A delicate balancing act

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

In the issue of Security vs. Freedom, there are always many factors to consider. Tip the scale too much on either side, and you get either authoritarian rule or anarchy. The government has been doing this delicate balancing act since the early post-Martial Law years.

As people back then were still reeling from the aftermath of the first EDSA Revolution, the general sentiment was that of a “freedom and liberation high,” wherein a citizenry that felt bound by figurative chains for so long had now been set free. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, though, we may have tipped the scale a little too much towards “Freedom” and less on “Security.”

Proof of this is the now-controversial 1989 UP-DND Accord, a deal that was brokered between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense, then headed by Fidel V. Ramos. The accord pretty much kept law enforcement and military personnel out of all UP campuses in the Philippines, unless it is with permission from the university’s officials or “cases of hot pursuit and similar occasions of emergency.”

While it did allow protests and ensured freedom of expression within the UP campuses, it came at the cost of security. Fast forward to now, after years of unchecked and unguarded “freedom,” UP, a supposedly hallowed educational institution, has turned into a breeding ground for extreme radical ideologies – a veritable haven and recruitment site for subversive organizations like the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Despite these concerns, there were even moves made in Congress and the Senate to institutionalize the UP-DND Accord into the UP Charter through House Bill 10171. I feared for the worst when the bill was passed just a few weeks ago. Fortunately, its approval has recently been recalled, thanks to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Cavite 7th District Representative Jesus Crispin Remulla.

If the bill was not recalled and the UP-DND Accord becomes part of the UP Charter, it would definitely tip the scales towards anarchy, and will make it harder for our government to control and monitor the activities (recruitment or otherwise) of insurgent and terrorist groups. Make no mistake about it: the CPP-NPA-NDF are like the sweet-talking serpents in the garden, and the forbidden fruit that they offer seems to be especially juicy to overly-idealistic iskolars ng bayan.

Cong. Remulla had a more practical reason as well: the legislative branch of government should not touch the Accord. I agree with his opinion that the deal is only within the purview of the executive branch, and Congress meddling with it has potentially serious constitutional pitfalls, one of which is the violation of “equal protection of law.” Indeed, students of UP with no other agenda except to learn and to be productive members of society also need police visibility and protection, particularly during these troubled times.

That said, before the reds raise their pitchforks and torches, the recall of HB 10171 does not repeal the UP-DND Accord. Whether that gets rescinded or not will be up to UP and the DND. While the Accord is still in effect, UP is still “protected,” in the loosest definition of the term – which one might say is the best protection of all, under interpretation of the law.

All that Congress did, and rightfully so, was prevent the scales from utterly collapsing. There is still a lot of work to do to achieve the delicate balance that we so desperately need.

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