VICE President Leni Robredo, an alumna of the University of the Philippines (UP), said the unilateral abrogation of the UP agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND) effective January 15, 2021 will sow fear instead of law and order.
She pointed out that the agreement, forged in June 1989 and known as the Soto-Enrile Accord, merely requires the police and military to give notice to university officials before any operations in UP.
“This is neither a difficult nor onerous rule, and five Presidents since 1989 have managed to protect both the UP community and the Republic without breaking it,” Robredo said.
“Clearly, then, this is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism,” she added.
Lawmakers also criticized the DND move.
Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago said it was done in blatant disregard of the academic freedom and human rights of the students, teachers and education stakeholders.
Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said it was part of the crackdown against the critics of the regime.
"UP is known for its openness to ideas and debates as well as academic freedom, these are the ideals that the DND are trying to suppress by unilaterally abrogating the accord. Indeed, for fascism, academic freedom is an anathema,” he said.
"Obviously these militarists do not want the UP system to be the venue of critical thinking, even protest actions that they can readily suppress and attack," he added.
ACT Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro expressed fear over the possible surveillance of students and teachers now that the accord has been scrapped and uniformed personnel may enter the university premises at will.
Muntinlupa City Representative Ruffy Biazon and Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara also expressed opposed the termination of the agreement and said the DND should reconsider.
Drilon received his Doctor of Laws degree from UP while Pangilinan was a former chairman of the UP Student Council and a former Student Regent. Binay and Angara also earned their degrees from UP.
Drilon said he will personally ask Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to review the termination of the agreement. He said it will not solve any problem, but will instead tighten the tension.
"Just like any other legal agreement, prior consultation is required before any decision to amend or in this case, terminate is implemented," Angara said.
"We appeal to our good Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to reconsider his decision and sit down with the officials of UP to come up with solutions to ensuring peace and security in our nation, which I am sure is an aspiration shared by both sides," he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said that if the government was really determined to stop communism, it should be going after those invading the West Philippine Sea. Hontiveros was referring to China.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), in a statement, said the government aims to sow terror and fear among the public, particularly among the Lumad students staying in UP campuses after leaving their homes in 2017 due to the alleged harassment of state forces.
"It is an attack against the UP community which has squarely opposed the authoritarianism of the Duterte regime. It wants to make the university bow before the tyrant," the CPP said.
"The clear aim of this move is to further unrestrain the military and police by undermining academic freedom and freedom of expression enjoyed by university students and faculty," it added.
It said the termination of the agreement will kill the science and liberal thinking in UP.
The CPP urged not only the UP community but the entire Filipino people as well to defend the agreement.
"The UP students, especially, must take the cudgels of defending the university by going beyond online solidarity and converging on campus in their numbers to manifest their determination to defend their freedoms which have been won through struggle by past generations of students," it said.
"Together with university professors and personnel, they must show their unity, manifest their indignation, and demonstrate their power to frustrate the AFP's fascist schemes," the group added. (SunStar Philippines)