Reconsider scrapping of pact with UP, solons urge DND
MANILA, Philippines — Some lawmakers from the House of Representatives are urging the Department of National Defense (DND) to reconsider its termination of the 1989 agreement that prohibits any military and police presence inside the University of the Philippines (UP) campuses without prior notice.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who serves as the vice chairperson of the House committee on national defense and security, said that the DND should instead enter into a dialogue with the UP leadership and community to come to terms with a joint approach in countering the recruitment of the youth to the armed struggle.
This, while maintaining the university as a haven for academic freedom, critical thinking, and ideological debate, said Biazon.
“The sudden and unilateral termination of the Soto-Enrile agreement may have an opposite outcome of its stated objective to ‘reach out to the youth’ and ‘see their Armed Forces and Police as protectors worthy of trust, not fear,’” Biazon said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Further, Biazon said: “Without actually occupying the campuses, the termination will give a sense of academic freedom being under siege.”
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez also echoed Biazon’s views, saying that DND’s decision might have a chilling effect on the exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, which have thrived in UP.
“UP has produced trail-blazers in all fields and sectors; thus, it is in the State’s interest to protect the rights of the institution, its faculty, and students whose exchange of ideas have continuously strengthened our democracy as shown in our history,” Rodriguez said.
“The scrapping of the agreement could drive political dissenters, who are a minority in the UP community, into extremism, a prospect the DND wants to prevent in its abrogation decision and would be counterintuitive to the goals of the State,” he added.
Rodriguez said the DND should discuss the issue with UP officials.
“I am sure UP president Danny Concepcion and other university officials will listen. The two sides can perhaps agree on refinements or changes in their agreement that protect the interests of both the state and UP and its constituents,” Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that the abrogation of the agreement “red-tags the entire UP constituencies nationwide.”
“It is fraught with emerging violations of academic freedom, civil liberties, and fundamental rights protected and enshrined in the Constitution,” Lagman said.
“The termination comes in the heels of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 whose odious and constitutional infirmities have been challenged before the Supreme Court in 37 petitions, the biggest number of petitions in history assailing a statute,” he added.
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 the 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 response, Concepcion said the unilateral termination of the pact was unnecessary, adding that it may worsen, rather than improve, relations between the institutions.