DND chief defends junking of UP-DND pact
UP president Danilo Concepcion speaks at a protest gathering in UP Diliman, Quezon City yesterday.
Ernie Peñaredondo

DND chief defends junking of UP-DND pact

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana defended yesterday the termination of the 1989 agreement between the Department of National Defense (DND) and the University of the Philippines (UP), saying that the obsolete accord has allowed the state university to “become a safe haven for enemies of the state.”

“The agreement has become obsolete. The times and circumstances have changed since the agreement was signed in 1989, eight years after the martial law ended,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

Lorenzana justified scrapping the accord by citing reports that “a number of UP students have become identified with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and or its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA).”

Lorenzana informed UP president Danilo Concepcion of the DND’s decision in a letter dated Jan. 15, 2021. In the letter, Lorenzana told Concepcion that the DND is resolving the situation by abrogating or terminating the 1989 agreement, citing national security and the safety of students.

“The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state,” he said.

The 1989 pact prevented military and the police from entering UP premises without prior notification to the school’s administration, an agreement that Lorenzana says was a gesture of courtesy accorded to UP upon the university’s request.

Lorenzana also said that government does not intend to establish a permanent military presence in the campus.

“We do not intend to station military or police inside UP campuses nor do we wish to suppress activist groups, academic freedom and freedom of expression. The DND has nothing to gain from suppressing these rights and freedoms but will only alienate it further from the people,” his letter read.

In a separate statement, Lorenzana stated that the DND can unilaterally terminate comparable agreements if it no longer agrees with the provisions of the same.

“We are looking into other similar agreements to terminate them as well. We have determined that it doesn’t serve the interest of the students,” he said.

Malacañang backs junking accord

Lorenzana’s move to unilaterally cancel the agreement has the backing of Malacañang, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

Since Lorenzana is an alter ego of the President, it just follows that “the President supports the decision of Secretary Lorenzana,” Roque said.

Roque, a UP alumni and former faculty member, said he did not see the police entering the UP Diliman campus. He noted that in the United States or the United Kingdom, there are no special police forces deployed or recognized in campuses.

“But personally, in my 25-year stay at UP, I have never experienced police presence. In my studies abroad, there were no special police in campuses in the US and the UK, all of these institutions were under the jurisdiction of the police,” Roque said in Filipino.

‘No crackdown’

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) guaranteed that there will be no crackdown on activist faculty members and students of UP, even if the DND has  terminated its 1989 agreement.

PNP chief Debold Sinas gave the assurance and vowed to punish police officers who will take advantage of the accord’s scrapping to commit abuses.

“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 said in a statement.

For his part, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana added that students and faculty members have nothing to fear as they are still free to exercise their right to freedom of speech.

“The abrogation of the DND-UP accord does not make the state university less of itself. It still has its academic freedom,” he said in a message sent through Viber.

He assured the university community policemen will not apprehend suspected criminals staying at UP without the necessary warrants of arrest. “If we are called, we will be there as well to protect the rights of students from threats posed by lawless elements,” he said. – Christina Mendez, Emmanuel Tupas

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