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UP Vanguard urges dialogue with DND over scrapped pact

/ 05:20 AM January 24, 2021

The UP Vanguard Inc., an alumni organization of the University of the Philippines (UP) Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), urged the Department of National Defense (DND) to reconsider its recent decision scrapping a 1989 agreement that prevented security forces from entering UP campuses without prior notice, saying the 31-year-old accord guarantees “coordination, cooperation and transparency” between the two institutions.

In a statement on Friday, UP ROTC national commander Guido Alfredo Delgado called for a “genuine and transparent dialogue” between UP and the DND, even as he posed three questions to the department.

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“Has the security sector coordinated with UP within the ambit of the agreement to address [the] concerns [raised by the DND]?” he asked.

Delgado also wanted to know whether security officials had “raised [their] concerns citing actual operations that might have been barred by the agreement.”

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He also wondered whether the security sector had accorded UP the respect due a “fellow government institution involved in nation-building” and discussed the issue first before unilaterally abrogating the pact.

‘Odd’

The UP Vanguard, which was established in 1922 as a fraternity of those enrolled in both basic and advance ROTC courses, currently has more than 2,000 members chosen from the ranks of the UP ROTC Corps of Cadets.

In an interview on Saturday, Delgado said “the agreement cannot be abrogated unilaterally as it was a pact put together by two independent institutions that should be honored with mutual respect.”

He said the organization “finds it odd” that the DND terminated the agreement without first having a dialogue with UP, when the original intent of the accord was to provide a mechanism for monitoring and collaboration between the two parties.

Delgado said nothing in the agreement made UP “beyond the reach of the law.”

“As a matter of fact,’’ he said, ‘’the agreement provides that ‘UP officials shall extend the necessary assistance in the enforcement of the law within the UP premises’ whenever ‘requested by law enforcers.’”

Asked how a resolution could be reached between UP and the DND, Delgado said he could be “in a position to help put it together, but the right authorities are the secretary of defense and the UP president.”

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He said the UP Vanguard would be willing “to help make this genuine and transparent dialogue [between UP and the DND] happen.”

‘Critical thinkers’

In its statement, the group said the state university should continue to be given the space to protect its students, who should be allowed to pursue learning “without fear of being persecuted for what they believe in as long as they act within the bounds of the law.”

“Critical thinkers are important in fueling a nation in dire need of changes and innovation. We must support a constituency of thinkers and doers … It must always be emphasized that divergence of opinion is always healthy in a thriving democracy. And UP does not only guarantee the space, it also develops these minds,” it said.

‘Very real danger’

Also on Saturday, UP president Danilo Concepcion said the UP administration was willing to hold a dialogue with authorities to tackle the DND’s allegations that some colleges had allowed the campus to be infiltrated by communist rebels recruiting for the insurgency.

“As it stands now, these allegations, lacking as yet any factual evidence, serve as unnecessary distractions for both UP and the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] at a time when there are far greater crises, including a global pandemic, confronting us,’’ Concepcion said in a statement, adding:

“At worst, these allegations pose a very real danger to the lives and safety of our students, faculty, staff and the members of the UP community.”

Common aspiration

“These dangers come not only from elements of the military and the police, but also from vigilantes who seek to take justice into their own hands,” he said.

“While we will continue to work with the AFP, the PNP (Philippine National Police) and other government agencies to achieve our common aspiration to improve the lives of the Filipino people, we will also continue to defend UP from all attacks and machinations against our academic freedom and to uphold the safety and freedom of all the members of our community.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) dismissed as “illusory” the claim of the Office of the Solicitor General that the UP-DND agreement flouted the Supreme Court’s rules on court procedures.

The group on Saturday said the accord did not violate the Rules of Court by requiring law enforcement agents to coordinate with UP officials before conducting operations inside the campuses.

‘Not prohibited by law’

The lawyers said the high court had declared in a 2017 ruling that “what is not prohibited by law may be done.”

The PBA joined the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in raising concerns over the abolition of the accord.

“(T)he government should view UP as a partner in the enforcement of the law. Any perceived difficulties by law enforcement can and ought to be resolved through prior consultation and dialogue as the UP-DND accord of 1989 originally envisioned,” the PBA said. —WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKA G. VALENZUELA AND MARLON RAMOS

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TAGS: UP Vanguard, UP-DND agreement
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