Monday, September 27, 2021

UP urges dialogue, says scrapping DND deal may spark mistrust

MANILA. Members of the UP community hold a protest action on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2020, to protest the unilateral abrogation of an agreement that prohibits state forces from entering UP campuses without coordination with the UP administration. (Philippine Collegian)

UNIVERSITY of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, called for a dialogue with the Department of National Defense (DND), saying the unilateral abrogation of the agreement that bars police and military personnel from entering any of the UP campuses without coordination with the administration may spark mistrust in state forces and create confusion.

He urged Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to rethink the termination of the agreement.

Lorenzana, in a message to reporters, said the DND has the right to scrap the agreement unilaterally as they have “determined that it doesn’t serve the interest of the students.”

“Of course (we can unilaterally terminate). Ayaw na namin (We don’t want it anymore),” he said.

Lorenzana said he was also looking at terminating similar agreements with other universities, where communist rebels are also conducting recruitment activities.

Lorenzana informed Concepcion about the abrogation of the UP-DND agreement, also known as the Soto-Enrile Accord, in a letter dated January 15, 2021. He said the termination also took effect on the same day.

Read: DND scraps deal that bars state forces from UP campuses

Concepcion stressed that the university will reject any form of militarization in its campuses, as this will have a “chilling effect deleterious to academic freedom.”

Concepcion said UP’s rank of 65th among the 489 universities in Southeast Asia as evaluated by the Times Higher Education is a result of its exercise of academic freedom.

“Our police and military authorities should have no fear of academic freedom. Indeed UP has bred rebels and nonconformists - as well as it has bred presidents, senators, congressmen, and business, civic and even military leaders,” said Concepcion.

“All the world’s great universities have produced the same range of thinkers and doers. By and large, intellectual and political dissidents in UP have always been in the minority, but it is a critical minority that has historically been vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy,” he added.

Concepcion said the agreement, which was forged in June 1989, was grounded in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

“With few exceptions, protocols were observed and any problems or misunderstandings were amicably and reasonably resolved,” Concepcion said in a statement.

Denying that the agreement has hindered efforts to provide safety and security to the UP community, Concepcion pointed out that it has “never stood in the way of police and security forces conducting lawful operations within our campuses.”

“Entry was always given when necessary to law enforcers within their mandate,” he added.

He said the agreement was forged not to evade or weaken the law but to protect academic freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution and to maintain the university as a haven for all beliefs and forms of democratic expression.

Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the termination of the agreement by the DND is a desperate move of the regime to silence its critics.

“Para saan ang lahat nang ito? Para pigilan ang protesta sa campus? Para gawin ang red-tagging? Para gipitin ang mga kritiko? Para suhayan ang tiraniya?” he said.

The agreement was signed on June 16, 1989, following the conduct of a military operation in UP Diliman which resulted in the arrest of Donato Continente, then a staff of the Philippine Collegian.

Continente said he was tortured into admitting to the murder of Colonel James Rowe, an American soldier who was a member of Jusmag. Continente.

He was jailed for 14 years and was released after the Supreme Court shortened his sentence.

Under the agreement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are mandated to coordinate with the UP administration prior to the conduct of any operations inside the campuses, except during an emergency situation, hot pursuit operations or the leadership requested for their assistance.

The uniformed personnel also cannot meddle in gatherings or mass actions inside the UP campuses and the administration should immediately be notified should UP students, faculty and staff members are arrested.

Coordination should be made prior to the conduct of an investigation against the arrested UP students and faculty and staff members. (SunStar Philippines)


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