UP-DND accord does not hinder law enforcement, says IBP chief
MANILA, Philippines — The agreement between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense (DND) barring the unauthorized presence of police and military on campuses should not be a hindrance to law enforcement, according to Domingo Cayosa, national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
In a statement issued on Wednesday Cayosa, who is a UP alumnus, reminded the administration that recruitment to communist groups and other organizations opposing the government did not only happen in UP.
“The U.P.-DND accord does not and should not hinder legitimate law enforcement and security operations as the agreement specifically provides that ‘nothing herein shall be construed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land’,” Cayosa said.
“Diverse groups, including those who oppose government, conduct recruitment in U.P. as they do in many other schools. Nevertheless, what truly impels and fuels dissent is not U.P. or its tradition of critical thinking and activism but the injustice, corruption, incompetence, abuse and oppression, poverty or hopelessness that citizens may experience or discern,” he added.
On Monday, reports came out that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had written a letter to UP president Danilo Concepcion about the termination of the UP-DND accord.
Lorenzana’s reason for the abrogation of the accord was the recruitment of UP students into the New People’s Army, claiming that the government was out to protect students from the enemies of the state.
Students, activist groups, prominent UP alumni, and even some government officials denounced Lorenzana’s unilateral decision.
Cayosa said that it would have been better if the DND had conducted talks with the UP administration before unilaterally revoking the agreement. However, he also urged the UP community to focus on what the school authorities could do eventually instead of focusing on the uncontrollable.
“While there is reason to decry and oppose the unilateral termination of the U.P.-DND agreement, it may be wise for U.P. and its stakeholders to focus more on what we can do and less on what we cannot control,” Cayosa said.
“With or without the U.P.-DND agreement, academic freedom and all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the land should be enjoyed in U.P., or in any other university. U.P. can continue to responsibly use public funds to develop the best, brightest and critical minds, allow free expression of different ideas without fear of persecution, do outstanding research, meaningful extension and social work for nation-building,” he added.
Still, he maintained that the government should respect UP’s autonomy as a center for academic freedom, as enshrined in the Constitution.
“Academic freedom, freedom of expression and association, due process, privacy, and other fundamental rights are guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution. These basic rights cannot be taken away by the unilateral scrapping of an agreement for operational coordination,” the IBP head said.
“Considering its institutional autonomy as a National University under R.A. 9500, primary authority and responsibility for “effective security, safety, and welfare of the students, faculty and employees of U.P.” rests with the officials of the U.P. System, not with the Department of National Defense or other government agencies/units,” he added.
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