UP under surveillance even while accord was in place, general confirms
File photo shows the Oblation statue in front of the Humanities Building at the University of Los Baños campus.
Provincial Government of Laguna, file

UP under surveillance even while accord was in place, general confirms

(Philstar.com) - January 21, 2021 - 12:38pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:01 p.m.) — Even before the University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense pact was scrapped earlier this week, state forces had been conducting surveillance in UP campuses, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade said.

In an interview with ONE News’ "The Chiefs," Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, admitted they have been monitoring the schools — hinting that they had even been taking videos.

He said, though, that the military could not do anything because of the agreement requiring state forces to coordinate with the UP administration before holding operations on campus. It is not clear whether UP knew about the surveillance but the university has asked the Philippine National Police in the past to explain their presence on campus.

RELATED: UP president seeks PNP explanation for cops on campus

Parlade asserted that there is nothing wrong with surveillance at the state university, saying the government, particularly the security sector, has monitoring functions as part of their mandate.

“Now, with the abrogation of this accord, probably we will be presenting our videos… ‘here, you’re saying there is nothing illegal happening there, what about this? Will you now allow us to continue monitoring these groups?'” Parlade said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He claimed that UP "classrooms and offices" are being used for "terrorist acts or activities related to the communist party and armed rebellion," but did not provide proof.

"What we are saying is we need to do something to make sure these activities are put in check," he added.

UP has long denied that they are recruiting communists or rebels and asserted that it is an academic institution that has trained and produced experts on different fields and even government officials.

UP has a reputation for activism and involvement on national issues and some of its studetns and alumni have joined the underground movement but this is not exclusive to people from the university nor is it representative of the community.

UP President Danilo Concepcion said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s termination, done without consultation with the university, only “sow more confusion and mistrust” since the government has not specified what they intend to do or put in place in lieu of

Parlade refused to divulge more details on the scurity sector's plans with the UP-DND accord scrapped, but the NTF-ELCAC official said there will be no patrols in campuses.

In October, Parlade also acknowledged that members of the Makabayan bloc at the House have also been under surveillance. In November, National Security Adviser Hermogene Esperon Jr. acknowledged that the party-list lawmaker whom the government claims are communist rebels "are not doing anything illegal in Congress."

'Communist bogey'

In a statement this week, the Communist Party of the Philippines said Lorenzana "is hyping up the communist bogey to justify the abrogation of the accord and mount an attack to impose the military's power on UP, as well as other universities and academic institutions.".

It added that "defending to preserve the UP-DND accord is a fight not only of the UP community, but all the democratic sectors who oppose the tyrant's fascist rule." 

"In the same way, the UP community must unite with the rest of the Filipino people by standing alongside the workers, peasants and other disenfranchised sectors in their fight to advance their rights and well-being amid the pandemic and economic crisis."

In 2018, the military floated the supposed "Red October" plot against the Duterte administration and said universities like UP were being used for the recruitment of communist rebels.

Eighteen universities and colleges were red-tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the University of the Philippines in Diliman and Manila, University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

The supposed plot did not materialize and the military's allegations were met with protests.

RELATED: What prompted the signing of the UP-DND accord in 1989?

Anti-terrorism law

Parlade stressed in the interview that the anti-terrorism law is now in effect.

“There are many provisions there that students were doing before that are not allowed now, so that’s part of our engagement that we want to have with UP, the academe and student organizations,” he added.

He did not expound on what supposed illegal activities UP students have been doing and Defense Secretary Lorenzana said Wednesday that the government would "allow legitimate dissent." 

Parlade said that "if you want to be an activist, fine, but if you want to recruit terrorists, you will have a problem with the law."

Parlade and other officials have repeatedly accused activist groups of being fronts for communist rebels, conflating activism and protests with taking up arms against the government.

The anti-terrorism law is facing 37 legal challenges, raising fear of abuse and violation of rights, at the Supreme Court. Debates on these petitions are set on February 2.

Protests against the law were held inside the UP campuses in 2020. — Kristine Joy Patag

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