MANILA - The president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said Saturday students of the University of the Philippines are "protected" by existing laws, as the school community feared that the abrogation of its accord with the defense department restricting troop access to campus grounds may affect their right to express dissent against authorities.
The decades-old agreement prohibits state forces from conducting operations inside the state university’s campuses without prior notice to the school administration.
In an interview with Teleradyo, IBP President Domingo Cayosa said the students' right to privacy and academic freedom are protected by the constitution and other existing laws.
This means that with or without the agreement, the university is "guaranteed" of protection.
"With or without the agreement, guaranteed naman 'yan sa constitution. Mayroon namang poder ang administrasyon ng UP na pangalagaan ang seguridad at kalayaan sa loob ng campus," Cayosa said in an interview with Teleradyo, Saturday morning.
(It's guaranteed in the constitution. UP has the power to take care of the security and liberties inside the campus.)
"So we understand na may concern at maganda na may dayalogo (it's good to have a dialogue). But the point is with or without agreement there should be academic freedom and everybody should be secure in the campuses," Cayosa, an alumnus of the University, added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had recently terminated the accord, which regulated police and military operations in the UP campus, claiming there "is indeed an ongoing clandestine recruitment inside UP campuses nationwide for membership” in the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army.
But members of the university community warned this could impinge on academic freedom.
Cayosa stressed that state authorities cannot meddle with the affairs of the university.
"Malinaw sa agreement na nothing in the agreement will prevent the enforcement of laws of the land so malinaw ho 'yon. Pero hindi rin puwede naman na wala ang agreement na puwedeng mag-march 'yung tropa sa campus because it is a campus so the administration can actually screen kung sino ang maaaring pumasok," Cayosa said.
(It's clear in the agreement that nothing will prevent the enforcement of laws of the land. That's clear. But it doesn't mean that authorities can march inside the campus. The campus administration can actually screen who goes inside.)
But in case an arrest warrant has to be served on someone within the university, UP cannot do anything about it as it is a document issued by legal authority.
Cayosa noted that the rights to free speech, expression and assembly are protected by the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The University is also protected by Republic Act 9500, a measure that allows the university to come up with guidelines that will secure its campuses nationwide.
"It is a key to bahay (house). No one can enter the house kasi may karapatan ka roon eh (because you have your right to it). It’s a home for the students to develop research and explore hindi ho ba? (isn't it?)" Cayosa said.
He then urged the community to "calm down" and continue with their activities because they are safe-guarded by the law.
"The point is: everybody should stay calm and continue with their activism and academic freedom because the rule of law protects that," Cayosa said.
He added: "Ang UP, it will outlast any government or passing power of authority kasi mahaba na ang tradisyon natin. UP is far greater than all of us at kung nakasandal sa pader ng batas, panindigan nila, 'wag sila matakot."
(UP will outlast any government because we have a long tradition. UP is far greater than all of us and if we lean onto the law, let's assert it. Don't be afraid.)