MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The University of the Philippines on Tuesday urged the Department of National Defense to "reconsider and revoke" its unilateral abrogation of an accord on the entry of state forces into campus grounds.
The termination of the agreement was "totally unnecessary and unwarranted" and may result in worsening relations between the two institutions, said UP President Danilo Concepcion in a response to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
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."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said the accord was unilaterally terminated as the university has become a "safe haven for enemies of the state."
"Of course, ayaw na namin (we don't want it anymore). We have determined that it doesn’t serve the interest of the students," he said when asked if the agency can abrogate the deal unilaterally.
The DND is considering to terminate similar agreements with other universities, he added.
The UP administration earlier denied President Rodrigo Duterte's claims that it recruits students to join the communist insurgency.
UP Vice President for Public Affairs Elena Pernia said the termination of the agreement "infringes" on the state university's academic freedom.
"The UP like all other universities in the Philippines and in the world value academic freedom. It is in that kind of climate where our faculty our students, our community, our researchers are free to think, to speak, to study and even to disagree," she told ANC's Headstart.
"It is in that kind of atmosphere that we can produce this great knowledge that is contributory to the nation’s development."
Pernia noted that the UP recently placed 65th among 489 universities in Southeast Asia in a ranking by London-based education publication Times Higher Education (THE).
"Left in peace, UP will continue to be a major contributor to the country’s development and to its national leadership in all fields," Concepcion said.
"That performance, Mr. Secretary, is the result of its exercise of academic freedom—the freedom to think, to probe, to question, to find and propose better solutions."
UP Visayas chancellor Clement Camposano said the state university would "remain a bastion of academic freedom."
"This is not something anyone can abrogate. We will stand firm against any and all attempts to deprive us of our democratic rights," he said.
UP Los Baños chancellor Jose Camacho Jr. denounced the agency's move as "an assault against the freedom of UP as an institution."
"We will not back down. We will continue with our duty to defend the freedom of our people guaranteed under the Constitution – the right to life and liberty, the freedom of speech, of expression and the right of the people to campaign against graft and corruption," he said in a statement.
DND'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.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the authors of the widely-opposed law, said there was "sense" in the DND's move.
"During our red-tagging hearings in the Senate, it was established that not only UP but other universities talagang 'yung recruitment nanggagaling dun sa mga estudyante (there's recruitment among students) up to the point they're being killed in encounters," he told Headstart in a separate interview.
There was a possibility of law enforcers "overstepping" on the university's academic freedom, he admitted.
"We don’t know once terminated how they will implement the termination or how deep would they infiltrate the UP campus or campuses. We don’t know that yet. But if it’s designed to really muscle the academic freedom and other freedoms being enjoyed by UP in general then you can describe it that, overstepping," he said.