Defense chief asks for meeting with UP President over accord abrogation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2021 02:14 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2021 06:30 PM

Defense chief asks for meeting with UP President over accord abrogation 1
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during an LGU visit in Pateros for capacity building in the fight against COVID-19 on August 7, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Lorenzana also says AFP to apologize for erroneously tagging some UP alumni as NPA members

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Sunday he asked for a meeting "sometime next week" with UP President Danilo Concepcion over the abrogation of a law enforcement accord between the state university and the defense department.

Lorenzana also said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will apologize to Rafael Aquino of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) after including him in its list of UP students who allegedly joined the New People's Army (NPA).

The defense chief, who on Jan. 15 terminated the 1989 Department of National Defense-UP Accord, said he was convinced to have a dialogue with the UP president by "a lot of people whom I respect."

"I have asked a friend to facilitate my meeting with Atty. Concepcion sometime next week," he told reporters.

Concepcion earlier urged the DND to "reconsider and revoke" its unilateral abrogation of the agreement that prohibits the entry of state forces into campus grounds unless with prior coordination.

"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 had said in a statement.

Lorenzana, in response, asked the premier state university to explain the deaths of its students in government operations against communist rebels before agreeing to a dialogue.

The defense chief cited the alleged recruitment of UP students into the communist insurgency movement as the reason for the termination of the deal.

"The UP administration is unaware of and has received no specifics regarding these recent allegations and the circumstances surrounding them," Concepcion had said of the alleged infiltration by communist insurgents in the UP community.

"While we will continue to work with the AFP, the PNP and other government agencies to achieve our common aspiration to improve the lives of the Filipino people, we will also continue to defend UP from all attacks and machinations against our academic freedom and to uphold the safety and freedom of all the members of our community," he added.

Vice President Leni Robredo, a UP Diliman alumna, said the DND's move was "sweeping" and urged for discussions between the two parties.

"Sa akin, hindi pa naman huli para mag-usap. Pero sana hindi ganito. Iyong appeal natin, sana hindi ganito. Sana pag-usapan muna. Magkaroon ng agreement," she said in her weekly radio show.

(For me, it's not too late to discuss this. We appeal for them to reach an agreement.)

"Kung mayroong basehan iyong kanilang reklamo, sana i-present ito sa UP community, i-demand sa UP community na, alam mo iyon, pagtulungan, pagtulungan iyong mga problema na nagbe-beset sa atin. Pero huwag naman, Hawaii naman iyong parang kalaban, kasi hindi naman tayo magkakalaban."

(If their complaint has basis, I hope they would present it to the UP community and demand, cooperate with each other to address the problem. But don't treat each other as enemies because we're not.)

'UNPARDONABLE GAFFE'

Meanwhile, Lorenzana said "the AFP will apologize" as demanded by FLAG's Aquino over the wrongful inclusion of the latter's name in a list of UP alumni tagged by the military as either killed or arrested NPA members.

"What reason will they give? I do not know. It’s an unpardonable gaffe," Lorenzana said.

The AFP has already deleted its Facebook post that showed the list.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who served as UP Student Council chair and student regent during his university days, said the military labelling UP graduates as communists undermines its professionalism and gives the AFP a "bad name."

“We cannot afford to have a politicized and unprofessional AFP. Let us not forget that it was the glaring lack of professionalism in the AFP that caused it to turn against itself during the last years of the Marcos regime,” he said.

“Dapat tigilan na ng mga military na gumagawa nito ang pag-re-red-tag. Dahil sa maling pag-label sa mga tao, nagiging target sila ng panggigipit at pinakamalala pa, pagpatay,” he added.

(Those in the military who are doing this must stop the practice of red-tagging. Falsely labelling people makes them target of harassment and worst, killings.)

Pangilinan also called "baseless" the authorities' claim that the university was a “crime hotspot" and that illegal drug laboratories were operating inside its campus.

"Etong mga walang basehan at maling-maling mga paratang ng iilan ang sisira sa integridad, credibilidad at professionalism ng ating sandatahang lakas," he said.

(These baseless, erroneous and false accusations of a few erode on the integrity, credibility and professionalism of our armed forces).”

Four other universities on Sunday denied news reports quoting Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to have said that their campuses were "recruitment havens for the New People’s Army."

These were the Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University, and the Far Eastern University.

"This charge, though, is really 'getting old'—a rehash of the public accusation the general made in 2018—irresponsibly since cast without proof," they said in a joint statement.

"We take as a sacred trust our primary responsibilities to promote learning and safeguard the rights of the young who are entrusted to our care. We are committed to this mission and have always held ourselves accountable to our primary constituents, the learners, and by extension, their parents."

The universities added that they value the "basic Constitutional rights of speech, thought, assembly, and organization."

"As universities with high aspirations for our country, we seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, defend the country's
democratic institutions, and promote nation-building," they said.

"And as institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions." 

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Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who served as UP Student Council chair and student regent during his university days, said the military labelling UP graduates as communists undermines its professionalism and gives the AFP a "bad name."

“We cannot afford to have a politicized and unprofessional AFP. Let us not forget that it was the glaring lack of professionalism in the AFP that caused it to turn against itself during the last years of the Marcos regime,” he said.

“Dapat tigilan na ng mga military na gumagawa nito ang pag-re-red-tag. Dahil sa maling pag-label sa mga tao, nagiging target sila ng panggigipit at pinakamalala pa, pagpatay,” he added.

(Those in the military who are doing this must stop the practice of red-tagging. Falsely labelling people makes them target of harassment and worst, killings.)

Pangilinan also called "baseless" the authorities' claim that the university was a “crime hotspot" and that illegal drug laboratories were operating inside its campus.

"Etong mga walang basehan at maling-maling mga paratang ng iilan ang sisira sa integridad, credibilidad at professionalism ng ating sandatahang lakas," he said.

(These baseless, erroneous and false accusations of a few erode on the integrity, credibility and professionalism of our armed forces).”

At least four universities on Sunday denied news reports quoting Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to have supposedly said that their campuses were "recruitment havens for the New People’s Army."

These were the Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University, and the Far Eastern University.

"This charge, though, is really 'getting old'—a rehash of the public accusation the general made in 2018—irresponsibly since cast without proof," they said in a joint statement.

"We take as a sacred trust our primary responsibilities to promote learning and safeguard the rights of the young who are entrusted to our care. We are committed to this mission and have always held ourselves accountable to our primary constituents, the learners, and by extension, their parents."

The universities added that they value the "basic Constitutional rights of speech, thought, assembly, and organization."

"As universities with high aspirations for our country, we seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, defend the country's
democratic institutions, and promote nation-building," they said.

"And as institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions." 

Watch more on iWantTFC