MANILA - The termination of an agreement between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense that bars state forces inside the campuses curtails students' freedoms, the chairman of UP Los Baños' student council said Wednesday.
The university must be a "zone of peace" where individuals can exchange ideas, discuss, and "investigate social issues without the fear of political persecution, without the fear of retaliation from the government," said Jainno Bongon, UPLB Student Council Chair.
"With the abrogation of the accord, they’ll (military personnel) freely enter the university. It’s just like putting a gun to the head of the students na pinag-aaralan lang naman 'yung lipunan na ginagalawan nila (who were merely studying the society they're living in). You’re curtailing 'yung freedom to think and speak ng estudyante (of the students)," he told ANC's Headstart.
Bongon said there had been reports--both historically and in recent times--that "it’s the state forces who would harass, torture, and kill students and faculty members who would express dissent against the government’s inefficient response to societal ills."
"It’s actually very ironic that (Defense Sec.) Delfin Lorenzana would say na they’re trying to protect the university when in fact, they’re the ones who would primarily attack the constituents of the university," he said.
Lorenzana wrote to UP President Danilo Concepcion to unilaterally terminate the 1989 accord between DND and UP that requires prior notification before police and military personnel can enter and conduct operations in the state university's campuses.
In a later statement, the defense minister said in the years since the pact was signed, UP "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."
Bongon said while it may be true that there were UP students and faculty members that joined armed rebel groups, the better question would be why they chose to do so.
"It’s not just in UP, 'yung reality of social injustice…'Yung realidad ng social injustice largely enabled by government, totoo siya, hindi lang para sa UP. It’s true to other state university, it’s true to other parts of society. Ito ang nag-uudyok sa mga mamamayan to join these groups," he said.
(It’s not just in UP, yung reality of social injustice. The reality of social injustice largely enabled by government is true, not just in UP. It's true for other state universities, it's true for other parts of society. This is what pushes citizens to join these groups.)