UP-DND Accord, an anomaly no longer

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - January 22, 2021 - 12:00am

What is perhaps the longest-running fallacy about academic freedom and certainly one of the most anomalous law enforcement concessions ever granted by government to anyone is finally over. It had to take all of 32 years and another defense secretary to undo the travesty a previous defense secretary had carpentered in the name of freedom and democracy in restless and anxiety-filled post-EDSA 1989.

Delfin Lorenzana scrapped the so-called University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense Accord that Fidel Ramos committed the Philippine government to a lopsided deal that significantly contributed to its great difficulty in overturning a pesky communist insurgency. The deal banned law enforcement operations within all UP campuses unless consented to by UP authorities. It dazes the mind just how silly anyone can get.

No doubt egged on by the patroness of Ramos at the time, the travesty survived for more than 30 years, sustained by nothing more than the willingness of Filipinos to suck up to those who would define freedom and democracy according to how they practice them according to their own interests.

Keeping law enforcement out promotes and respects academic freedom, or so the beneficiaries of the awkward deal would trumpet. What a big ha ha if it were not so ridiculous. Since when has academic freedom been stymied, curtailed, threatened, or even just inconvenienced by the normal carrying out of its duties by an institution duly recognized by society as one of its pillars.

To deny such an institution the normal carriage of its responsibilities on the crazy notion that it interferes in any way with academic freedom is a big slap to that very freedom if that is all that being unhampered and unbridled can ever summon as an argument. True academic freedom does not rise or fall on the mere presence of a stumbling block, no matter how intimidating. Indeed, true academic freedom thrives on challenge and adversity.

True scholars and pursuers of truth and knowledge are oblivious to things as normal and mundane as one law enforcement institution carrying out its mandated responsibilities regardless of where they happen to take place. Law enforcement is a fact of life. It is carried out everywhere. It does not need an invocation of academic freedom to find such a simple piece of knowledge out.

But the UP is a known hotbed of protest and dissent which, while not unusual or illegal by themselves, can sometimes be pursued toward ultimately illegal ends, such as morphing into communist philosophies whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of government and the supplanting of our democratic life as we know it. And it would be mentally dishonest to deny that many communist recruits were born in UP, fathered no doubt by the pact with DND.

Not everyone from UP is, of course, a protester, dissenter, or communist. In fact the regular and normal students make up the vast majority there in that state university. They do not need to invoke academic freedom. They know it has never been in jeopardy. DND pact or none, they carry academic freedom not in anger but in quiet resolve to become better persons using the best that UP can offer from the taxes paid by simple folks like me.

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