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4 senators want military, cops off UP campuses

05:46 AM January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Four senators on Wednesday filed a bill that would make the ban on the presence of soldiers and policemen on University of the Philippines (UP) campuses a state policy in a bid to institutionalize a 1989 agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND), which its current secretary unilaterally abrogated.

In filing Senate Bill No. 2002, Senators Joel Villanueva, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe sought to amend the UP Charter under Republic Act No. 9500 to prohibit Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police personnel from entering the university’s campuses, except in emergencies.

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They said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s decision to abrogate the UP-DND agreement was a threat to one of the country’s “bulwarks of free expression and activism” and part of “state efforts to minimize the unique role and participation of the University in social change.”

“The most recent attack on the university’s autonomy was made on Jan. 18, when the DND unilaterally terminated the 1989 UP-DND Accord, a document that guaranteed minimal state intrusion in the country’s premier university,” they said in their explanatory note.

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Then UP president Jose Abueva and then Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos signed the agreement.

“I am appalled and dismayed about this unilateral abrogation,” Abueva, now 92, said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said he and Ramos shared a “deep understanding … about the inalienable rights to freedom, democracy, justice and peace that lasted beyond our respective presidencies.”

Academic freedom

Others in the UP community said Lorenzana misunderstood what academic freedom meant and had no grasp of the prevailing social inequalities in the country when he scrapped the agreement and demanded an explanation from the university on why some of its students had joined the rebel movement.

Rey Valmores Salinas, a molecular biologist and spokesperson for the LGBTQ group Babaylan, said “no amount of university theorizing will lead someone to abandon a comfortable life to join the people’s revolution.”

“Neither UP nor mass organizations that criticize the ineptitude of the government recruit people into the NPA,” Salinas said. “It is precisely the extreme ineptitude of government—its failure to provide land for our farmers, and dignified jobs for each worker—that perpetually extends the revolution.”

The measure proposed by the four senators will incorporate features of the scrapped agreement into the state university’s charter.

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It will require security forces to notify university authorities before entering any campus, and set limits on the service of search or arrest warrants on UP students, professors and employees, and on their arrest, detention or custodial investigation.

Wrong reasons

The senators said the terminated accord was “not a wall which obstructs justice or deters the solution or prevention of crime” and was abrogated for the wrong reasons.

They disputed Lorenzana’s claim that UP had become a recruitment ground for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

“There is no monopoly of ideology in UP. It remains a big tent that shelters all ideas that can be pursued nonviolently. It is not a rebel recruitment station,” they said. “On the contrary, it hosts many DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporters) who are free to compete in the marketplace of ideas.”

The state university “remains a citadel of excellence where the skills to serve the people are taught,” the senators said. “This academic brilliance can only shine under a climate of freedom.”

Villanueva is chair of the Senate technical and higher education committee and a member of UP Board of Regents. Binay and Angara, a son of former UP President and late Sen. Ed Angara, are UP graduates. Poe spent two years at UP Manila before continuing her studies abroad.

House inquiry

Another UP graduate, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, on Wednesday filed House Resolution 1490 seeking an inquiry into the “illegal” termination of the accord.

“With the unilateral termination of the subject agreement, it is now open season for the military and police invasion of UP campuses in the guise of upholding national security and maintaining peace and order,” Lagman said.

The Makabayan bloc filed a Sense of the House resolution “to uphold the 1989 UP-DND accord and the academic freedom of all educational institutions.”

—With reports from Julie M. Aurelio, Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Krixia Subingsubing

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TAGS: cops on campuses, Delfin Lorenzana, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, soldiers on campuses, Sonny Angara, UP-DND agreement
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