MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte "supports" the move of his Defense chief to scrap a pact that bars state troops from the campuses of the University of the Philippines, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week unilaterally and without consulting UP junked the 1989 accord over some students' alleged communist links. Lorenzana is "an alter ego of the President," said his spokesman Harry Roque.
"Of course, the President supports the decision of Secretary Lorenzana," he told reporters in an online briefing.
UP President Danilo Concepcion has urged Lorenzana to reconsider the "totally unnecessary and unwarranted" termination of the agreement that requires troops to notify university authorities before entering campuses.
He added that the university regrets DND's move to abrogate the accord "without the prior consultation that would have addressed the concerns you raised in your letter."
"Instead of instilling confidence in our police and military, your decision can only sow more confusion and mistrust, given that you have not specified what it is that you exactly aim to do or put in place in lieu of the protections and courtesies afforded by the agreement," Concepcion said in a statement.
"May I urge you, therefore, to reconsider and revoke your abrogation, and request further that we meet to discuss your concerns in the shared spirit of peace, justice, and the pursuit of excellence."
"Papakinggan naman po iyan," Roque said of the UP leader's call.
(That will be heard.)
"Pero kailangan magsalita po po nang mas malinaw si President Danilo Concepcion nang malaman ang kaniyang paninindigan at kung ano iyong mga dahilan kung bakit dapat ma-reconsider 'yan," he added.
(But President Danilo Concepcion needs to speak more clearly so we can know his stance and the reasons why that should be reconsidered.)
Vice President Leni Robredo said on Tuesday that the termination of the decades-old accord sends the message "that under this administration, anyone, anywhere, at anytime, is fair game."
She said it was "neither a difficult nor onerous" for troops to notify UP before entering it, and that "five Presidents since 1989 have managed to protect both the UP community and the Republic without breaking it."
"Clearly, then, this is not a practical gesture, but a symbolic one. One designed to sow fear. One designed to discourage dissent. One designed to silence criticism," the Vice President said in a statement.
"It is now up to us to decide whether we will give in. Or whether, at long last, we will stand our ground and speak out," she added.