Ateneo dean: DND ending pact with UP 'sends wrong signal' even to other academic institutions
Protesters gather inside the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City on June 3, 2020, to protest the passing of the anti-terrorism bill at the House of Representatives.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Ateneo dean: DND ending pact with UP 'sends wrong signal' even to other academic institutions

(Philstar.com) - January 20, 2021 - 5:38pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense’s unilateral termination of its pact with the University of the Philippines to keep state forces out of campus without warning sends a “wrong signal” even to academic institutions, the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) said.

Taken in the context of red-tagging and human rights violations, the DND’s abrogation “sends the wrong signal not just to UP but also to all academic institutions in the country that provide safe spaces for independent academic thought and freedom,” said ASOG Dean Ronald Mendoza in a statement.

Mendoza added that as educators, they bear the responsibility to protect students while giving them safe space for debate and dissent. “With or without an accord, it is our responsibility to work with the national security sector to make sure our academic institutions provide this safe space,” he added.

In justifying the unilateral termination, the defense chief had again used unsubstantiated accusations that there is an “ongoing clandestine recruitment” inside UP campuses and the deal is being used to bar the government from holding operations in the schools.

But DND’s action is largely seen as a move to further shrink spaces for activists and dissent, especially as the UP campuses have served as a safe space for protests even amid a pandemic.

Following the termination of the pact, right-wing Duterte Youth party-list called on the abrogation of DND’s similar pact with the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, triggering protest from the university.

Mendoza continued: “Any perceived or actual erosion of these safe spaces — the important middle ground for the meeting and/or clash of ideas — will probably undermine efforts to counter extreme views. “

The Ateneo dean added: “Ultimately, extremism can be defeated in the academic arena by offering our youth—the nation’s future leaders—an opportunity to sharpen their beliefs in a battle of ideas.”

UP President Danilo Concepcion has appealed to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to reconsider the abrogation.

Meanwhile, Sens. Joel Villanueva, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe filed a resolution to institutionalize the UP-DND accord. In the explanatory note for Senate Bill No. 2002, the senators branded the scrapping of the agreement as an "attack on [UP's] autonomy" which forms part of long-running "state efforts to minimize [its] unique role and participation... in social change."  — Kristine Joy Patag

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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