MANILA – Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez on Tuesday urged the Department of National Defense (DND) to reconsider its decision in unilaterally abrogating its agreement with the University of the Philippines (UP) on the entry and operation of the military and the police in UP campuses.
Rodriguez said the unilateral decision sends a “chilling effect” on the exercise of the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, which have thrived in UP, as it will breed mistrust in the government and its uniformed forces.
“UP has produced trail-blazers in all fields and sectors; thus, it is in the State’s interest to protect the rights of the institution, its faculty, and students whose exchange of ideas have continuously strengthened our democracy as shown in our history,” Rodriguez said.
He said the scrapping of the agreement could drive political dissenters, who are a minority in the UP community, into extremism, “a prospect the DND wants to prevent in its abrogation decision and would be counterintuitive to the goals of the State”.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, meanwhile, said the unilateral termination of the UP-DND accord may have an opposite outcome of its stated objective to “reach out to the youth” and “see their Armed Forces and Police as protectors worthy of trust, not fear.”
“The irony is that instead of ‘protecting and securing the institution and youth against the enemies of the Filipino people’, it will provide a basis for the Armed Forces and Police to be seen as the enemy of the institution and the youth,” Biazon said.
Biazon said the DND should enter into a dialogue with the UP leadership and community to come to terms to a joint approach in countering the recruitment of the youth to the armed struggle, while at the same time maintaining the university as a haven for academic freedom, critical thinking, and ideological debate.
Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor expressed hope that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana “will find the wisdom” to recall his sudden revocation of the 32-year-old accord that prevented soldiers from freely entering any of the UP campuses.
“We are hoping that Camp Aguinaldo will come to realize that it just created a problem where there used to be none. UP does not need any protection from the military,” Defensor said.
Defensor stressed that any unwanted military presence in UP, or in any higher institution of learning for that matter, is bound to constitute an “invasion of academic freedom”.
“We certainly do not want soldiers, whether in uniform or civilian clothes, stalking campuses and inhibiting the freedom of our teachers and students to study and express their ideas,” he said.
Senator Ronald Bato dela Rosa, meanwhile, said the DND’s move to abrogate the “obsolete” 1989 agreement was “long overdue”.
“The government was fooled by the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front) in the last 31 years through that agreement,” said dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, another former Philippine National Police chief, said the recent move of the security sector made sense, considering that communist recruitment has reportedly occurred not only in UP but also in other state universities and colleges.
“To join the militant organizations, that’s fine. You can protest all you want. But when you bear arms against government and you are very young, you are vulnerable, you are easily radicalized, and the hotbed of recruitment would be UP, PUP and other universities, then I think the security sector has studied all the factors involved before they acted on the matter,” Lacson said in a television interview.
The DND-UP Agreement signed on June 30, 1989 prohibits the military and the police from entering all UP campuses without prior notice from its administration.
The agency decided to terminate the agreement effective Jan. 15, 2021, with Lorenzana calling the arrangement “obsolete”.
The agreement was used by the CPP-NPA to turn UP into the breeding ground of “intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government,” Lorenzana said. (PNA)