Pangilinan files bill on academic freedom in state universities
This undated photo shows the Oblation statue in the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City
File photo

Pangilinan files bill on academic freedom in state universities

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - January 26, 2021 - 5:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — Over a week after the defense department terminated its accord with the University of the Philippines, a lawmaker is filing a bill to restrict interference of academic freedom within state universities and colleges.

In filing Senate Bill No. 2016 or "An act to strengthen and uphold the freedom of teachers and students to teach, study, and pursue knowledge and research without unreasonable interference or restriction, in all state universities and colleges," Sen. Francis Pangilinan pointed to Section 5, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution which guarantees academic freedom for institutions of higher learning. 

The proposed measure seeks to "protect and guarantee academic freedom enjoyed by state universities and colleges" by: 

  • Recognizing that state universities and colleges can exercise their full acts of ownership over their property, including ensuring security within school property
  • Requiring prior notification before the service of warrants against students
  • Clarifying situations where law enforcement can enter school property (e.g. hot pursuit and emergency situations)
  • Creating a joint monitoring committee to ensure its proper implementation

Pangilinan's bill comes amid the backdrop of the junking of the 1989 agreement between the University of the Philippines, the country's premier state university, and the Department of National Defense. Before its termination, the pact required state forces to secure authorization before entering the campus—though this was not always honored on the part of the national police.

The right-wing Duterte Youth Party-list has called for the abrogation of a similar deal between the DND and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, which is also a state institution. 

"All institutions of higher learning, especially all state universities and colleges, should be centers of free thought—environments that encourage new thoughts and tests old ones. Intellectual liberty is foundational to a democracy," the lawmaker wrote in his explanatory note. 

"Our nation's top political, legal, business, economic, civic, and scientific leaders, both past and present, are fruits of the enjoyment of unimpeded and unrestrained academic freedom by institutions of higher learning." 

QC assures academic freedom, support for UP 

In a separate statement issued earlier Tuesday, the Quezon City local government assured the university of its support for academic freedom within the university, though it did not mention the unilaterally terminated accord. 

Quezon City People’s Law Enforcement Board Executive Officer Rafael Calinisan, a lawyer, also vowed that any abusive conduct of cops that may be done in the UP Campus will be "dealt with accordingly."

“We pledge that disciplinary action awaits possible abusive conduct by policemen inside the UP Diliman campus. Please be reminded that we all live in a democracy where basic freedoms, including academic freedom, must be upheld,” he said. 

"True learning will only happen in an environment where there is a free discourse of ideas by all members of the community. In Quezon City, academic freedom will always be protected and upheld," Mayor Joy Belmonte also said. 

Why does this matter?

  • Peaceful protest actions and demonstrations by groups critical of the Duterte administration are typically held within the UP Diliman campus
  • The Commission on Human Rights, also a common site for protesters, is also situated within the campus' borders 
  • UP grounds have long been a safe haven for activists, as they cannot be arrested on school grounds under the now-scrapped deal
  • With the agreement scrapped, police and military forces can freely enter campuses if they so desire 

 with a report from News5


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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