PNP backs UP-DND accord termination, claims agreement 'did not serve best interest'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP backs UP-DND accord termination, claims agreement 'did not serve best interest'
Police on standby at the University of the Philippines Cebu where protesters gather vs the anti-terror bill on June 5.
The Freeman / Aldo Banaynal, file

MANILA, Philippines — Though the national police back the 1989 agreement between the University of the Philippines and the defense department, violations by police officers—many of which are documented yet unsolved—will not go unaddressed, the chief of police said. 

In a statement sent to reporters Tuesday morning, Police Gen. Debold Sinas claimed that the accord, which requires state forces to secure authorization before entering the campus, "limits police and military presence in all its campuses" and "did not serve the best interest of public order and security" in its 30 years in effect.

This comes after the Department of National Defense in a letter addressed to UP President Danilo Concepcion announced that the deal had been terminated starting Friday, January 15, per a report by the university's publication, The Philippine Collegian

"The PNP wishes to state that the termination of the agreement does not diminish our mandate to uphold the law at all times. Any abuse or criminal behavior committed by men in uniform shall be dealt with accordingly," he also said in his statement. 

"The PNP seeks to build stronger collaboration among stakeholders to protect campuses against criminal activities, drug syndicates, and shadowy organizations that promote and espouse Local Communist Armed Conflict against government thru force and violence," he added, though it is unclear what such activities would have to do with the university and its agreement with the government. 

Why does this matter?

  • Peaceful protest actions and demonstrations are typically held within the UP Diliman campus
  • The Commission on Human Rights, also a common site for protesters, is also within the campus' borders 
  • UP grounds have long been a safe haven for activists, as they cannot be arrested on school grounds 
  • With the agreement scrapped, police and military forces can freely enter campuses if they so desire 

UPLB: University never prevented state forces 

In a separate statement, the university's Los Baños campus denied the PNP's claims on restrictions on police presence, pointing out that the university upheld its end of the bargain when it came to authorized operations. 

"In the three decades that the Agreement has been in effect, nothing prevented the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines from enforcing the laws of the land in any UP campus as long as it is properly coordinated with the UP administration. We have assisted police personnel and even agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in discreetly enforcing court issued writs such as warrants of arrest on campus," UPLB Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. said.

"The Agreement is therefore not a hindrance to the enforcement of the country’s laws and judicial orders on campus. It has never hindered DND or AFP from conducting intelligence operations in UP campuses otherwise it would not have been aware of what it claims as “ongoing clandestine recruitment inside U.P. campuses nationwide for membership in the CPP/NPA.”

On the contrary, instances of police and military personnel not honoring the accord are well-documented. 

READ: UP Cebu protesters 'tried the tolerance of police, went too far' — PNP chief

According to the now-terminated agreement, members of the army and police, as well as the military auxiliary Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit, "shall not interfere with peaceful protest actions by UP constituents within UP premises."

"The service of search or arrest warrants on any UP student, faculty, employee, or invited participants in any official UP activity shall, as far as practicable, be done after prior notification is given the UP President, or Chancellor of the constituent university, or Dean of the regional unit concerned, or their respective officers-in-charge in the event of their absence,” it also says.

How has the accord actually affected police operations?

At the University of the Philippines in Cebu campus in June, though, eight students were arrested at a Black Friday protest against the controversial anti-terror law. 

Videos from the protest showed activists running into the UP Cebu to get to safety from police forces, only for some officers to run into the campus anyway. One showed an officer lifting up and carrying away one protester who was later arrested.

Police said the activists had "shoved" their officers, who had shields and truncheons. Later, then-PNP chief Archie Gamboa said that the eight who were arrested were apprehended for disobedience to authority. "It seemed like they really try the tolerance of police to some extent. They are going too far already, which is tantamount to disobedience that's why we caused the arrest," he said then.

READ: UP Cebu protesters 'tried the tolerance of police, went too far' — PNP chief

Just a month after the incident, a separate protest action in the university's Diliman campus saw much of the same treatment after progressive groups trooped to the Commission on Human Rights grounds, which is at the University of the Philippines Diliman, to protest the junking of ABS-CBN Corp.'s application for a renewed legislative franchise.

At the rally, Quezon City police alleged that demonstrators mauled a police officer—who was supposedly there "for peacekeeping and monitoring...to maintain peace and order in the illegal demonstration"—on campus.

The QCPD claim differs from other accounts that the police officer, who was photographed to be in plainclothes at the time, was arrested by the university's police after being caught with a gun. 

PNP Operational Procedures require cops to be in agency-prescribed uniforms during official operations. The public document also says that police are instructed to observe maximum tolerance in all dispersal operations as far as rallies and demonstrations are concerned.

READ: QCPD says cop mauled, robbed amid reports he was apprehended by campus police

Photograph of the incident shows a QCPD officer in plainclothes at a rally held inside the UP Diliman campus.
The STAR/Boy Santos

"It is in this light that we view the unilateral rescission of the 1989 UP-DND accord as an assault against the freedom of UP as an institution. It comes at the heels of earlier threats to discontinue funding for the University, which was intended to silence and intimidate us," Camacho said. 

"We will not back down. We will continue with our duty to defend the freedom of our people guaranteed under the Constitution – the right to life and liberty, the freedom of speech, of expression and the right of the people to campaign against graft and corruption."

Termination 'an assault against UP's freedom'

Camacho in his statement also slammed what he said was "the unilateral rescission of the 1989 UP-DND accord as an assault against the freedom of UP as an institution."

"It comes at the heels of earlier threats to discontinue funding for the University, which was intended to silence and intimidate us...As a bastion for the expression of ideas, ideals, and advocacies and as a sanctuary for the exercise of our cherished rights and freedoms, UP is hallowed ground for activism and dissent, not rebellion," the statement read. 

"The 1989 Agreement is supposed to embody the shared aspirations for peace and democracy between the DND and the UP administration and was signed in good faith. As such, it can never be a hindrance to the achievement of these aspirations. Unless, a party to it views the other with contempt," it added. 

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 12, 2021 - 4:24pm

The Department of National Defense has told the University of the Philippines that is is terminating an agreement that requires the police and military to coordinate with the university administration on entering or holding operations in UP campuses.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the department "is aware that there is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment" inside UP campuses and the accord is being used to prevent government from holding operations.

The move has been criticized widely on social media, with many saying it endangers the academic freedom and activism that UP is known for. UP campuses have also been venues for protests on national and social issues. 

Photo: The UP Oblation symbolizes excellence, sacrifice and service for the common good. The STAR, file

February 12, 2021 - 4:24pm

The Department of National Defense says the appeal of UP Diliman's University Student Council to restore the abrogated 1989 DND-UP accord is untimely.

Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong points out that discussions between the DND and the UP on the cancellation of the pact have already started.

"Both parties have agreed to sit down again to further express their positions on the issue, and possibly come up with an acceptable deal that would balance legal considerations and moral obligations," Andolong says.

February 8, 2021 - 8:20am

A technical working group will be formed to study a 1992 security agreement between the University of the Philippines and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya says.

The agreement prohibits the police to operate on campus grounds without prior notice.

"At first I thought the men who made up the UP police were actually policemen. If these are security guards or security teams, they should be called such and regulated by the PNP. UP police force is not currently regulated by the PNP," Malaya tells ANC's "Headstart."

January 27, 2021 - 11:26am

The police and military should not be in a panel that the Commission on Higher Education says will be tasked with defining academic freedom, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan says.

The panel will be convened amid backlash against the security sector insistence on entering UP freely to conduct operations against supposed communist rebels.

"Might we ask [CHED Chair Prospero] De Vera, what qualifies the generals of the AFP and PNP as ‘education experts’ that justifies them having a role, a determining role at that, in defining academic freedom?” John Lazaro, SPARK national spokesperson, says in a statement.

“To add, why should they be included in a discussion about academic freedom, while the real stakeholders, the students, professors, and school employees are left out of the discussion?”

January 26, 2021 - 3:24pm

The Quezon City government supports academic freedom in the University of the Philippines and in other colleges and universities in the city, Mayor Joy Belmonte says in a press statement.

"I was a lecturer at the UP before, and I know how important academic freedom is in an educational institution.  True learning will only happen in an environment where there is a free discourse of ideas by all members of the community," she says.

Quezon City is home to UP Diliman as well as to Ateneo de Manila University, both of which have been accused of being recruitment grounds for communist rebels. The two universities — as well as Far Eastern University, University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle University — have rejected the allegations.

"In Quezon City, academic freedom will always be protected and upheld," Belmonte also says.


Disclosure: Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte is a shareholder of Philstar Global Corp., which operates digital news outlet Philstar.com. This article was produced following editorial guidelines.

January 24, 2021 - 4:40pm

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stands by his decision to abrogate the DND's agreement with the University of the Philippines.

"We stand by our choice to protect our youth and encourage our fellow Filipinos to help us finally end this 50-year war," Lorenzana says.

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