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UP president: Protect academic freedom

UP President Danilo L. Concepcion responds to DND’s unilateral abrogation of the UP-DND Accord

January 19, 2021

Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana

Department of National Defense

Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City

Dear Secretary Lorenzana,

I am acknowledging receipt of your letter of 15 January 2021 informing me of the unilateral abrogation by your office of the agreement signed on 30 June 1989 by then DND Secretary Fidel V. Ramos and then UP President Jose V. Abueva -- an agreement that, you will recall, established certain norms and protocols governing relations between the University and military and police forces.

I must express our grave concern over this abrogation, as it is totally unnecessary and unwarranted, and may result in worsening rather than improving relations between our institutions, and detract from our common desire for peace, justice, and freedom in our society.

That agreement was forged with the formalities that attend the execution of agreements, imbued with the highest sense of fidelity of the parties. It was grounded in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which we were able to maintain for 30 years through the observance in good faith of its provisions. With few exceptions, protocols were observed and any problems or misunderstandings were amicably and reasonably resolved. The agreement 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.

We regret that the agreement was abrogated unilaterally, without the prior consultation that would have addressed the concerns you raised in your letter. Instead of instilling confidence in our police and military, your decision can only sow more confusion and mistrust, given that you have not specified what it is that you exactly aim to do or put in place in lieu of the protections and courtesies afforded by the agreement.

Perhaps this will be a good opportunity to emphasize that we sought and secured that agreement not to evade or weaken the law, but to protect the climate of academic freedom -- guaranteed by the Constitution -- that makes intellectual inquiry and human and social advancement possible. We want to maintain UP as a safe haven for all beliefs and forms of democratic expression. In that, all the signatories to the agreement believed and bound themselves to uphold.

Our University community does not and cannot fear the fair and speedy enforcement of the law, and we value and appreciate the contributions of our uniformed services to our safety and security. We do not condone sedition, armed insurrection, or the use of violence for political ends. At the same time, especially given our experience of martial law, we must reject any form or semblance of militarization on our campuses, which will have a chilling effect deleterious to academic freedom. This abrogation endangers the goodwill necessary for both of us to achieve our mission as responsible members of the same national family.

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. 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.

Left in peace, UP will continue to be a major contributor to the country’s development and to its national leadership in all fields. Its most recent international ranking -- 65th among the 489 universities in Asia evaluated by the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings -- attests to the high quality of its achievements.

That performance, Mr. Secretary, is the result of its exercise of academic freedom -- the freedom to think, to probe, to question, to find and propose better solutions.

May I urge you, therefore, to reconsider and revoke your abrogation, and request further that we meet to discuss your concerns in the shared spirit of peace, justice, and the pursuit of excellence.

Yours sincerely,

Danilo L. Concepcion

President


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