MANILA — Students, faculty, officials and alumni across the UP system slammed the Department of National Defense's (DND move to terminate an agreement prohibiting uniformed personnel in the state university's campus premises.
The accord was signed in 1989 between then UP President Jose Abueva and then Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, establishing guidelines on military and police operations inside the university. The abrogation, thus, allows state authorities to enter UP campuses at any time.
Alumni of university publication The Philippine Collegian reminded the public on why such accord was implemented.
“In 1989, under the Aquino administration, one of our staff was abducted by the military right outside the Collegian office. He was tortured and made to confess for a murder he did not commit. This very incident was the tipping point which gave rise to the UP-DND Accord,” the publication said in a statement.
“The practice of campus journalism taught us to observe meticulously, analyze sharply, and choose carefully which side of history we will advance. We must read between the lines. We must see through the smokescreens. And in times like these when democracy is darkest, we must pool our courage and continue to pursue truth and justice,” it added.
The UP-DND was made following the June 16, 1989 arrest of Donato Continente, a staffer of university publication The Philippine Collegian.
Continente was accused of killing an American soldier, James Rowe, and imprisoned for 14 years until the Supreme Court decided to shorten his jail sentence, Reyes said.
The 1989 accord succeeded the 1982 agreement signed by student leader Sonia Soto and then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, which aimed to protect the university from military intervention, especially during protests.
Student councils from different UP units like Manila, Baguio, Visayas, Cebu, and Mindanao have also expressed their dismay on the agency's move.
UP Mindanao USC
Citing DND chief Delfin Lorenzana’s reason for the unilateral termination, the UP College of Law Student Government (LSG) said that “his basis is loose and without merit.”
In the letter sent by the agency, Lorenzana emphasized that nothing in the agreement “shall be constructed as a prohibition against the enforcement of the laws of the land.”
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana notified UP President Danilo Concepcion through a letter that the DND was terminating the 1989 agreement.
Lorenzana claimed that the university's campuses have become a "safe haven" for communist rebels.
“Paragraph 8 does not explicitly nor impliedly allow the unilateral termination of the agreement on the assumption that it is contrary to existing laws -- laws that the Secretary himself failed to provide or make reference to. Moreover, Secretary Lorenzana must have not been aware that this agreement is, by its very nature, a contract between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense,” the UP LSG said.
“The contract must bind both contracting parties; and its validity or compliance cannot be left to the will of one of them.” This provision is taken from the New Civil Code; and it seeks to prevent the unilateral determination of an obligation or the release from such obligation since it would violate the equality of parties. By sending this letter, Secretary Lorenzana violated the basic mutuality principle of all contracts and agreements,” it added.
Meanwhile, UP Diliman’s College of Social Science and Philosophy said the ‘agreement’ is a testament of the state’s recognition of academic freedom.
It highlighted that it is their duty “to actively engage in social issues as part of our academic mandate and responsibility.”
“During this time when many social, political and economic issues press upon the people, it is even more important that the University speaks out to clarify issues from the academic perspective to help the nation. The Agreement respected the unique role of the University and its officials in molding and nurturing the minds of the youth in a protected academic environment and did not prohibit the authorities from enforcing the law,” it said.
“Removing the Agreement will only serve to terrorize those who seek to participate in critical national discourse that is our duty as konsensya ng bayan.”
Government officials who are also alumni of the state university like Senator Francis Pangilinan and Kabataan party-list representative Sarah Elago, who both served as officers in the student council, and Vice President Leni Robredo have condemned the unilateral termination of the accord.
UP President Danilo Concepcion has written back to Lorenzana, asking the defense chief to revoke his decision.