Senate bill seeks to institutionalize 1989 UP-DND accord junked by Lorenzana

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Senate bill seeks to institutionalize 1989 UP-DND accord junked by Lorenzana
The University of the Philippines community gathers at Quezon Hall on January 19, 2020, to protest the termination of the 1989 UP-DND Accord which bars state forces from entering the school’s campuses.
Philippine Collegian

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:42 p.m.) — A bill has been filed in the Senate to institutionalize a decades-old agreement requiring security forces to coordinate with University of the Philippines officials on operations in its campuses.

This comes after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's decision to unilaterally terminate his department's long-standing accord with UP was met with rebuke from several lawmakers, lawyers as well as faculty and students of the UP System.

In the explanatory note for Senate Bill No. 2002, Sen. Joel Villanueva and co-authors Sens. Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, and Grace Poe called the junking of the agreement an "attack on [UP's] autonomy" which forms part of long-running "state efforts to minimize [its] unique role and participation... in social change." 

They also disputed the reasons cited by Lorenzana for abrogating the deal. "Implying that it has enabled thinking that is critical to the government is a gross misreading of UP’s role as vanguard of independent thought," the senators said.

They added that the resources of the police and military would be better spent on a number of other pressing issues.

"We have the West Philippine Sea dispute, the increasing criminality due to [Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators], and extrajudicial killings, among many others," the senators said. "Our law enforcement agencies and the military establishment must set its priorities straight and focus on what really matters."

The proposed measure institutionalizes the 1989 UP-DND accords into RA 9500 or the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, inserting seven new sections in the law.

"We believe that DND should not break the agreement with UP. Our role as a legislator is to ensure that the spirit of the 1989 Accords is protected and set-in stone to ensure that our students are protected from unreasonable state intrusion," the lawmakers said.

On Tuesday night, eight senators formally registered their objection to the junking of the deal, filing a resolution urging the entire Senate to do the same and urging dialogue between UP and DND.

But is the bill likely to pass?

So far, only ten senators — less than half of the upper chamber — have voiced opposition to the unilateral termination of the accord. They are: 

  • Sen. Sonny Angara
  • Sen. Nancy Binay
  • Sen. Leila de Lima
  • Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
  • Sen. Richard Gordon
  • Sen. Risa Hontiveros
  • Sen. Francis Pangilinan
  • Sen. Grace Poe
  • Senare President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
  • Sen. Joel Villanueva

Angara, Binay,  Drilon, Gordon and Pangilinan are all UP System graduates. But Sens. Aquilino Pimentel III, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri, who are also UP graduates, have not released statements on the matter. 

Sen. Pia Cayetano, another UP graduate who did not co-author the bill or the resolution previously mentioned, on Wednesday released a statement also urging dialogue between the two parties but stopped short of calling for its reinstatement. 

"Terminating an important accord like this that has stood and worked for more than three decades should undergo careful evaluation and discussion," she said.

There is also no counterpart for the bill in the House of Representatives, although some lawmakers have called for a probe on the unilateral termination of the agreement. 

While the Palace has said that Lorenzana terminated the accord without consulting President Duterte, it has also said that the chief executive supports his defense secretary's decision. 

The president has also baselessly accused UP of recruiting communist rebels and has even threatened to defund the school over a student strike that was started by students from Ateneo de Manila University.

Bato: Allow state forces to recruit in UP too

But Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former national police chief and close ally of the Duterte administration, has defended the abrogation.

In a statement released Tuesday, Dela Rosa said state forces should be allowed to "recruit" in UP too, even though nothing is stopping them from doing so. 

He also called the contract's termination "long overdue," citing what he called" the deceit and undesirable activities of the leftist groups within the university throughout its implementation."

"The government was fooled by the CPP-NPA-NDF in the last 31 years thru that agreement," he added, parroting claims made by Lorenzana.

But his own colleagues have disputed these unsubstantiated claims, noting in the bill's explanatory note: "There is no monopoly of ideology in UP."

"[UP] remains a big tent that shelters all ideas that can be pursued nonviolently. It is not a rebel recruitment station," the senators said.

"On the contrary, it hosts many DDS [who] are free to compete in the marketplace of ideas. It remains a citadel of excellence where the skills to serve the people are taught. This academic brilliance can only shine under a climate of freedom."




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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