Lorenzana: Scrapping of deal not attack on UP but a bid to cleanse it of ‘bad elements’
MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the scrapping of the 1989 agreement with the University of the Philippines banning security forces without coordination was not an attack on the state university.
“Please understand that we have nothing against UP. This is not an attack against UP or the alumni,” Lorenzana said at a press briefing. “We just want to clean up UP of bad elements inside it,” he said in Filipino.
The DND’s unilateral termination of its agreement with the state university came to light on Monday (Jan. 18), after UP posted a copy of Lorenzana’s letter informing UP president Danilo Concepcion of the DND decision to end the agreement.
Lorenzana reiterated that the DND does not intend to suppress activist groups, academic freedom and freedom of expression.
“That was clear as a bright sunny day. Unfortunately, despite that clarification, there have been malicious insinuations that the government will militarize UP,” the defense secretary said.
Lorenzana was firm that the DND has records suggesting that communist rebels have “surreptitiously embedded themselves inside UP and are recruiting university students into their illegal organizations under cover of this agreement.”
He appealed to the UP community “to have an open mind” and sought to assure it that “you can continue to trust us now and in the coming days.”
UP President Danilo Concepcion earlier said the termination of the accord was “totally unnecessary and unwarranted.”
The agreement was meant to prevent government security forces from targeting student and teacher activists for their political beliefs.
But Lorenzana questioned why UP was the only school which enjoys such treatment.
“Only UP has this kind of agreement. Why? What makes UP so special to have this kind of treatment?” he said, echoing comments made by Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“It should be equal to all schools,” said Lorenzana. “Let’s be fair to everybody here. UP is getting favored heavily because of this agreement,” he said.
The defense chief said he would be open to discussions with UP officials only if there was an explanation on the deaths of some students believed to be New People’s Army members in clashes with the military.
“Explain to me why this happened and why they failed to protect these young kids joining these organizations,” Lorenzana said. “As a parent, I feel sad for these kids who died this way. If they can’t explain it, then forget it,” he said.
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