UP exec tells solons: Accord with DND is gov't guarantee to academic freedom

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
UP exec tells solons: Accord with DND is gov't guarantee to academic freedom
This undated photo shows the renowned Oblation statue at the University of the Philippines' campus in Diliman, Quezon City
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — University of the Philippines leaders on Monday stressed before lawmakers the need to institutionalize the school's accord with the defense department, months since its widely criticized termination.

The House committee on technical and higher education began today its hearing on three proposed measures that would legislate the 1989 UP-DND accord. It was nixed by the DND in January on unproven claims that UP campuses are recruiting students to the armed communist movement.

UP President Danilo Concepcion said the university community supports the bills. He added that for them, the decades-long accord is not merely a deal but also a promise on keeping academic freedom in the campuses.

"Those accords are the government's formal declaration that [it] guarantees the enjoinment by UP of its academic freedom," he said. "Without academic freedom, UP's existence becomes meaningless."

The said deal bars entry to state forces on any UP campus without prior notifying school officials. Groups fear that the termination would shrink spaces for expressing dissent, especially at a time when some in government had resorted to red-tagging UP students.

Froilan Cariaga, UP Diliman student council chairperson, told the House hearing of the supposed violations of the accord done by the military and police in recent months.

He said students no longer feel safe with state forces' entry to campuses, and urged lawmakers to act on the issue at hand.

"We expound that innovation is impossible without critical thought," Cariaga said. "And what is education if not for the development of man and society? UP-USC urges the [committee] to defend safe spaces in which the Pagasa ng Bayan hones and prepares itself to serve the people and the country."

Lawyer Norman Daanoy, chief of the DND's legal affairs, was present in the hearing. There, he claimed that testimonies of rebels who surrendered to government showed that the accord is being used to "confuse or prohibit" law enforcers from holding operations in state-run campuses.

The official argued that for the DND, the abrogation can should not be reconsidered as the agency and the military are no longer involved in law enforcement.

He said it would be better for UP to discuss another existing accord with the Philippine National Police and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

UP Student Regent Renee Co sought to refute Daanoy's remarks, saying it was only their first time to hear the reason.

"Regarding the argument that DND is no longer the primary law enforcer, we see there is no reason that it could be a barrier on why the UP-DND accord cannot be maintained," she said. 

Co said legislating the accord would restore crucial safeguards to members of the university community, which she said have been subjected red-tagging and harassment, to name a few. 

"There are even death threats sent to members of faculty and students through texts, through chats, and even as personal message to their own addresses," she said. "There has been harassment, physical and verbal. There have been reports they were being surveillanced and there has also been detention."

The House committee moved to form a technical working group that will look to consolidate the three proposed bills. A similar measure has since been filed in the Senate.

In recent months, the Commission on Higher Education sought to mediate between UP and the DND. Officials from the two parties first met in February, but no progress has been announced so far. 

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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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