UP community: Other universities should also have pacts with DND | Inquirer News

UP community: Other universities should also have pacts with DND

/ 05:36 AM February 05, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Leading academics of the University of the Philippines (UP) on Thursday called for a stronger defense of academic freedom in all universities in the country in what may be one of the unintended consequences for the Department of National Defense (DND) when it suddenly abrogated its decades-old accord with the state university.

Students, faculty and graduates of UP last month were outraged and shocked by the unilateral termination of the 1989 UP-DND agreement to coordinate any security operations on its campuses nationwide with school authorities.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he would also abrogate a similar agreement with the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), another hotbed of activism, adding that the two universities should not get “special treatment.”

Online forum

But in an online forum on Thursday, top professors and former and current officials of UP agreed it was about time that other universities assert and forge their own accords with the government to safeguard academic freedom.

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Now, the defense department will not only have to deal with UP and PUP but all the other universities who may press for similar accords, specifically those that rejected allegations by the military that they were recruitment grounds for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA)—Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas.

In the webinar hosted by the UP Freedom Project, UP Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said UP indeed “should not be special” in that it is one of the only two universities in the country with pacts limiting military presence on campus.

“Lorenzana is right,” said Nemenzo. “We should have the same agreement for all universities so that academic freedom in all universities is respected.”

UP should open discussions with other universities and local colleges that had been branded baselessly as communist recruitment grounds since “our concerns are also their concerns,” he said.

Organized professors

Economist and professor emerita Solita Collas-Monsod recommended the consolidation of UP’s highest-ranked professors into an association to assert UP’s role as the vanguard of academic freedom.

Academics and university officials maintain that the presence of security forces on campus impedes UP’s academic freedom, which protects and nurtures its artists, scientists and leaders.

‘Saddening’

This freedom is enshrined both in the 1987 Constitution and in Republic Act No. 9500, which established UP’s autonomy and mandate as the country’s national university, according to UP law professor Ted Te, a former spokesperson for the Supreme Court.

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Monsod said that was why it was “saddening” for her to hear Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chair Prospero de Vera’s proposal to define academic freedom and the military’s place in this context.

Te stressed that the recent Red-tagging of students, faculty and alumni, and even entire colleges could only be interpreted as an “assertion of control within UP and other universities.”Individual choices

“This policy is being laid out as an experiment in relation to UP because if it succeeds here, it would succeed in [other universities],” he said. “It is important that UP asserts that this cannot happen.”

Nemenzo agreed that not only was it unjust to brand UP and other universities as havens for communist rebels, it also made no sense to blame them for the individual choices made by their students.

This was in response to Lorenzana’s demand that UP must first answer his question on why UP students were killed in the company of NPA rebels in clashes with government troops, before he agrees to a dialogue with university officials.

“What they do about their lives is part of being UP students and being responsible for themselves,” said professor emeritus Jose Dalisay Jr. “Rebel recruitment is not UP’s fault. That is a very very silly observation that disregards the role of university as purveyors of ideas.”

Dalisay also questioned the basis for the military’s allegation.

“Can you pinpoint a particular time and place when this recruitment happened? They might as well accuse universities of this fault.”

Still, it’s important for Filipinos “to speak for UP,” said College of Science dean Giovanni Tapang, “because if we’re not able to do this, UP ceases to do its function for society.”

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TAGS: communist, Defense, DND, Security, University, UP
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