SOLDIERS aboard military trucks entered the University of the Philippines Diliman campus on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, not as a show of force following the abrogation of the 1989 UP-Department of National Defense (DND) accord but to visit their ongoing projects.
“Nandito po tayo ngayon dahil gusto po nating ipakita na mali 'yung mga sinasabi at sa mga speculation na bawal talaga ‘yung military dito sa Barangay UP Campus,” said Major Frank Sayson, 7th Civil Relations Group of the Civil Relations Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (7CRG, CRSAFP) commander.
“Ang sabi nga namin, itong ginagawa natin sa nation building, nagre-reach out ang AFP sa iba’t ibang sector especially sa pamunuan ng UP,” he added.
Sayson said forces of 7CRG have been going in and out of the UP Diliman campus for the implementation of their projects “Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko” and “Raise To 1 Million Gardens in the NCR” in partnership with the Barangay UP Campus with the approval of then UP Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo.
He said the “Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko” has been implemented since March 2020 at the height of the implementation of stringent community quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic and has since provided relief goods and humanitarian services to 436,140 households, or 1.74 million individuals.
“7CRG in the past eight months have started, established and maintained its campaign as vessel of blessings in extending a helping hand to less fortunate Filipinos not only within Barangay UP campus in Diliman but also in other cities and municipality of the National Capital Region (NCR),” said Sayson.
When Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine, Sayson said they introduced the “Raise To 1 Million Gardens in the NCR” not only in Barangay Diliman but also in six other local government units in order to help those who lost their income and source of livelihood due to the pandemic.
He said they are fully aware of the then existing agreement and sought the approval of concerned authorities.
Nemenzo approved the project’s implementation for six months, from July to December 2020, which could be extended after review.
“The local residents of the said pooks (communities) in Barangay UP campus accepted the 7CRG’s ‘Hardin Hero Challenge’ that is to maintain and sustain their respective Community Gardens and further encourage their members to have their own household gardens enough to provide them adequate vegetables, herbal and medicinal plants as well as fruit bearing plants,” said Sayson.
He said these programs made the community resilient by educating them on organizing, mobilizing and in achieving gardening skills in order for them to become instruments of peace and development in their areas, built strong networks among the old and young residents in the community on the creation of awareness in urban farming, created opportunities of livelihood to the communities and gave the national government an alternative solution in motivating people to stay at home.
Meanwhile, former UP President Jose Abueva expressed disappointment over the termination of the agreement which he signed with the DND in 1989, prohibiting entry of police and military personnel in UP campuses without prior notice.
Abueva said the UP-DND accord was created during the term of the DND secretary Fidel Ramos with a deep understanding of the “inalienable rights to freedom, democracy, justice and peace that lasted beyond our respective presidencies.”
"There was a deep, mutual understanding of the need to uphold this agreement and do everything for the good of UP and the rights of its students, faculty and staff. This understanding was rooted in mutual trust, and mutual respect," Abueva said.
"I am appalled and dismayed about this unilateral abrogation," he added.
The pact was signed by Ramos and Abueva on June 16, 1989, following the conduct of a military operation in UP Diliman Campus which resulted in the abduction 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 is a member of Jusmag. He was jailed for 14 years.
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he ordered the termination of the agreement effective January 15, 2021 in order to protect the UP community, especially the students, from being recruited by the communist movement and suffering the same fate as the other UP students who were killed during law enforcement operations against the New People’s Army (NPA).
AFP Chief of Staff Gilbert Gapay said at least 18 UP students have been killed in clashes between government forces and NPA since 1975.
These students were members of legitimate organizations Gabriela, Kabataan Party-list and League of Filipino Students, among others, which the military claims to be front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Lorenzana said on Wednesday, January 20, that he was willing to meet with the UP administration to discuss the matter but they have to explain first why they were not able to protect their students from exploitation by the communist group.
He denied that the termination of the accord is in preparation for the militarization of UP campuses. (SunStar Philippines)