UP disputes DND claims on communist recruitment

Bizar Male

MANILA, Philippines — Disputing claims made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, an official of the University of the Philippines maintained that there is no organized recruitment of communist rebels among students.

“We have not seen any organized recruitment of the students. The university will not support any kind of sedition, any kind of violence, any kind of recruitment that will put our students in danger,” UP vice president for public affairs Elena Pernia said in an interview with “The Chiefs” on Tuesday on OneNews / TV5.

In a letter last Jan. 15, Lorenzana informed UP president Danilo Concepcion of their decision to abrogate the 1989 agreement, with the defense chief saying that they find the agreement a hindrance in providing effective security to members of the university community.

But according to Pernia, the agreement does not totally prevent the military or the police from entering UP campuses, noting a provision that exempts hot pursuit and emergency cases from those covered by the prior notification requirement.

“They can enter. All it takes is a little coordination with the UP officials. There are also some instances without coordination, (such as) pass through, emergencies and the like,” she added.

Several legal experts also weighed in on the unilateral abrogation of the agreement.

On The Chiefs, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Domingo Cayosa said the issue of the unilateral abrogation of the agreement is not about its legality but of fairness and courtesy.

“Any of the parties can walk away from it. If you talk about legalities, the DND can actually terminate it because there is no term, no limitation. It’s not about legality. It’s about the fairness and courtesies… Where is the statesmanship? Where is the courtesy? Where is the mutual trust and respect between agencies of government?” he added.

UP law professorial lecturer Tony La Viña, president of the UP law student government from 1988 to 1989, earlier said the Department of National Defense had no right to unilaterally terminate the agreement.

“The 1989 accord did not provide for an exit clause. As such, both parties should agree to terminate this mutual pact. DND, in its letter, has failed to show any overriding public interest to interfere with UP’s academic freedom. It did not show any clear and present danger which can limit a student or a professor’s civil liberty to freely think and express his or her view,” he added.

Former UP president Jose Abueva, who signed the agreement with then defense secretary and former president Fidel Ramos, said he was appalled and dismayed by the unilateral move of the DND.

“There was a deep, mutual understanding of the need to uphold this agreement and do everything for the good of UP and the rights of its students, faculty and staff. This understanding was rooted in mutual trust, and mutual respect,” he said. – With Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva

According to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the agreement should not be seen simply as a pact that limits the entry of state forces into UP campuses.

“Seen from a history of abuse of power since the dictatorship, it serves as an assurance that the freedom to express dissent, to protest and the exercise of academic freedom will be respected by the government, particularly by the police and military,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

Congress probe sought

In Congress, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed House Resolution No. 1490 asking the House committee on human rights to probe the DND’s unilateral abrogation of its 1989 agreement with UP.

Quezon City 6th district Rep. Kit Belmonte, Iloilo Rep. Lorenz Defensor and members of the Makabayan bloc led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate signed the resolution.

“The unilateral termination of the subject agreement by the DND without prior consultation with and conformity of UP officials is illegal and void ab initio because the accord was entered into bilaterally and mutually, and could not be extinguished by one party alone,” the resolution read.

On the other hand, administration party-list group Duterte Youth supported the abrogation of the accord and even called for the cancellation of a similar agreement of DND with another state university, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

“As vice chairperson of the House committee on national defense & security, I call on the DND to also cancel its similar PUP-DND accord. The UP-DND accord and the PUP-DND accord are clear cases of special treatment that are being abused for the longest time,” Duterte Youth Rep. Ducielle Cardema said.

Abrogation slammed

More groups have joined the clamor to recall the unilateral scrapping of the UP-DND accord. Labor coalition Nagkaisa said yesterday that Lorenzana should have consulted his legal advisers and that there is no necessity or urgency in the termination.

“Lorenzana needs to find a good logic in reasoning out his precondition that he is willing to have a dialogue, without offering an iota of evidence and ignoring respect to plurality of ideas in an academic institution,” Nagkaisa said.

Human rights alliance Karapatan also expressed support for the UP community.

“What is in fact more relevant right now is for government officials to recognize and respect people’s rights – a principle that they have especially abandoned, disregarded and violated in a more marked fashion during the pandemic and in the past four years of the Duterte presidency. We stand with the UP community and with youth and students all over the country in defending rights and liberties within and outside the confines of the academe,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

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