'Safe haven for enemies of state': DND says accord with UP 'obsolete'

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 19 2021 08:01 AM | Updated as of Jan 19 2021 09:29 AM

A security guard lowers the Philippine flag as the sun sets at the University of the Philippines Oblation fountain in Diliman, Quezon City. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of National Defense said Tuesday it unilaterally terminated its agreement with the University of the Philippines as it has become "a safe haven for enemies of the state."

The 1989 agreement requiring state forces to inform UP before its personnel enters campus grounds was a "gesture of courtesy" given to the state university and is now "obsolete," according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

"However, during the life of the agreement the University of the Philippines has become the breeding ground of intransigent individuals and groups whose extremist beliefs have inveigled students to join their ranks to fight against the government," he said in a statement.

"The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state."

Lorenzana urged the UP Community to "work together to protect our students from extremism and destructive armed struggle.

The DND will "not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly and free speech," he added.

Government's move to unilaterally terminate the accord "paves the way" for the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law, said Froilan Cariaga, chairperson of the UP Diliman Student Council.

Cariaga noted that the state university's campuses nationwide were used as venues for protests against the administration during the pandemic.

"Ngayon sinusubukan itong lusawin ng administrasyon ay malinaw siya na atake laban sa karapatang sibil ng mga estudyante at ng buong komunidad ng unibersidad at malinaw siyang atake sa academic freedom ng UP at ng iba pang pamantasan," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.

(Now the administration's aim to end it is an attack against civil rights of the students and the UP community an a clear affront against UP and other schools' academic freedom.)

A group monitoring the compliance of the accord should have first made a report before the agreement was abrogated, said UP journalism professor Danilo Arao.

"Kung meron tayong due process, sana sinabi muna kung ano ang resulta ng compliance sa halip na pumasok sa red-tagging na wala namang batayan si Lorenzana dun sa kaniyang desisyon to abrogate nga ito," he said.

(If we observed due process, there should have been a result of the compliance instead of Lorenzana resorting to baseless red-tagging in his decision to abrogate this.)

"Ang mensahe natin sa publiko, ngayon UP 'yan baka sa susunod PUP (Polytechnic University of the Philippines) na at iba pang unibersidad na walang kasunduan. Mas lalakas ang loob ng military at pulis sa paghahasik ng kaharasan."

(Our message to the public: It may be UP now, the next it could be PUP and other universities without an agreement. The military and police will be empowered to sow terror.)

Vice President Leni Robredo also noted the DND's decision to unilaterally abrogate the accord was designed to "sow fear."

Robredo said the 1989 agreement requiring government to inform UP before its personnel enters university grounds was "neither a difficult nor onerous rule," adding that five Presidents have "managed to protect both the UP community and the Republic without breaking it."

She noted the accord was forged in the aftermath of a warrantless arrest of a staff member of the Philippine Collegian, the UP student paper, in front of Vinzons’ Hall, the student center, by operatives of the military.
 
"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," she said in a statement.

"The unilateral scrapping of the decades-old Accord sends the opposite message: That under this administration, anyone, anywhere, at anytime, is fair game."

The Vice President added that the accord aims "not to exempt UP or its community from any law" but to send the message that "law enforcement was conducted following clear rules, within defined limits."

"That in a democracy, there was no place for relentless war waged across all borders, without oversight or accountability, against any person those in power had decided to brand 'an enemy,'" she said.
 
"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. In this, my faith remains firm, we will find our courage and do what needs to be done."

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