UP-DND accord 'destined to be problematic': CHED chairman

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2021 03:05 AM

CHED chairperson Prospero "Popoy" De Vera answers questions during his guesting at ANC's Early Edition on Monday, October 22, 2018. Screengrab/ANC/File


MANILA - The agreement between the University of the Philippines and Department of National Defense (DND) that regulated police and military operations in UP campuses “was destined to be problematic,” Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Prospero de Vera said Thursday.

De Vera, a UP alumnus who also sits as chair of the school’s highest policy-making body, said the pact “has no clear detailed operational details to implement the provisions of the agreement.”

“The DND-UP Accord is therefore rich in intention but short on details, and is therefore prone to differing interpretations,” De Vera said in a statement.

The statement comes almost a week after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated the accord, claiming that communist rebels have been using it as a “shield” for their on-campus recruitment.

Under the agreement, uniformed personnel are barred from entering and conducting operations inside UP campuses without prior notice to the university administration. The abrogation, thus, allows state forces to enter campuses anytime.

The pact also requires a joint monitoring group composed of UP, police and military officials to meet a least twice a year to discuss compliance with the accord.

But De Vera said the concerned parties have not “met regularly to determine compliance with the agreement, review alleged violations, determine appropriate penalties, and recommend revisions in the Accord given the changing times.”

De Vera urged the DND, UP and all higher education institutions to “exercise sobriety,” adding that concerned parties should jointly discuss the issues on the abrogation.

But Lorenzana said earlier he's only willing to discuss with UP officials his decision to scrap the accord if the university will explain why several of its students died fighting alongside communist rebels in clashes with the military.

The CHED chief added that a panel of education experts would meet in the next days to “define the meaning of academic freedom and the role of security forces in the protection of academic freedom and the welfare of students.”

“This definition and framework can hopefully be the starting point of a dialogue between the DND and UP in the coming days,” De Vera said.

In a ruling on a 2007 case between the De La Salle University and CHED, the Supreme Court said that under Section 5(2), Article XIV of the Constitution, "institutional academic freedom includes the right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public interest calls for some restraint.

"According to present jurisprudence, academic freedom encompasses the independence of an academic institution to determine for itself (1) who may teach, (2) what may be taught, (3) how it shall teach, and (4) who may be admitted to study," the country's top court said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday described the abrogation as alarming, saying that the DND’s unilateral termination at a time of mounting human rights violations cast “further doubts” on the department’s intent, which “aggravates the climate of distrust towards the government.”  

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