defense secretary further justified his department’s move “by reason of national security and safety of UP students,” saying the abrogation will let them perform their legal mandate of “protecting the youth against [communist] recruitment activities.”
Lorenzana did not provide evidence in or along with the letter to substantiate his claims.
Concepcion expressed grave concern over the abrogation in a reply letter to Lorenzana on Tuesday, calling the matter “totally unnecessary and unwarranted.”
“Instead of instilling confidence in our police and military, your decision can only sow more confusion and mistrust, given that you have not specified what it is that you exactly aim to do or put in place in lieu of the protections and courtesies afforded by the agreement,” Concepcion said.
The 1989 agreement is a UP-specific version of the Soto-Enrile accord, a 1982 deal between student activist Sonia Soto and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile during the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
The hashtag #DefendUP has topped Philippine online trends with over 90,000 tweets as of writing, with various individuals and groups slamming the government’s recent move.
Students and members of the UP community held a protest Tuesday morning at Quezon Hall in UP Diliman to denounce the accord’s unilateral termination.
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) January 19, 2021
Co called the decision “one of [DND’s] worst attempts at destroying the institutional safeguards UP students have fought to put in its struggle for [their] democratic rights.”
“Rather than have the government focus on providing medical resources and ensure the safe reopening of classes, the priority of this administration is indeed to continue its tired tactics of red-tagging students and threatening our lives,” she said in a Facebook post.
Members of the university have consistently faced the dangers of red-tagging by government officials. Last year, the UP College of Mass Communication admonished the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for baselessly accusing one of its student organizations, the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP (UJP-UP), as a communist front.
It would be recalled that Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade of NTF-ELCAC red-tagged various media and student organizations, including UJP-UP, for criticizing the shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN and using the issue to promote “communist” ideals.
UP alumna Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago stressed that the accord was a product of student activism that resisted various abuses by the military and the dictatorship.
“This brazen step signals intensified attacks on academic freedom, and violations of rights of students, faculty, [and] personnel resisting tyranny and fascism,” Elago said on Twitter.
Others noted that the government’s move happened just as the university is about to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Diliman Commune, a 1971 uprising led by students and faculty members of UP Diliman to protest deteriorating conditions during the Marcos era.
The premier state university has a long history of standing up against campus militarization and human rights violations, evident in its yearly campaigns for victims of state injustice.
Ret. Army Major General Jovito Palparan and his fellow military were found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in 2018. They abducted, raped, and tortured UP students Karen and She. State forces have no place in our campuses. #DefendUP #DefendAcademicFreedom pic.twitter.com/ujfskbo4VN
— Lucia Silva (@theluciasilva) January 18, 2021
Lawyer and former UP Student Regent Kristina Conti said that the government has failed to acknowledge that the UP-DND Accord is “put in the first place as protection against violent and abusive state forces post-Martial Law.”
Meanwhile, former Supreme Court spokesperson and UP alumnus Theodore Te called on Concepcion to protest the unilateral termination of the agreement “in the strongest terms without prejudice to availing of legal remedies.”
“UP, led by the Chancellor, should stand its ground against the red-tagging done by the DND,” Te said in a tweet.
He further urged the university’s alumni in the legislature to institutionalize the accord by inserting its provisions into Republic Act 9500 or the UP Charter of 2008, adding “there is no middle ground if you’re a UP alum.”
— Ted Te (@TedTe) January 18, 2021
In line with the government’s recent move, the UP Diliman University Student Council said the students will continue to defend the university from the Duterte administration’s various attempts to curtail academic freedom.
“Hindi kailanman makakalimutan ng mga Iskolar ng Bayan ang libo-libong mga nauna sa ating lumaban at nag-alay ng buhay upang pabagsakin ang diktaduryang Marcos,” the council said in a statement.
(The Iskolar ng Bayan will never forget the thousands who originally fought and gave their life to topple the Marcos dictatorship.)
Meanwhile, UP-based teacher’s organization CONTEND UP called on the university’s faculty members to “stand undeterred” and “hold [their] grounds” to keep UP the bastion of academic freedom.
In a statement, the organization further stressed that to dissent is not a crime, adding that standing for academic freedom “is not terrorism as Sec. Lorenzana would like the public to believe.”
“Without the freedom to criticize, without the right to dissent, and denied the right to express freely our criticisms against the fascist state, UP will be reduced to nothing but an extension and puppet of Malacanang,” it said.
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