Ex-UP president, signatory to '89 accord with DND, 'appalled' by termination

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Ex-UP president, signatory to '89 accord with DND, 'appalled' by termination
This undated file photo shows the iconic Oblation Statue at the University of the Philippines' campus in Diliman, Quezon City
The STAR / file

MANILA, Philippines — The UP president who was signatory to the university's accord with the defense department has joined the chorus of those opposing the widely criticized termination of the deal.

Military and police personnel had been barred from entering any of the state-run institution's campuses for over three decades now, up until Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ended it on grounds that UP is supposedly recruiting students to join the communist movement, claims that remain unproven to date.

Dr. Jose Abueva in a statement on Wednesday said he was "appalled and dismayed" on the DND's move, citing the "great respect" he and then Philippine president Fidel Ramos had for the institutions they represented.

"We had a deep understanding between us about the inalienable rights to freedom, democracy, justice and peace that lasted beyond our respective presidencies," he said. "This understanding was rooted in mutual trust, and mutual respect."

It was the two leaders who signed the pact on June 30, 1989, which came years after a similar accord was inked, that between then student leader Sonia Soto and ex-Defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile in 1982 to safeguard UPs' autonomy from military intervention, especially in protests.

The DND's recent move has since been viewed by many as an attack on academic freedom, and is seen to shrink spaces for activists and for dissent, at a time when mass gatherings are prohibited due to the ongoing health crisis and UP campuses had served as avenues for protests.

Lorenzana in a briefing earlier today denied that the abrogation is an attack, but he showed no signs of backing out from the decision, except he said, when UP officials explain why alleged students had been part of those killed in anti-insurgency operations.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo went as far as linking the termination to the Duterte administration's anti-illegal drug campaign that has seen thousands killed since 2016.

"Paano na lamang kung mayroong shabu laboratory, for instance, sa loob ng UP community or campus?" he said, "and then mayroon tayong valid arrest [at] search warrant?"

(What will we do if ever there is a laboratory for metamphetamine within the UP community or inside the campus and we have valid arrest and search warrants?)

In the same briefing, Lorenzana and the military were pressed if they had ever been prevented in issuing an arrest before the accord was nixed, but the defense chief did not offer a direct answer.

Students had been joined by lawmakers in condemning the move, with one senator filing a measure that would legislate the pact between UP and the DND.

The termination was reported three days after it took effect, but it had not been the first apparent affront by the administration and is instead a culmination of efforts in insisting in its unsubstantiated claims.

President Rodrigo Duterte had made his contempt for armed rebels known, but it has also seen him echoing some of his men in government to claim that UP is a breeding ground for communists, even threatening to defund it just last year.

The Commission on Higher Education had been sought for comment anew today, but has remained mum on the issue.

Its chairman, Prospero de Vera III, who had also taught in UP and is the de facto head of the UP Board of Regents, has also not commented on the abrogation. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

Related video:

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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