Rep. Belmonte files bill seeking to declare all SUCs as 'freedom spaces'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2021 08:20 PM

MANILA - Following the unilateral abrogation of an accord between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense restricting state troops' access to its campuses, Quezon City 6th District Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte filed a bill seeking to institutionalize all state universities and colleges (SUCs) as "freedom spaces."

Belmonte on Thursday filed House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021. The bill aims to declare SUCs as "freedom spaces where academic freedom is guaranteed."

He said that similar to the UP-DND Accord, the Academic Freedom Act of 2021 will allow state forces to enter school premises in specific situations such as hot pursuit and emergency situations, provided they coordinate with the school administration.

It will also make way for the creation of a joint congressional oversight committee to ensure proper implementation.

With the filing of the measure, Belmonte seeks to include all SUCs once the law is passed.

"Bakit natin ili-limit sa UP (Why just limit it to UP)? This freedom, the right to protect our freedom of speech, our academic freedom – dapat available po sa lahat itong mga prinsipyo na ito. Dapat isama na ito sa mga mandate ng state universities,” Belmonte said.

House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021

House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021

House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021

House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021

House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021

House Bill No. 8443, or the Academic Freedom Act of 2021

Several senators on Wednesday filed a bill seeking to institutionalize the agreement that bars the military and police from conducting operations inside the University of the Philippines campuses without prior notice to school officials.

The measure was filed just days after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana unilaterally terminated the accord, which he said has been used by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army as a "shield" for on-campus recruitment.

UP has denied that it recruits students into the communist insurgency.

Critics of the abrogation have said the move was meant to stifle academic freedom and political dissent.

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